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Terry Cross MSW '77
Terry Cross MSW '77

FEARLESS ADVOCATE

Dream catcher for Native people

In the 1970s, Portland State was one of the only schools in the country that recruited American Indians for its School of Social Work, recalls alumnus Terry Cross MSW ’77.

"PSU really empowered those of us who went there," Cross says. "We would have classes with 40 American Indian students interested in social work and with guest lectures from incredible Indians. That's an experience you don't usually get to have; usually you have one or two other Indian people in a class. I always carried that with me."

Cross, a Seneca Nation of Indians member, went on to be an adjunct professor at PSU for 15 years, revolutionizing culturally specific social work techniques geared toward giving students the tools and knowledge to be effective case workers in American Indian communities.

In 1983 Cross founded a Northwest-focused institute to provide training and consultation for American Indian social workers. Over a decade it grew into the National Indian Child Welfare Association based in Portland.

"The organization has had a dramatic impact on tribal equality and education across the country," Cross says, training many thousands of American Indian social workers. "I feel lucky. Very few people get to see something they dream up become such a vital part of their community."

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