News and Announcements August 2017

The Transition to Independence Program (TIP) will continue its role this year as a cohost to KidSpeak®, which will take place Monday, Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon at Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. KidSpeak® is an annual legislative forum that provides foster care youth the opportunity to testify before legislators, policy makers, and community leaders about their experiences in the child welfare system. Through their testimony, youth identify challenges in the system and offer possible solutions that aim to generate systemic change, benefiting the lives of young people within the foster care system. Hosted by TIP and Michigan’s Children, the event empowers youth to speak directly to the individuals who impact child welfare policy and practice. Wayne State’s Coalition of Community Social Workers (CCSW) student organization was awarded the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration’s 2016 Outstanding Students of the Year Award for organizing the KidSpeak. It will organize this year’s event, as well.

Silvana Alfaro – colleague, student and friend to many at the School of Social Work – passed away on July 18 after a year-long battle with ovarian cancer. Throughout her academic career as a Social Work doctoral student, Silvana displayed outstanding academic achievement while simultaneously pursuing three programs: a Ph.D. in Social Work with a concentration in Clinical Scholarship, the Dual-Title in Infant Mental Health, and the Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Faculty and students were consistently impressed with Silvana’s passion for clinical scholarship, her deep interest in psychoanalytic theories and treatment paradigms, and her consistent investment in social work-relevant research on infant-parent relationships.

Erin Shawgo and Jordan Wyer, classmates and friends of Silvana, reflected on her resiliency and passion for advocacy stating: "Throughout her experience with cancer and even through her process of dying, Silvana remained fierce, full of passion, and lived life in a way many of us aspire to. I remember her calling me a couple of months ago, upset with the way her doctors were handling her morphine withdrawal process once she had finished chemo. She told me she was working on a document with a proposed protocol for how doctors and nurses should be working with their patients in a compassionate way as they withdraw from medicine. While she never officially worked under the title of social worker, Silvana spent every day advocating for the people around her, questioning systems of power and role modeling authenticity.”

Silvana’s husband, Joe, noted: “If you’d like to honor Silvana’s life, my suggestion would be to connect with and support the vulnerable and oppressed around you. Silvana was ferociously committed to learning from and allying herself with people who are otherwise marginalized, neglected, or erased. This is how I intend to honor her life, a life that blazed with brilliant intensity.”

Silvana’s family has established a gofundme page, which can be located at, to assist with expenses.

Alumna and former faculty member in the Wayne State School of Social Work, Sally Jo Large-Agee, passed away on Sunday, June 25, 2017. After her nursing career, Sally earned her B.S.W., M.S.W. and an administrative focused Educational Doctorate degree at Wayne State. In honor of Sally, her family and friends will be hosting a memorial to celebrate her life at the School of Social Work courtyard on Saturday, August 5 from 11 am to 1 pm. (See Save the Date section for more details and to RSVP.)

Durrenda Onolemhemhen attended the African Joint Conference on Social Work Education and Social Development June 25-28. The conference was held in Livingston, Zambia, the site of Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River in Central Africa. 

Her attendance was in support of the Zambian Association of Social Workers. She is a pioneer in the development of social work education at the university level in Africa. Dr. Onolemhemhen taught the first social work courses at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria Nigeria and was a guest professor at the National University Rwanda. She has conducted seminars and workshops for practicing social workers in several African countries. Social work in Zambia began in the 1920s, when social workers were recruited to work in the copper mines of the country. The mining of copper created and magnified social problems such as poor housing and unemployment. Today, social workers are engaged in programs that address these needs among the poor in Zambia.

Dr. Onolemhemhen reports: “I was able to meet with social workers across the globe and tell them about our social work program at Wayne State University – most particularly Ruth Start, president of the International Federation of Social Work (with Dr. Onolemhemhen, above). The wildlife, natural beauty of the country and the friendliness of the Zambian people made this one of the best conferences I have attended.”

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