Social Work in Action - Summer 2014

Certificate in Working with Military and their Families (CWMF)

The country's 21.2 million veterans and 3.6 million military personnel (including active duty and reserves) are facing unprecedented challenges with emotional problems, coping with trauma, suicide, unemployment, homelessness, reintegration, adolescent and family issues, domestic violence, traumatic brain injury or physical disabilities. This individualized program blends personalized training with convenient online coursework to empower your skills in helping the military community in their time of need. 

The CWMF is a post-master's level certificate available to any professional with an advanced degree in the fields of mental or medical health.

The program offers intense, personalized training with convenient, online course work all taught by top faculty and military experts. 

The certificate entails a 2-day intensive "boot camp" near Great Lakes Naval Base starting August 22, 2014 where students are introduced to military culture, customs and issues. (Don't worry-this is not a physical boot camp, but an educational boot camp.) The program concludes with a final 3-day colloquium integrating knowledge and skills.

To learn more about the GSSW Certificate in Working with Military and their Family click on the link.  

Meet Ellen Belluomini, New Coordinator of the Military Social Work Program

Ellen Belluomini, LCSW, received her MSW from the University of Illinois, Jane Addams School of Social Work and is an ABD doctoral student at Walden University.  She currently is a Lecturer and Coordinator of the Military Social Work program at Dominican University. Her background includes over twenty years teaching at various institutions including universities, colleges, and with the military. She develops online and blended curricula with an emphasis on integrating technology into social work practice. Writing a blog "Bridging the Digital Divide in Social Work Practice"  and a column Turn up the Tech in Social Work in The New Social Worker magazine, her writings offer digital solutions to social workers. Using her twenty five years' experience, she consults social service and higher education systems through action research. Her clinical work has been on a micro and macro level through private practice, program development, interventions with individuals and families, education, and management of nonprofit agencies. 

New Military Faculty Hired

Since coming aboard in May, Ellen Belluomini has been building a strong team of faculty members who will begin teaching in our GSSW Military Program this fall.  Each faculty member has a unique set of skills and brings a vast amount of experience and expertise in working with military members and their families. We are excited and look forward to the contribution each will make as they train and teach our students specializing in Military Social Work.

Joseph Baar Topinka

Joseph Baar Topinka is a retired military attorney who was an Assistant Professor in the Army-Baylor University Graduate Program in Health and Business Administration and a Legal Instructor for the Army Medical Department Center and School's Leader Training Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  Prior to teaching, he was the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the U.S. Army Medical Command and the legal advisor for the Army's Western Regional Medical Command and Madigan Army Medical Center. 

He was born in Berwyn, Illinois and raised in Riverside, Illinois.  He, his wife, and daughter currently reside in Universal City, Texas.  

He has published or co-published many works over the last ten years and is currently co-chairing an effort by the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) to develop materials for military, medical beneficiaries which can be downloaded at  

He was recently interviewed in the AHLA's May 2014 issues of Connections magazine.

Dr. Mary Henderson

Dr. Mary Henderson is the Deputy Director for Nicasa Behavioral Health Services with more than 20 years of proficiency in the Human Services and Behaviorial Health field. She is  Project Director on two federal grants and serves on the Executive Board of Illinois' Department of Human Services DASA Women's Committee, where she assisted with developing the legislative mandated state women's plan.   

Dr. Henderson is a Navy veteran and a Governing Council member on a SAMHSA Transformational project for veterans and their family members. She has facilitated women's specialized groups on various traumas for the Circuit Court of Lake County and serves as a member the Drug Court Team and Veterans Treatment Assistance Court.  She has consulted and  trained in Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida on several behavioral health  topics related to women, veterans and the criminal justice system.  She was  selected for the Great Lakes ATTC Communities of Color: Training of Trainers (ToT) and Next Generation of Leaders  and was first published  in the Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly (July 2012) with her article "Identity Development's Impact on Peer Supported Recovery among African American Women."

Dr. Henderson has a Doctorate of Education in Counseling Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.  She teaches graduate classes  at National Louis University and undergraduate classes at the College of Lake County.

Jessica Pinder

Jessica Pinder is a practicing Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  She is currently employed as the Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC), formerly the North Chicago VA Medical Center. Prior to her position as a Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist, Ms. Pinder worked as an Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF / OIF) Combat Case Manager and led the Polytrauma / Out-Patient Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Clinic.  While working in that capacity, Ms. Pinder provided comprehensive case management to Veterans and Active Duty Service Members with TBI of various levels of severity, co-existing mental health conditions, chronic pain, and traumatic amputations from combat.   

In 2009-2010 Ms. Pinder was nominated for and graduated from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Veterans Integrated Network Leadership Development Program and focused on projects regarding in-patient bed management and access to care. She has served as a mentor for fellow staff in the local leadership development program and as a training supervisor for social work interns. She is knowledgeable about the wide range of benefits and programs available within the healthcare divisions of the VA system and community resources available in Cook and the surrounding collar counties. In her role as a therapist, she facilitated anger management groups, problem solving therapy groups,  as well as TBI support groups. 

Ms. Pinder has also worked as a clinical social worker for dialysis clinics and is adept in the field of medical social work. She earned a Master's of Social Work degree  from Loyola University of Chicago in 2005, and a Bachelor of Social Work from the Jane Adams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1997. 

Kenneth Cronk

Kenneth (Ken) Cronk is currently the public affairs officer for Commander, Navy Region Midwest, Great Lakes, IL. Ken served on active duty in the Navy for 27 years in a variety of jobs including Aviation Boatswain's Mate (H), Navy Journalist, Limited Duty Officer and Public Affairs Officer.

He served in Florida, in Vietnam aboard USS Midway; in Athens, Greece; Norfolk, Va. on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz; the Bay area of California on the carrier USS Carl Vinson; in the Pentagon; at Great Lakes, and in Chicago.

Washington tours included duty as an action officer in the Plans and Policy Division of the Office of the Chief of Information (CHINFO), and as director of the Print Media Division for the (then) Navy Internal Relations Activity. Duty in the Midwest included a tour as base public affairs officer at Naval Station Great Lakes and one as Director, Navy Office of Information Midwest in Chicago.

He holds a bachelor's degree from State of NY Regents, Albany and earned his M.A. in Human Resources Development from Webster University in 2005. He is married to Claudia, has three grown children and resides in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Kathleen Rettinger

Kathleen Rettinger has been a Social Worker for  26 years and has worked for the American Red Cross giving her the opportunity to work with disaster victims and active military service members and their families as well as veterans. She spent part of her time at the American Red Cross counseling office at the Great Lakes Naval Station and accepted a position working for the Navy at the Fleet and Family Support Center in Great Lakes, Illinois. 

She welcomes the opportunity to participate in Dominican University's CWMF Program to better prepare students to become mental health professionals that provide specialized treatment to active duty military personnel, their families and veterans and expand treatment options in communities throughout the United States.

She earned her MSW at George Williams College at Aurora University and completed a certificate in Art Therapy. Kathleen and her husband moved to Lake County in 2000 where she participates in some volunteer opportunities in the community. 



Social Work in Action is an electronic newsletter that is sent to the GSSW community, including alumnae/i, faculty, staff, current students, partners and friends of GSSW, among others. We include news about our academic programs and other projects, upcoming and recent events, and of course, faculty, alumnae/i, student and staff achievements. Please be sure to keep us up-to-date on your news; send promotions, new job announcements, recent publications, and the like to Kathy Clyburn, assistant dean,, 708-771-5298.