Image of Debra Penkin, MSW, CFLE

Associate Professor of Social Work; Director of Field Education

Division of: Social Work
Phone: 503-517-1154

Boston University, Boston, MA
Master of Social Work, 1990
Specialization in Community Organizing, Management, Planning

State University College at Fredonia, Fredonia, NY
Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, 1985
Concentration in Social Welfare, Cum Laude


Prior to joining the faculty full-time, Professor Penkin served as a part-time faculty member in the Department of Social Science and in the Professional & Graduate Studies Division at Warner Pacific University. She has over twenty years of experience in higher education teaching in social science and social work programs in different regions of the United States. She brings former experience in roles as a social work field director, social work field faculty liaison/instructor, and baccalaureate social work program director in several baccalaureate social work programs.

At Warner Pacific University, Professor Penkin primarily teaches social work practice courses and field practicum courses in addition to providing leadership to the social work field program. She is blessed to teach at an institution that enables integration of Christian faith and learning, and an important emphasis on service in the community. Specific areas of teaching include Social Work Field Education, Social Work Practice with Individuals, Social Work Practice with Families and Groups, Substance Abuse, Mental Health, Trauma, Child Welfare, Human Services, and Lifespan Development.

Beyond her experience in higher education, Professor Penkin has over twenty years of practice experience working in the field of addiction, foster and international adoption, clinical practice and counseling, and juvenile corrections. Mostly recently, she managed an adoption team at a local agency and provided support to families during the adoption process and post-placement.

Debra and her husband moved to the Northwest as part of his last tour in the United States Coast Guard and they stayed due to their love of this beautiful area. Outside of work, Penkin enjoys spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren. Her other interests include golfing, gardening, traveling, taking walks with her dogs, spending time at the coast, hosting gatherings with loved ones, circuit training, reading, and scrapbooking.

Professional Affiliations

Member of Northwest Social Work Field Directors Consortium
Member, Oregon Social Work Field Directors Consortium
Member, Regional Trust-Based Relational Intervention Consortium
Member, National Association of Christian Social Workers
Member, National Council on Family Relations
Member, National Association of Social Workers
Member, Council on Social Work Education
Member, North American Network of Field Educators & Directors
Member, National Council on Family Relations


Advanced Certificate in Therapeutic Life Story Work, Child Trauma Intervention Services, Therapeutic Life Story Work International (December 2020).

Recipient of Warner Pacific University Kendall Award for Excellence in Teaching (May 2020).

Faculty Presenter in Warner Pacific University Library Faculty Lecture Series by providing a Presentation entitled, “Looking Beyond “Bad” Behavior of Traumatized Children: A Trust-Based Relational Intervention Model for Caregivers and Other Caring Adults” (February 2020).

Postgraduate Certification in Therapy with Adoptive and Foster Families, Portland State University Child Welfare Partnership/School of Social Work (August to December 2019).

Workshop presenter at the annual Shoulder to Shoulder Conference, a multi-disciplinary conference in Portland, Oregon that provides training and focuses on building partnerships on behalf of children in the child welfare system. Workshop was entitled, “Trust-Based Relational Intervention, Tools for Connecting With Children from Hard Places” (October 2019).

Selected to be part of a small training team to develop and provide advanced training in the Trust Based Relational Intervention curriculum to Oregon DHS Child Welfare staff at various locations (Salem, Eugene, Clackamas, Pendleton, Medford, and Beaverton, Oregon City, etc.) (2018-Present).

Participated on Regional Field Directors Consortium Planning Committee (2018-2019) that developed and facilitated annual Northwestern Social Work Field Directors Consortium Conference in January 2019 entitled, ‘Supporting Students: Centering Equity & Inclusion in Field Education’. Co-presented workshop on ‘Inclusive Communities of Care & Free Speech’ with Dr. Don Schweitzer, BSW Director, Pacific University.

Faculty of the Year Award, from Warner Pacific University Student Body (2018).

Certified Family Life Educator, National Council on Family Relations (2017).

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Practitioner & Educator, Texas Christian University Purvis Institute of Child Development (2015).

Member of Northwest Social Work Field Directors Consortium Planning Committee (2013-2014) that developed and facilitated annual consortium meeting in January 2014. Co-presented at meeting on “Facilitating Professional Development In BSW Field Education” with Don Schweitzer, Pacific University.

Nominated for Undergraduate Faculty Member of the Year, George Fox University (2013).

Inspirational Speaker at Military Spouse Appreciation Day luncheon. Oregon Supports Military Families, a non-profit organization, sponsored event  (May 2013).

Certificate of Appreciation for “Commitment in Working with Youth at the North Coast Youth Correctional Facility” (2000).

Award for Service Provided to the Coalition for Children of Alcoholics (1988).

Co-authored NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Curriculum for Substance Abuse Counselors on “How To Effectively Work With Native American Clients in Chemical Dependency Treatment, A Native and Non-Native Approach” (1994-1998).

Award for Teaching Excellence from President of Keuka College (1994).

Wrote Self Study Document for CSWE Reaffirmation of Accreditation Review of Keuka College Social Work Program. Council on Social Work Education used this document as a national model for other BSW programs (1994-1995).