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ASU to honor 23 Social Work Month Award recipients in March

Includes 21 students, faculty, staff, alumni; 2 community organizations


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Stock photo courtesy Shane Rounce/Unsplash

March 01, 2022

Students, faculty, staff and alumni of the Arizona State University School of Social Work and noteworthy community organizations who demonstrated outstanding achievement during the past year will be honored with the school’s annual Social Work Month Awards.

The school will pay tribute to 21 individuals and two organizations in a ceremony during March, which is Social Work Month. Each year, the month commemorates the contributions of social workers. It also calls attention to how the services social workers provide are needed more than ever as the nation addresses economic inequality, systemic racism, the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges.

The theme of the 2022 celebration is “The Time is Right for Social Work.” 

This year’s 21 individual awardees include students training for the profession, professors who teach them in the classroom, staff who support the training and education needs of students, and practitioners who are meeting the needs of the community through their practice in schools, hospitals and behavioral health clinics.

The school also will recognize two community organizations, Casa Alitas in Tucson and Family Involvement Center in Phoenix, for their support of the social work profession and for their outstanding services of impact to the community.

The ceremony honoring awardees will be held online from 2 to 4 p.m. March 25. School of Social Work Professor Elizabeth Segal will deliver the keynote address, “Social Work Doing What It Does Best: Translating Human Behavior Across Our Varied Environments.” Segal also is the recipient of the 2022 Director’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession.

"Especially in times of crisis, social workers serve on the front lines of protecting the health and well-being of our community, including vulnerable groups like seniors, individuals who are homeless and children in foster care,” said Elizabeth Lightfoot, Foundation Professor and School of Social Work director. “Our award winners remind us of the critical supply and expansive borders of our profession.”

Social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States, with the number of people employed in the profession expected to increase by 12% over the next decade, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Social workers can be found almost everywhere in society, from schools to centers for veterans, to mental health and health care facilities, from corporations to local, state and federal government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that social workers account for the largest group of mental health care providers in the United States.

Still, the profession faces challenges, Lightfoot said.

“There is a critical shortage of social workers in our nation’s schools and across the human services workforce, where the profession is needed to help individuals and groups deal with complex issues such as trauma and poverty,” she said. “The School of Social Work is committed to preparing the next generation of this important workforce.”

Here are the 2022 awardees:

Outstanding Intern: Recognizes a student who has made outstanding contributions to an agency or organization while still in training as a social work intern.

  • Eva Peña, MSW student, Tucson location, field placement: LPKNC.
  • Morgan McLaughlin-Kessell, MSW student; online program, field placement: Alternate Public Defender of San Diego.

Emerging Leader Award: Recognizes a student nominated by peers as a future practitioner of promise and whose leadership sets an example for peers.

  • Katonya Begay, MSW student, Downtown Phoenix campus.
  • Emily Wall, BSW student, Tucson location.

Professional Achievement Award: Recognizes an alumnus of the School of Social Work who graduated at least five years ago and who has accomplished achievements of distinction in the social work profession to promote the general welfare of all people.

  • Judy Engel, MSW ’91, Tempe campus.
  • Crystal Narcho, MSW ’15, Tucson location.

Early Career Achievement Award: Recognizes an alumnus of the School of Social Work who graduated no more than five years ago and who has accomplished achievements of distinction in the social work profession to promote the general welfare of all people.

  • Laura Meyer, MSW ’20, Tucson location.

Field Educator of the Year: Recognizes exemplary mentorship of students and excellence in collaboration with the School of Social Work to support the preparation of qualified practitioners through our signature pedagogy, field education.

  • Lauri Pagano, Corona del Sol High School, Tempe Union High School District.
  • Krickette Wetherington, ASU Action Nexus.
  • Judy Krysik, ASU School of Social Work.
  • Karla Montijo, ASU Child Welfare Education Program.
  • Efrain Carrillo, Pueblo High School-Tucson Unified Schools.

Instructor of the Year: Recognizes excellence in classroom instruction as nominated and selected by students.

  • Melissa Megan Mitscher, Downtown Phoenix campus.
  • Justine Cheung, online program.
  • Michelle Rascón Canales, Tucson location.
  • Kathleen Leonard, West campus.

Laura Orr Service Award: Recognizes School of Social Work staff who made contributions to improving organizational effectiveness while advancing the mission of the School of Social Work. This award is named in honor of Laura Orr, who began her career with the School of Social Work on May 10, 1971, and retired in 2018 after 47 years of dedicated service.

  • Cynthia Peters.
  • Ivan Silva.
  • Valerie Sanchez.

Community Impact Award: Awarded to an organization or individual exemplifiying social work values and principles and provides outstanding services of impact to the community.

  • Casa Alitas.
  • Family Involvement Center.
  • Debbie Nez-Manuel, community activist and leader.

Director’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession: Recognizes a social worker whose career achievements demonstrate exemplary performance in both social work practice and in a commitment to preparing the next generation of social workers through social work education or training at ASU.

  • Elizabeth Segal, PhD, for career-length achievement in social work education, research and advocacy.

Story written by Morgan Carden, student worker, School of Social Work

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