News from the UGA School of Social Work
May 2017

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May 2017

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Class of 2017

Graduation is such a special day—it is probably my favorite day of the year. Graduates have been working so hard for so long to step into their new careers as social workers and social work scholars, and on graduation day their hard work finally pays off and they launch into their new careers. It is a real privilege to get to celebrate with our students, along with their families and friends, and welcome them into our profession as colleagues. One of the highlights of this year's celebration was the presence of Michael Thurmond, CEO of DeKalb County and former director of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, who spoke at our convocation (hear him at about nine minutes into this video).

I know you are all aware of just how special our School of Social Work graduates are, but I would like to tell you specifically about how phenomenal the 2017 graduating class is. Here are a few examples of the many things they have accomplished:

  • Over 60 percent of our BSW students graduated with Latin honors;
  • Students organized a day-long Social Justice Symposium in Athens, attended by over 130 community members, which won the UGA NAACP Image Award;
  • Students organized many, many fundraisers—for Advantage Behavioral Health, for the Wilbur Jones Scholarship, for a textbook scholarship, for the Bezos Foundation, for toiletry and gift packets for foster children, and for the Kumasi Children’s home in Ghana, among others;
  • They also organized numerous socially conscious activities—watching a political debate, viewing the documentary 13th, organizing teach-ins, and
  • They engaged in nationally recognized scholarship, writing book chapters, journal articles, and presenting at national conferences.

They are a group to be proud of, and a group that should give us great hope for the future.

I also had the opportunity to speak directly to the graduates for a few minutes. I’d like to share some of what I said to them here, in the hope that it resonates with you, our social work alumni and friends, as well.

Graduates, as you move forward into your future, today and for the rest of your lives, I would ask you to keep something in mind. As you look forward, remember to stay connected to your roots, to the past that brought you here. When I say the past, I am specifically thinking of two things which intersect at graduation here today: higher education and social work.

The first is the past of higher education, seen in the pomp and circumstance of the events today. The university is an institution that in the West goes back to medieval times. Founded in the shadows of the cathedrals, the early scholars wore robes similar to monastic garb, which we still wear today. The “hoods” we all wear in graduate programs come from actual hoods like the ones worn by monks to ward off the cold.

I share this with you because I think that this link is important—not specifically the link between higher education and a church of any sort, but rather the link between higher education and a deep and profound sense of discipline and dedication. This is particularly true for social work. This link reminds us that social work is a calling, a profession linked to something deep and important and more than just a job.

The second thing I think about for our past is the past of our social work tradition, those who went before us—leaders as varied as Jane Addams, Dorothy Height, Bertha Capen Reynolds and Whitney Young, among so many others. Social work has a proud heritage and history. Remember this, and be proud of it. Say you are a social worker. You may be a therapist, lobbyist, or CEO, but identify with your profession. Say you are a social worker. Be proud. Always remember that social work is a calling, that what you do matters. And always remember that the School of Social Work is here for you, forever, and is proud of you and what you do.

I say this to you as well. Be proud of being a social worker, or a social work ally. Remember the School of Social Work is always here for you, in partnership and friendship.

Take care,

anna dean

Judy Fitzgerald (MSw '94) shares a laugh with Dr. Charles Stewart, former dean of the School of Social Work, at the annual awards luncheon.

2017 Image Award for Outstanding Social Justice & Advocacy Program.

  • Cornelius, LJ. (2017). Seeing Deaths Resulting from Interpersonal Violence as a Function of “State Violence”: Time for a Health Disparities Paradigm Shift?. Health and Social Work (2017) 42 (2): 125-128.
  • Elkins, Jennifer gave an invited presentation at the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Community Engagement Research Program Forum.
  • Matthew, Rebecca: Funded research proposal: "'Promotores' as cultural brokers: Fostering bridges toward prosperous and healthy communities." Office of Vice President for Research, University of Georgia. Role: Lead Co-Principal Investigator, Amount Requested $97,547
  • McPherson, J, Siebert, CF, Siebert, DC, (2017). "Measuring rights-based perspective: A validation of the Human Rights Lens in Social Work scale." Journal of the Society for Social Work Research, Vol. 8, No. 2. doi: 10.1086/692017.
  • Okech, David: Funded research proposal: "Developing evidence-based reintegration programming for female victims of trafficking in West Africa." UGA President’s Interdisciplinary Seed Grant Program, University of Georgia. $140,162

Faculty and Staff Retiring/Leaving (profiles and service appreciations in next issue)

  • Mary Zorn Bates, Part-Time Clinical Assistant Professor
  • Maurice Daniels, Professor and former Dean (announcement)
  • Jackie Ellis, Academic Professional
  • Trudy McAfee, Academic Support Services, UGA Gwinnett
  • Sandra Murphy, Director of Field Programs
  • Jeff Skinner, BSW Field Education Coordinator
  • Carol Taylor, Senior Academic Professional

Alumni News

Alumni Trailblazer David Williams (MSW '75) shares his memories of the school in the 1970s.

The fifth annual Chess and Community Conference headed by Lemuel LaRoche (MSW '03)

Carol Britten Laws (PhD '12), Clinical Assistant Professor of Disability Studies, receives Service Learning Teaching Excellence Award from the Office of Service-Learning.

Rebecca Sartor (BSW '93) and Caroline Sharkey (MSW '15) were among the panelists at a public discussion of childhood PTSD covered by the Athens Banner Herald.

If you have alumni news you'd like to share, please contact Jennifer Abbott, alumni director, at

Wednesday, May 17, 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm: Extended Time MSW program information session, UGA Gwinnett Campus, Room 119. Contact: Mumbi Mwaura,

Monday, May 22 - Tuesday, May 23: Awareness to Action: Community Summit on Trauma & Toxic Stress, Athens Classic Center. Contact:


University of Georgia
School of Social Work
279 Williams Street
Athens, GA 30602

(706) 542-3364

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