CHSS in Japan by Mark Levand

From left to right: Mark Levand, Dr. Sabitha Pilai-Friedman, Sarah D’Andrea, Jessie Andre, Kayleigh Shepard


In May, 2015, Widener’s School of Human Service Professions embarked on a trip to Japan with more than 40 people.  Ultimately led by Dr. Sachi Ando, a professor from Widener’s Center for Social Work Education, the Widener group participated in many different culturally informative endeavors.  While three different centers were on the trip (Human Sexuality, Social Work, and Clinical Psychology) with their own respective faculty, this is a brief synopsis of what the CHSS representatives did while in Japan.

We began our trip in Tokyo.  Faculty member Dr. Sabitha Pillai-Friedman and students Jessie Andre, Kayleigh Shepard, Sarah D’Andrea, and myself represented the Center for Human Sexuality Studies on this trip.  After adjusting to the time difference, we were ready to get into the academic aspect of the trip–giving presentations at two different universities.

The members of the International Christian University (ICU) were gracious with their time and resources, informing us about the state of gender and sexual identity support that they offer to their student body.  CHSS students were asked to give presentations on how sexuality research is conducted at Widener as well as the research into breast cancer patients and sexual self-schema led by Dr. Pillai-Friedman.  After our presentations, ICU doctoral students presented some of their research to us followed by presentations given by the undergraduate students.  A lively question and answer session ensued following the inspiring presentations.

Members of the University of Tokyo (UT) were equally generous with their time and resources.  After exchanging presentations with the faculty and students of UT, we embarked on a carefully planned evening of exploration into the practical application of sexual and gender identity support on the streets of Tokyo.  We were given a tour of various organizations in Tokyo that act as informational resources around sexuality.

We also attended a fantastic Gender Forum at Rikkyo University where we learned about the state of gender equality (and inequality) in Japan.  Afterwards, we met with a government official to hear about what was being done to address the rights and concerns of LGBT identified people.  We were even fortunate enough to meet with a psychosexual therapist over lunch who informed us of the Japanese phenomenon of love hotels.

Various famous sights were visited during our stay as well—the Shibuya crossing, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo tower, and the like.

We then got a chance to travel on the bullet train to Osaka.  During our time in Osaka, we visited places like Nara, Kyoto, and Hiroshima.  Nara and Kyoto are known for some of the most beautiful temples and shrines in the world.  We also visited Doshisha University and heard from another prominent sexual scholar about his research in Japan.

In Hiroshima, the entire Widener group was given the opportunity to walk through the various memorials and museums constructed after the detonation of the A-Bomb during WWII.  We all listened to a moving story of one woman’s experience of nuclear warfare and the devastation the bomb brought on people and the environment.  We were then able to attend an assisted living facility specifically for survivors of the Atomic Bomb.  Here we heard more stories of the heartbreak and havoc brought on by the nuclear disaster.

Amidst all of this business, scholarship, sightseeing, and leisure time, we were often reminded of the importance of code switching.  In many fields, code switching is the concept of how to appropriate the specialized language and content about your field for a general audience.  Computer technicians may experience this when they put technical jargon into words that the average person may understand and find useful.  In sexuality, we may speak about content differently in various settings: in class, with peers or colleagues, with our families, with different groups to which we may present, or clients we may have in therapy.  As human sexuality professionals, we must often navigate a complex landscape for code switching at the intersection of sensitivity around sexual issues, cultural nuances and expectations, lived physical realities (gender, race, etc.), and power dynamics around sexual information.  This trip allowed us to practice code switching within our group from Widener (with social work and clinical psychology representatives) as well as cross-cultural code switching–code switching for an audience with culturally (U.S.) American ideologies around sexuality to those with Japanese ideologies.

Overall, this course has been an incredible experience offering a complex view of sexuality across different cultures.  The ways in which different cultures deal with sexuality are truly amazing and quite unique.  We were given information that would have been difficult or impossible to acquire while on a similar trip with a different group.  Sexuality is not a specific U.S. experience.  Other countries and cultures have addressed issues around sexuality in different ways.  It appears that there still remains many things the U.S. culture can learn from others.


FullSizeRender (3)Mark Levand, MA, MEd is a graduate of the MEd human sexuality program (’14) at Widener University.  He is currently working on his dissertation focusing on Catholicism and sexuality education.  Mark teaches about human sexuality at various colleges and universities in the area.  His areas of interest around sexuality include sexual diversity, sexual ethics, transgender education, the intersection of faith and sexuality, and BDSM/Kink studies.

News from the Field: Dr. Timaree Schmit

Great to see the work our own adjunct professor and alum of our program, Dr. Timaree Schmit.  Promoting education through dialogue with Bryan Buttler in Philly Mag.  Read the article here.


Learn more about Dr. Schmit on her popular site, Sex with Timaree.

News from the Field: AASECT Student Paper Award

AASECT awardCongratulations to Stephanie Chando and Mark Levand for receiving the Student Paper Award at the 47th Annual AASECT Conference.  Their proposal for a two hour workshop, Kink-positive, Patient-centered Care for Health Care Professionals scored the highest in the peer review process for conference proposals.


Stephanie Chando is a palliative care social worker on Pennsylvania Hospital’s inpatient palliative care consult team.  Stephanie finished the MEd program in August 2014 and is a doctoral candidate working on her dissertation here at Widener. She has a particular focus on the intersections of sexuality, intimacy, aging, and palliative care.

Mark Levand is an adjunct professor and consultant.  Mark finished the MEd program in August 2014 and is also a doctoral candidate working on his dissertation at Widener.  He has particular interests in sexual diversity, the intersection of sexuality and faith, sexual ethics, and cross cultural sexuality.

News from the Field: Justyn Hintze

hintze_headshot_(1)Congratulations to Justyn Hintze on her article for the Delco News Network.  This article discusses the stigma surrounding masturbation, and then outlines a few of the many health benefits of masturbation.  Check out the article here and read about Justyn below!


Justyn Hintze, a  queerfeministlesbiandyke, is an advocate for breaking binaries, and just breaking stereotypes. She is a MEd candidate in Human Sexuality Education from Widener University, and is a sexologist, educator, pleasure revolutionary, and public speaker. Justyn is passionate about eliminating discrimination, and creating safe spaces to foster open, raw conversations.  She was the Sexual  Freedom Summit Co-Chair in 2013 and 2014, and is a member of Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance‘s Advisory Council. Justyn is also the Project Manager and Social Media Campaigner at Rad Campaign, a full-agency web development company campaigning for progressive nonprofits.

Justyn is a guest writer for Frogloop, RH Reality Check, and Teaching Sex Ed, to name a few, and has facilitated panels and workshops at conferences and in classrooms nationwide.

Follow Justyn on Twitter: @justynashley

News from the Field: A. Maria Marcelin

AMM_headshot_feb2015Congratulations to A. Maria Marcelin for the article in the Delco News Network.  The article addresses that all youth benefit from having a trusted person in their lives with whom they discuss their questions pertaining to sexuality, but asserts that the potentially traumatizing challenges (e.g., abrupt relocations; loss; abuse, neglect, and abandonment) faced by foster and shelter youth often prevent these individuals from feeling they have access to such a person.  It is because of this reality that all professionals involved in the lives of foster/shelter youth should groom themselves to be accessible to the youth they serve as compassionate sources of accurate information.

Maria is currently in the second year of the MSW/M.Ed. program.  She comes from a Forensic Psych background and the cyclical nature of violence/oppression on interpersonal, organizational, and societal levels is fascinating to me.  Her research has focused mostly on policy responses to human trafficking and the physical/medical sequelae of sexual trauma.  She aspires to work clinically with survivors and perpetrators of sexual violence, and is very interested in working with medical professionals to educate them on how to sensitively discuss trauma with their clients.


Check out the link here!

News from the Field – Dr. Linda Hawkins

HawkinsCongratulations to our Alumna and Adjunct Professor Dr. Linda Hawkins for the recognition of the wonderful work she does with CHOP.  She and Dr. Dowshen are a great role models for effective change. Read the article here!


Dr. Hawkins graduated from the HSED PhD program in 2009 with the dissertation Gender Identity Development Among Transgender Youth: A Qualitative Analysis of Contributing Factors. She was awarded the Linda Lehnard award for research and scholarship.  Dr. Hawkins joined the faculty as an adjunct professor in the program and now support students through several courses throughout the year.  Along with teaching at Widener, she currently works as a Co-Director of the Gender & Sexuality Development Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Moving From Widener to a Big Research University: What Will the Job Market Think? –by Sasha Canan

Canan_HeadshotI, similar many academics at one time or another, want to be a professor. If you are considering this as well, read on.

All my models of professors in my undergrad had their own research labs and doctoral students in addition to teaching. I finished my undergrad with the expectation that I would go on to grad school and, later, follow that same model.

Going forward with this idea, I arrived on Widener’s campus in 2011 during interview day and asked Dr. Crane where the research lab facilities were located. She informed me that these did not exist, but that there were many doctoral students working on dissertations whom would appreciate help. In short, Widener had much less opportunity for research than I had originally expected. They focus much more on teaching and, as a result, do a fantastic job preparing students to be sexuality educators.

Where was I going to get the level of sexuality research experience that I felt I needed? SSSS would be the answer! It was at the SSSS annual conference that I found a wonderful researcher/mentor. I decided to follow her and begin a Ph.D. program at her more research-focused university. She was interested in working with me largely because I was a Widener student.

My M.Ed. from Widener helped me gain opportunities in my Ph.D. that I would not have otherwise received. First, I was able to get a graduate assistantship with teaching responsibilities that covers tuition and provides a monthly stipend. Many graduate assistants have little to know training on how to actually teach. Often times they are throw to the wolves (aka. undergrads) without much more than a syllabus for guidance. Having Widener’s M.Ed. can put you at the top of a pile of applicants vying for the same assistantship. Doing this shows future employers that you have the knowledge base from Widener and the experience from an assistantship to give you a firm base for a professorial career.

Second, I am the first doctoral student to be instructor-of-record for the university’s human sexuality class. Previously, my faculty members were hesitant to allow non-faculty in charge of the perceived controversial course. My time at Widener was the main reason they cited for changing their minds and allowing me the responsibility. Getting this type of experience in addition to Widener’s practicum will help to ensure you actually get to teach human sexuality courses in your career instead of just general courses in your field (e.g. Psychology 101, Counseling 101).

Lastly, the M.Ed. gave me the confidence to outline and propose an undergraduate teaching system for my department, which is growing rapidly and has no TA system in place. The proposal is currently under review by the department chair and faculty. If it goes through, I could be in charge of its recruitment, organization, and regular meetings. Widener’s curriculum building and program development emphasis could help you make these kinds of administrative moves as well, moves that are valuable on the job market.

In summary, if you are an individual who wants both sexuality education and research training in your graduate career, starting at Widener for teaching preparation in the M.Ed. and then moving to a more research-focused institution for a doctoral degree can offer certain advantages. The Widener name may get sexuality researchers to notice you and want you to join their doctoral programs. An M.Ed. may give you more opportunities to receive assistantships or teach human sexuality courses. You could finish your graduate training with a foundation of pedagogy and educational theory that many researchers never receive as well as more research experience than many who train solely at a teaching-focused institution obtain. When you come out of these two experiences, you may be able to offer the job market “the best of both worlds” by having a blended experience from two institutions. If this sounds like it fits what you want for your career, I’ll see you at SSSS next year!


Sasha Canan M.Ed.  graduated with her M.Ed. from Widener in 2011 and is now completing a Ph.D in Community Health Promotion at the University of Arkansas. Her academic interests include: comprehensive sex education, the LGBTQ+ community, sexual assault prevention, and research methodology.

Koch Award: Raven James

This has been the first year for the Dr. Patricia Barthalow Koch Award for Research Publication in Sexuality.  We congratulate the first inaugural Patricia Barthalow Koch Award for Research Publication in Sexuality Award winner, RavenJames, Ph.D Koch Award_James

The Patricia Barthalow Koch Award for Research Publication in Sexuality (KARPS) is an annual award to recognize and support the research excellence in sexology fostered by the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University and exhibited by the students attaining their doctoral degrees in the program. It is hoped that it will encourage the implementation and dissemination of creative and methodologically sound research that explores the vast array of unanswered and intriguing questions that abound in the very broad discipline of sexology.

Congratulations on the award and thank you for your contributions to the field!


Dr. Raven James is an Associate Professor at Governors State University in Illinois for the department of Addictions Studies and Behavioral Health.  Dr. James received her PhD in Human Sexuality from Widener University in 2007, and completed postdoctoral fellowships in Advanced Rehabilitation Research and Health Disparities Research; she has several publications to date including several book chapters, research articles, and her book “Sexuality and Addiction: Making Connections, Enhancing Recovery”.  Dr. James is currently pilot testing a sexual health intervention for women in substance abuse treatment in Chicago and is writing and editing a 3 volume encyclopedia set on “Sex and Sexuality” for publication with ABC-CLIO in 2016.

News from the Field: Sarah Kleintop

KleintopJ. Sarah Kleintop is attending Widener University for a Master of Education in Human Sexuality. Sarah’s academic interest areas include trans* identity; cross-cultural sexuality; sexuality and language; and pedagogy. Currently she is a facilitator for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), helping to teach medical students about sexuality. In addition to education, Sarah enjoys assisting individuals and organizations with designing and implementing programs and curricula, and is hoping to establish a consulting business in the near future.

With nearly a decade of experience working with young people—in the role of a nanny, educator, and mental health counselor—Sarah is committed to helping to provide young people with comprehensive and developmentally-appropriate sexuality education. Drawing from her knowledge and experience, Sarah’s most recent article, “Parents can be sexuality educators, too: Supporting healthy sexual development in children” addresses parents’ and caregivers’ commonly shared concerns and questions about what is “normal” in regard to their child’s sexual development. The article seeks to promote positive attitudes toward healthy sexual development, to normalize parent/caregiver/young person conversations about sexuality, and to encourage parents/caregivers to be their child’s “sexuality educator” as a way of combating the misinformation and confusing messages about sexuality that are targeted toward young people.

Check out the article here.

News from the Field: Rachel Keller

Rachel Keller is in the dual degree, MSW/MEd sexuality program, on the clinical track.  She is interested in outpatient psychotherapy, with a focus on sexuality, sexual compulsivities and addictions, issues facing individuals involved in sexual economies, and the intersection of sexuality and religion.  Her article for the Delco News Network provides a basic overview of sex addiction and debunks common misconceptions by providing a factual, non-judgmental view of the issue. I include treatment approaches and resources for those who may be affected.


Check out the article here.