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2014 SSW Awards

Pictured, left to right: Scholarship and assistantship recipients Jessica Scott, Leanna Showalter, Brittany Thurmond, Casey Westmoreland, Katherine Shaw, Amanda Pettus, Melanie Kim Proctor, Audry Motlagh, Melissa Armstrong

School of Social Work honors faculty, staff and students at annual awards luncheon

Posted May 7, 2014
Reported by: Laurie Anderson,

The UGA School of Social Work celebrated the accomplishments of its faculty, students and staff at an annual awards luncheon held on April 17 at Trumps Ballroom in Athens.

"I am always thrilled to recognize the extraordinary achievements of our students, colleagues, alumni, and friends," Dean Maurice C. Daniels told attendees. "This event gives us an opportunity to shine a well-deserved light on many outstanding faculty, staff, field instructors, alums and students of the School of Social Work."

This year's awards included a new honor: the Robert A. Vonk Scholarship, which supports students who demonstrate an interest in developmental disabilities. Leanna Showalter (BSW ’13, MSW ’14) received the inaugural scholarship. Showalter has worked for several years with children experiencing autism spectrum disorder. “I want society to see these individuals for their abilities, not for their impairments,” said Showalter. Betsy Vonk and Jodie Raney, who helped to create the scholarship in memory of their brother Robert, were present and recognized for their generous support.

Also present and recognized was Ben Clark, for his support of the Pauline Durant Lide Scholarship, which this year went to Melanie Proctor. Proctor, a cancer survivor, plans to work with patients and families dealing with that disease. Jerry and Judy Loyd were also thanked for their support of the Elizabeth B. Loyd Scholarship, awarded this year to Alyssa Behnke. Behnke earned her undergraduate degree in child and family studies and plans to pursue a career as a clinician in the mental health field.

Among the faculty and staff honorees, doctoral program director Brian Bride was named Ph.D. Teacher of the Year. Bride recently accepted the position of director of the School of Social Work at Georgia State University and will be leaving UGA at the end of June. "We are losing an outstanding scholar, colleague and friend," noted Associate Dean Harold Briggs. Other faculty and staff honored at the luncheon included Trelle Baker, Mary Zorn Bates, Michelle Mohr Carney, Nancy Horton, Tony Mallon, Jeanell Muckle, Jeff Skinner and Stephen "Phen" Young.

Three students received special recognition for their academic achievements. Graduating seniors Mandi Moroz and Megan Gallagher both received the UGA Award of Excellence, which acknowledges students who graduate in the top one percent of their graduating class. Moroz, whose grade point average was 3.99, majored in social work and also earned a degree in criminal justice, a program administered by the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public and International Affairs. She will be attending Georgia Law School in the fall. Gallagher, who also received the Outstanding BSW Student Award, maintained a 3.70 grade point average. She was profiled as one of UGA’s Amazing Students this past year. Megan will also be returning to UGA to earn dual degrees in social work and public health.

Madison (Borst) Parekh, who was also profiled as one of UGA’s Amazing Students, was recognized as a First Honor Graduate. Parekh completed a baccalaureate degree with an overall grade point average of 4.0 Madison and her husband are moving to Hartford, Connecticut, where she plans to take a break before pursuing a master's degree in social work.

The James Dodd Distinguished Alumni Award went to Shelly Hutchinson (MSW '00), owner and co-founder of the Atlanta-based Social Empowerment Center. The Center, which has experienced phenomenal growth since its founding in 2002, topped the Bulldog 100 this year as the fastest growing company owned or founded by a UGA graduate. “Shelly is not only an exceptional social worker and teacher, but also a very successful business leader. We are thrilled to honor her accomplishments,” said Dean Daniels.

A complete list of honorees is presented below. To view more photos of the 2014 Awards Luncheon, see




PhD Special Recognitions