Jessica Ritter, PhD, MSSW, BSW
Areas of Research & Specialization
As a social worker, I have been dedicated to children’s rights in the U.S. and around the world. I study social work because it is a profession committed to social justice and helping those in our country who are marginalized. Social workers help individuals function better within their environment but also work on changing the environment so it works better for individuals and families. This is one of the defining features of the social work profession.
PhD in Social Work, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, in 2006
Master of Social Work with a concentration in Administration and Planning, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, in 1997
Bachelor of Social Work, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, in 1994
Why I study social work
When I was an undergrad, I was floundering and could not decide what my major should be. I knew I wanted to do something where I had the opportunity to be helpful to others, and where I could help improve society, but I did not have a vision of what career would best suit me. Because I was very interested in politics, I did an internship with a local legislator. Little did I know that this would be a huge turning point in my life. One day this legislator explained to me that before he became a politician, he was a social worker and community organizer. He shared his experiences with me and told me some amazing stories. That day, I knew I wanted to be a social worker and to work in the field of child abuse and neglect. It was very exciting for me to learn that social work is political; that there are social workers who are advocates who work for social change in the political arena. As a social worker, I have been dedicated to children’s rights in the U.S. and around the world.
I study social work because it is a profession committed to social justice and helping those in our country who are marginalized. A social work education provides students with the values, knowledge and skills to intervene with individuals and families in need. But social work students also study and learn to address social problems on a larger scale -- problems such as poverty and homelessness; violence in our families and communities; the millions of Americans who are without health insurance; discrimination; child abuse, neglect and exploitation; human rights violations; inequalities in our public schools; and lack of mental health services. Social workers help individuals function better within their environment but also work on changing the environment so it works better for individuals and families. This is one of the defining features of the social work profession.
What I would tell a student considering a major in social work
Some say social work is a science, and some say it is an art. I would argue that it is both. However, it is not for everyone! There are many misconceptions about social work, so take an introductory social work class and talk to social workers in the field. Do some volunteer work where social workers are employed. Get to know yourself very well to assess whether you have the skills and personality needed to be an effective and competent social worker. Are you compassionate and nonjudgmental? Do you get upset by social injustice? Are you an effective communicator? A good listener? Do you have good problem solving skills? Do you believe that all individuals have dignity and worth? Do you have high ethical standards? Do you have an appreciation for cultural diversity?
One of the most exciting features of social work is that we get to work with a wide variety of client populations in a vast array of settings. We work in schools, domestic violence shelters, adoption agencies, courts and prisons, hospitals, treatment centers, in government agencies, for profit, non-profit and faith-based organizations, counseling centers, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, international relief organizations, and in the military. We are community organizers, counselors and therapists, caseworkers, activists, researchers, academics, and human service administrators. We also work in the political arena as lobbyists and legislative aides. And the best part is that you can work with one client population for a number of years and then decide to switch to another population for an exciting new challenge. Have I hooked you yet?
Board Member, Children First for Oregon
Advisor, Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society
Advisor, Social Work Club at Pacific University
Ritter, J. A., & DiNitto, D.M. (2015). Providing social services: Help for children, older Americans, and individuals with mental and substance use disorders. In D. M. DiNitto & D. H. Johnson, Social Welfare: Politics and Public Policy, 8th edition (pp. 369-425). Boston: Pearson.
Ritter, J. A., & Vakalahi, H. (2015). 101 Careers in Social Work (2nd ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Ritter, J. A. (2013). Social work policy practice: Changing our community, our nation, and the world. Boston: Pearson.
Ritter, J. A., Just, M.M., & DiNitto, D.M. (2011). Providing social services: Help for children, older Americans, and individuals with mental and substance use disorders. In D. M. DiNitto, Social Welfare: Politics and Public Policy, 7th edition (pp. 364-414). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Ritter, J. A., Vakalahi, H., & Kiernan-Stern, M. (2009). 101 Careers in Social Work. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Peer Reviewed Journal Publications
Ritter, J. A. (2014). Social Workers Affecting Social Policy: An international perspective [Review of the book Social Workers Affecting Social Policy: An international perspective by John Gal and Idit Weiss-Gal]. International Journal of Social Welfare, 23, 12-15.
Ritter, J. A. (2013). Policy Class as Practice Class: Increasing the Political Efficacy of Millennial Students. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 18, 1-16
Ritter, J. A. (2008). A national study predicting social workers’ levels of political participation: The role of resources, psychological engagement, and recruitment networks. Social Work, 53(4), 347-357.
Ritter, J. A. (2007). Evaluating the political participation of licensed social workers in the new millennium. The Policy Practice Journal, 6(4), 61-78.
Ferguson, M., Ritter, J., DiNitto, D. M., Kim, J., & Schwab, A. J. (2005). Mentoring as a strategy for welfare reform. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 12 (2/3), 165-183.
Recent Popular Publications
Ritter, Jessica (2015, June 20). America’s shameful child rights record. Al Jazeera America.
Ritter, Jessica (2014, September 23). The United States Should Ban Spanking (guest opinion). The Oregonian.
Ritter, Jessica (2014, April 2). The social safety net: Think locally, as in Washington County (guest opinion). Hillsboro Argus.
Ritter, Jessica (2013, January 18). Can Oregon catch up to Texas on tuition equity for undocumented immigrants? The Oregonian.
Ritter, Jessica (2011, June 24). Federal spending with regard to children’s welfare, buck stops here. The Oregonian. Reprinted on Common Dreams website
Seibert, R. & Ritter, J. (2011, April 8). Tuition equity is good for Oregon’s youth---and economy. The Oregonian.
Ritter, Jessica (2010, April 7). Making a difference in the lives of Oregon’s children. The Oregonian.
Ritter, Jessica (2009, Aug. 18). Send social workers to school. The Oregonian.
Exploring the Political Participation and Political Identity of Swedish and American Social Workers: A Cross-National Comparison. Presented at the Policy Conference 2.0--Social Work as Action: Confronting Injustice. Austin, Texas, May 30, 2015
Invited Panel Presentation, College Democrats of Oregon (Winter Convention), at the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, February 28, 2015
Reconceptualising policy class as a practice class: Increasing the political efficacy of social work students. Presented at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development, Melbourne Australia, July 10, 2014
The Challenge of Teaching Social Policy in a Time of Heightened Political Polarization and Alienation. Presented with Dr. Benjamin Shepard at the Policy Conference 2.0---Educating for Activism: Recommitting to Policy Change, Austin, TX. May 31, 2014
Comparing Two Pedagogical Approaches in a Macro Social Work Course. Presented with Dr. Don Schweitzer at the 29th annual Baccalaureate Program Director’s Conference, Portland, Ore, March 17, 2012
Exploring the Intersection between Social Work and Political Advocacy. Invited Research Talk. Presented at the University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden, Oct. 12, 2011
Macro Class as a Grassroots Organization: Using an Experiential Group Process Model to Effect Social Change. Presented to the 26th annual Baccalaureate Program Director’s Conference, Phoenix, Ariz. March 19, 2009
Author’s Roundtable for book, 101 Careers in Social Work at the 26th annual Baccalaureate Program Director’s Conference, Phoenix, Ariz., March 21, 2009
Social work education in the U.S. & the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Presented to the 34th biannual Congress of the International Association of Schools of Social Work, Durban, South Africa with Dr. Dennis Ritchie, July 20-24, 2008
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Do human rights include children’s rights? Presented at Portland State University, April 26, 2008
Advocacy 101: The importance of advocacy for the social work profession. Presented to Legislative Advocacy Day at the University of Portland, March 1, 2008
Evaluating the Political Participation of Social Workers: A Multi-State Study. Presented to the 2006 Policy Conference, Washington, D.C., June 18, 2006
Evaluating the Political Participation of Social Workers: A Multi-State Study. Presented to the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting, Chicago, Ill., Feb. 19, 2006
Political Participation of Social Workers. Presented to the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work for Empowerment Week, April 21, 2005
Kinship Care: Intergenerational and Multicultural Practice. Paper presented at the National Association of Social Work Texas Aging Symposium in Austin, Texas with Dr. Rowena Fong, April 5, 2003
Graduate (and Beyond) Teaching. Workshop presented to the 22nd Annual New Faculty Teaching/Orientation Seminar at the University of Texas at Austin with Dr. Diana DiNitto, Aug. 19, 2002
Community-based Welfare Reform in Texas: The State of the State. Workshop presented to the NASW Texas 25th Annual Conference, Social Work Renaissance: A Silver Celebration, in Austin, Texas. Presented with Drs. Miguel Ferguson and Diana DiNitto, Oct. 11, 2001
Mentoring TANF Recipients: Early Findings from a Welfare Innovations Project in Texas. Presented to the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work with Drs. Miguel Ferguson and Diana DiNitto, Oct. 5, 2001
Mentoring TANF Recipients: Early Findings from a Welfare Innovations Project in Texas. Workshop presented at the 41st annual National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics (NAWRS) Conference in Baltimore, Md., Aug. 21, 2001
1998-2000 | Management Analyst, Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, Austin, Texas
1997-1998 | Executive Director, Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center, Georgetown, Texas
1994-1997 | Child Protective Services Caseworker, Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, Austin, Texas
1997 | Child Welfare League of America MSSW Internship, Washington D.C.
1993-1994 | Children’s Protective Services BSW Internship, Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, Austin, Texas
Honor & Awards
Spring 2015 | President’s Award for Excellence in Professional Education, Pacific University
Spring 2015 | Awarded Elise Elliott Grant funding ($3,500.00) to take two undergraduate students to New York City to attend Social Work Day at the United Nations
Spring 2014 | Awarded Elise Elliott Grant funding ($3,200.00) to take two undergraduate students to New York City to attend Social Work Day at the United Nations
Summer 2014 | Received Faculty Development award ($3,000.00) to make presentation at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development, Melbourne Australia.
Spring 2012 | Faculty Achievement Award, Pacific University
Fall 2011 | Fulbright scholar, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
May 2010 | 2010 Junior Faculty Development Award, Pacific University
March 2010 | 2010 Helen Caitlin Memorial Award, awarded by the Oregon Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers
2009-10 | Received Faculty Development award ($1,500.00) to compare two pedagogical approaches in Macro Social Work course
2007-2008 | Awarded Elise Elliott Grant funding to take three undergraduate students to New York City to attend Social Work Day at the United Nations
2007-2008 | Awarded Elise Elliott Grant funding to make presentation at international social work conference in Durban, South Africa with undergraduate student
Summer 2004 | Summer Fellow, National Center for Children and Families, Columbia University, Putting Children First Summer Fellowship, New York, N.Y.
2000-2001 | Research Fellowship ($15,500 competitive award), awarded by The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School
2001-2002 | Continuing Bruton Fellowship, awarded by The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School
2001-2002 | Robert Carl Nesbitt Memorial Endowed Presidential Scholarship, awarded by The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School
2002-2003 | University Tuition Fellowship, awarded by The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School
2003-2004 | Marye Anne Fox Endowed Presidential Fellowship, awarded by The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School