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Press Releases

Thursday, June 17, 1999

The Changing Face of Rural America: The 24th National Institute on Social Work and Human Services in Rural Areas" Set for July 24-27

SALISBURY, MD--Social workers and researchers from across the country converge on the Eastern Shore July 24-27 to discuss The Changing Face of Rural America: The 24th National Institute on Social Work and Human Services in Rural Areas.

No longer a Norman Rockwell magazine cover, rural America is facing problems confronting cities, but without urban resources. From issues of racial and ethnic diversity, health care for the elderly and finding work in a rural service economy, social problems in non-urban America are becoming increasingly complex while resources are dwindling, said Dr. Patty Plaskon, conference coordinator.

These problems can take ominous twists--as stories of school shootings in non-urban areas recently show. (They are expected to be a topic of discussion, said participant Deborah Matthews.)

Another galvanizing subject will be the impact of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996--limiting the time a non-working parent may receive benefits. What about the mother in the heart of Nebraska 300 miles away from nowhere? said Dr. Jay Bishop, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and coordinator of the dual degree program in sociology and social work with Salisbury State University.

Highlighting the sessions will be talks by two nationally recognized experts: Chuck Fluharty from the Mid-West and Dr. Catherine Born, a specialist on welfare reform research, from the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

Fluharty was raised in a fifth generation farm family in the Appalachian foothills. He returned there to live following graduation from Yale Divinity School. Well-known in Washington, D.C., research and public policy circles, he is director of Rural Policy Research Institute, an interdisciplinary consortium designed to assist policy makers in understanding the rural impact of public policies. The institute involves scientists from member institutions at Iowa State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska and the University of Ulster--Northern Ireland, among others.

Dr. Marvin Tossey, chair of SSUs Social Work Department, is studying welfare reform in Wicomico County. He is part of the pre-conference institute organized by Nancy Wilson, coordinator of the Eastern Shore University of Maryland School of Social Work program. The institute will discuss a rural advocacy agenda.

Researchers and participants from 30 states and Canada will present some 70 papers and 15 poster displays on topics as diverse as creating a transportation system for people in cash-strapped Somerset County, rising ethnic immigration and even the use of telecommunications and technology to span distance and travel time involved in service delivery.

The conference is the first to be held in Maryland. It is also the first to be co-hosted by an Historically Black Institution, UMES, and a predominantly white university, SSU.

According to Plaskon, some 350 people are expect to attend--about half practitioners and half academe.

The week wont be all work. The opening session begins with a Multicultural Showcase in the Ella Fitzgerald Center at UMES which will be open to the public and features Native American, African American and Latin American art and performance. There will also be a crab feast, waterway tour, Shorebirds minor league game, a night in Ocean City, a tour of a chicken plant and retracing of Harriet Tubmans Underground Railroad in Dorchester County.

The conference is co-sponsored by the UM School of Social Work, Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center, Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the Rural Social Work Caucus. Registration is open to anyone interested in rural human services. Deadline is July 1. For more information visit these Web sites: or or call the conference office at 410-250-1088.

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