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  • Culture and technology scholar Julia Ticona studies

    or many members of the working class, a cell phone is a crucial tool for access to jobs, schedules, and family members. The focus on cell phones as a lifeline grew apparent on Julia Ticona’s work in South Africa, when interviewing refugees from Zimbabwe who repeatedly asked for cell phone access. Back in the states, Ticona’s research extends to the sector called the gig economy, and the role that technology, specifically the cell phone, plays for vulnerable populations who rely on cell phone service to patch together gigs, from domestic work to driving and running errands for app-based services.

    Julia Ticona, assistant professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication

    Ticona is currently writing a book, based on her doctoral dissertation in sociology, about how both high- and low-wage independent workers use technology to cope with insecure labor markets. Now, a new assistant professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at Penn, Ticona has interviewed nannies, housekeepers, and other participants in the gig economy. In June, Ticona finished a report, “Beyond Disruption: How Tech Shapes Labor Across Domestic Work & Ridehailing.” In it, Ticona and her colleagues summarize the lifeline that is a cell phone to gig economy workers.

    A large part of Ticona’s research exposes the underrepresentation of women in the media when covering the gig economy, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of domestic gig workers for companies like Care.com—think babysitters, nannies and housekeepers—are overlooked in favor of ride share and delivery drivers and laborers.

    While Uber has 160,000 active drivers, Care.com logs approximately 5.3 million workers, most of whom are women. But the majority of media coverage covering the gig economy focuses heavily on ride sharing. “Care.com is still a tech company that very much determines how people find work,” says Ticona. “We need to shift to include women in the conversations about the future of work.”

    Read more at the Annenberg School for Communication.

  • Social work students help refugees in Europe mills

    Doctoral students from the School of Social Policy & Practice shared their expertise with leaders at an NGO that provides trauma-informed services for refugees in Athens.

    after an intense, trauma-focused semester of classroom learning,doctoral students from the University of Pennsylvania traveled to Greece as part of a pilot international immersion.

    During their weeklong trip in late June to Athens, 11 doctorate of social work (DSW) students from the School of Social Policy & Practice learned about geopolitical factors contributing to the refugee crisis in Europe, and how local nonprofit, non-governmental organizations, like the Melissa Network for Migrant Women, are responding.

    The Melissa Network provides trauma-informed services to female refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, and other regions, assisting them with rebuilding their lives by teaching them about their rights, how to speak Greek, job searching, resume building, and violence against women. Since its inception in 2016, the agency has been following a “sanctuary model,” but they didn’t have a name for it. Now, they do, along with ongoing long-distance support from Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice.

      Photo: School of Social Policy & Practice

    Sandra Bloom, who coined the term “sanctuary model,” a theory-based, trauma-informed, evidence-supported, whole-culture approach to leadership that helps organizations manage stress when delivering services, taught “Trauma-Informed Communities, Trauma-Responsive Systems, and Trauma-Specific Treatment,” along with Christine Courtois.

    Part of the School’s three-year DSW requirements, the course was designed to be applied in an international context and addressed trauma, post-traumatic disorders, approaches to treatment, violence as a public health issue, and “vicarious trauma,” or the second-hand trauma experienced by caregivers such as EMTs, firefighters, and social workers.

    For the DSW students, visiting the Melissa Networkwas an opportunity to see a trauma-informed “sanctuary model,” in action by observing its interactive workshops.

    “The Melissa Network takes a trauma-informed, multi-pronged approach, providing psychotherapy, one-on-one and group counseling; movement, art, and dance therapy; poetry workshops, and more,” says Lina Hartocollis, director of the DSW Program. “It’s a place where we could offer a meaningful experience for students to deepen their learning while sharing their expertise through consultation.”

    While meeting with the agency’s leaders, DSW students talked about their experiences as clinical social workers, ways to address certain situations, perspectives on trauma-informed care, and possible avenues for strengthened programming. In addition, Bloom joined the group via a video conference to discuss the obstacles associated with being a trauma-informed organization in an unusual setting.

      Photo: School of Social Policy & Practice

    “It’s a lovely atmosphere different from many institutional settings that the students are familiar with. It’s very client-centered, and it felt like someone’s beautiful home,” Hartocollis says. “That was one of the most striking differences the students noted.”

    One of those DSW students who noticed the atmospheric contrast was Kaley Gerstley, a New York City-based social worker who has primarily worked in massive institutional settings.

    “From the moment you walk into the building, you can feel the healing power. It feels like a home, not simply because of the layout, but rather because of the people in it,” Gerstley says. “Even when groups or meetings were taking place, there were children playing, women laughing, and friends sitting with each other. It felt like a place of true connections, where people were able to speak freely, without shame or bias, and genuinely experience the ‘unconditional positive regard,’ we talk about so often in social work.”

    Another DSW student who noticed a stark difference was Jason Mallonee, who spent six years as a teacher in schools where students regularly faced trauma related to violence, homelessness, and poverty, before becoming a social worker.

    “It was invigorating to see an organization place so much value on people, as opposed to what we often see in the United States: value placed on cutting costs and moving people through care as rapidly as possible,” Mallonee says. “It is an example of how to provide comprehensive interventions in an environment that feels like a home.”

    The students also visited the agency’s shelters that house unaccompanied minors, including one “for young boys and girls who have experienced unspeakable traumas,” Hartocollis say

  • Bringing art to inner city teens

    enee Andrea Mills, of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, thinks every community needs exposure to art, and outlets for creativity. For 25 years, she has worked toward that goal, creating programs and spaces for children and teens to make art.

    Motivated to help homeless communities while in a leadership training program at CHOP, Mills created an artist-in-residence program for teens living in shelters. Currently, Mills, who works specifically in HUP Nursing Administration, volunteers for Forget Me Knot Youth Services, and Youth Emergency Services, where she leads art classes.

    “I want to help them capture and maintain tranquility while creating their works of art, regardless of their housing situation,” says Mills.

    For her work and dedication, Mills is slated to receive a Penn Medicine CAREs grant, which will fund future art supplies.

    Read more from HUPdate at Penn Medicine News.

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