Laura Nissen


Contact Details



Former Dean and Professor Laura Burney Nissen has been a member of the PSU/School of Social Work community since 2000.   She is currently the first inaugural Presidential Futures Fellow at Portland State.  She began her tenure at PSU in a leadership role with the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative Reclaiming Futures (still operating in the Regional Research Institute in the SSW). 

With a long-term commitment to innovative systems change (her research portfolio includes a focus on creativity and innovation in macro level social work systems change), Laura has worked with futures practice and lenses throughout her career. She credits a futures lens with the extended and continuous success of the Reclaiming Futures initiative and its ability to energize and provide architecture to a complex and interdisciplinary juvenile justice reform effort extending beyond a decade beyond its original “demonstration” phase. She has brought futures thinking into the School of Social Work in the form of a first strategic plan at the school in its 55 year history. She is a foresight practitioner and a Research Fellow with the Institute for the Future, and has spoken on futures thinking in social work and social change at the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work, and in numerous social work education, and community spaces.  She has taught and done research in a variety of social work/social change practice areas including addiction practice, equity and social justice, social work and the arts, lifelong learning for social work and macro social work.

She has just been awarded a two-year grant to launch a national Social Work Education Futures Lab to provide space, infrastructure and inspiration to further develop applications of a futures lens for the social work profession.

She lives in rural Washougal, Washington with her husband Don, near Portland, Oregon.  


For additional information about her work, please visit: