Southern Miss School of Social Work hosts education conference

Southern Miss School of Social Work hosts education conference

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the University of Southern Mississippi

The School of Social Work at The University of Southern Mississippi hosted the 44th annual Alabama/Mississippi Social Work Education Conference Oct. 29-30 in the Thad Cochran Center on the Hattiesburg Campus. More than 350 students and professionals attended the event.

"The conference theme, 'Healthy Individuals and Communities,' is timely, as social work education programs strive to prepare students for effective practice in response to new threats to human health and well-being," said Dr. Michael Forster, dean of the College of Health and professor of social work.

Keynote speakers included Darla Coffey, president of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Therese Hanna, executive director of the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, and Traci Lilley, associate director and director of field education at the Louisiana State University School of Social Work.

Hanna, who presented a keynote about the Affordable Care Act said, she hoped attendees gained an appreciation of the scope of the ACA and were able to understand the key roles social workers can play in the evolving health care system.

"Based on health care trends that point toward a growing recognition of the social determinants of health, I would expect the demand for social workers to increase substantially in the future, both in primary care and hospital settings," said Hanna.

Sessions were led by students and professionals and topics ranged from integrative health, treatment techniques to use with reluctant clients, research on domestic abuse and trauma, and the Mississippi Move to Learn program.

Jillian Harper, a second year master of social work student, received an award for her poster presentation titled, "The Student Life Success Program: An Integrated Health & Academic Approach to College Student Retention." "The goal of the program is to improve the retention rates, quality of life, and overall health of students on academic probation in the College of Health," Harper said.

The key takeaway from the conference was the need to meet clients where they are at, Harper said. "If that means expanding your horizons and learning a new technique or system, then that is what you are going to have to do to be more effective."

Barry Haywood, coordinator of student recruitment and alumni relations for the School of Work, and Rachel Lahasky, clinical instructor, were instrumental in planning the conference.

"This was the largest Alabama/Mississippi conference to date and we can attribute that to our student participation and faculty involvement," said Lahasky. "We hope that participants not only learned something new in the field of social work, but also had the chance to connect with other students and professionals who are seeking out the same career goals and services for our clients and communities."

"It was an exciting conference that provided wonderful opportunities to network and creatively think about how social workers could collaborate so as to actively improve the health of individuals and communities," said Dr. Tim Rehner, director of the Southern Miss School of Social Work. "Together we can make a difference."

For more information about the School of Social Work in The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Health, visit