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ASU honors 15 individuals, 3 community organizations with Social Work Month Awards

School of Social Work presents retiring professor with Distinguished Community Impact Award


Recipients of 2024 Social Work Month Awards pose for a group photo.

ASU School of Social Work Director Elizabeth Lightfoot (third from right) joins recipients of the school's 2024 Social Work Month Awards in a photo at a March 1 ceremony on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Courtesy photo

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March 05, 2024

Arizona State University’s School of Social Work honored students, faculty, staff, alumni and notable local community organizations at the presentation of the school’s annual Social Work Month Awards.

The School of Social Work (SSW) paid tribute to 15 individuals and three organizations for demonstrating exceptional accomplishments in social work during the past year in a March 1 ceremony on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

March is Social Work Month, when the profession annually commemorates the contributions of social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) announced the month’s national theme in 2024 is “Empowering Social Workers.” In a statement, the NASW described how social workers are uniquely qualified to handle society’s difficult issues, including homelessness, opioid addiction and suicide.

The NASW estimated the United States will have 782,000 social workers by 2030, making social work one of the nation’s fastest growing professions.

School Director and Distinguished Professor of Social Policy Elizabeth Lightfoot said before the ceremony that she is immensely proud of all of the award winners.

“Their dedication and accomplishments exemplify the profound impact social workers can make in addressing complex societal issues with compassion and skill,” Lightfoot said. “This is quite important, as social workers will become more and more valuable in coming years as they serve society in a widening variety of areas.”

The school presented the Distinguished Community Impact Award to retiring Communitas Professor Craig LeCroy of the school’s Tucson location, the event’s keynote speaker. The award recognizes a social work faculty member with at least 10 years of distinguished experience, at least five of which were at ASU. The recipient’s career achievements demonstrate exemplary performance in social work education and/or social work research and whose work has made a lasting impact on communities of the Southwest, the nation or the world.

LeCroy has focused his research in the areas of home visitation services, social competence in adolescence and evidence-based practice for social work. He is the author of 14 books and more than 100 articles and book chapters. He was selected as a fellow by the American Psychological Association in 2016 and by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare in 2017.

LeCroy said prior to the ceremony that receiving the award is a profound honor with deep personal and professional significance.

“Having dedicated four decades of my life to educating and inspiring students at ASU, this recognition is not just an acknowledgment of my past contributions, but a testament to the enduring influence of education and social work on communities,” LeCroy said.

“As I accept this award, I am reminded of the countless moments of growth, challenge and fulfillment that have shaped my journey at ASU. It is a reminder that the work we do as educators and social workers is not just about imparting knowledge, but about building more caring and compassionate communities. I am deeply grateful for this recognition.”

Here are the other 2024 ASU Social Work Month awardees:

Professional achievement award: Recognizes an alumnus/ae of the school who graduated five or more years ago and who has accomplished achievements of distinction in the social work profession to promote the general welfare.

  • Connie Phillips-Eary, an SSW faculty associate from 2012 to 2021 and 2023, has served in social services administration for many years, primarily in Maricopa County. Phillips-Eary earned her MSW at ASU. She has worked in the private nonprofit sector in behavioral health, child welfare, domestic violence and basic needs services. She has served on the board of the Arizona chapter of the NASW, and from 1994 to 2014, Phillips-Eary was executive director of the Phoenix-based Sojourner Center domestic violence shelter.
  • Brandie Reiner is an assistant teaching professor at Northern Arizona University’s Department of Social Work and executive director of NASW’s Arizona chapter. A former faculty at ASU’s School of Social Work, Reiner holds an MSW degree from ASU. Her volunteer activities include service on the board of Devereux Arizona, an advanced behavioral health facility.

Early Career Research Award (service less than five years): Recognizes a social work faculty member in the early stages of their research career who has conducted a distinguished program of social work research.

  • Manuel Cano is an SSW assistant professor who currently teaches courses related to ethics in social work practice. Cano studies trends and disparities in drug overdose mortality. He worked as a bilingual clinician with adults experiencing drug-related problems for more than eight years. Cano, whose PhD is in social work, earned his MSW at ASU.

Early Career Achievement Award: Recognizes an alumnus/ae of the school who graduated less than five years ago and who has accomplished achievements of distinction in the social work profession to promote the general welfare of all people.

  • Amanda Rader has been a licensed social worker and mental health professional at Desert View High School in Tucson’s Sunnyside Unified School District since 2021. Rader earned her MSW at ASU.

Practicum Student Excellence: Recognizes a student who has made outstanding contributions to a social work organization while completing a social work practicum placement.

  • Downtown Phoenix: Jenna Rose is a graduate student in social work and motivational interviewing coach and coder at the school’s Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center.
  • Tucson: Celeste Rodriguez is an undergraduate student in social work whose field placement is at Paulo Freire Freedom School, a middle school in downtown Tucson.
  • Online: Sariah Porter is a graduate student in social work who works in Alzheimer’s disease research at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

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

  • Stephanie Bowen is a graduate student, specializing in advanced direct practice, at the school’s Tucson location. She is a student assistant engaged in a practicum as a school social worker at the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Tucson VA Medical Center.

Outstanding Practicum Agency Award: Recognizes an agency or organization that exemplifies social work values and principles, provides outstanding services of impact to the community and provides excellent placement opportunities for ASU social work students.

  • Downtown Phoenix: River People Health Center, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community.
  • Tucson: Community Partners Integrated Healthcare.
  • West Valley: Everybody Matters

Laura Orr Service Awards: Recognizes school staff who made contributions to improving organizational effectiveness while advancing the mission of the school. This award is named in honor of Laura Orr, who began her career with the school in 1971, retiring in 2018 after 47 years of dedicated service.

  • Downtown Phoenix: Melissa Heller, practicum specialist at the school’s Field Education Office.
  • Downtown Phoenix: Alexis Teats, administrative specialist at the school.
  • Tucson: Diana Jimenez-Young, field education coordinator and practicum coordinator; she earned her MSW at ASU.
  • West Valley: Lisa Cavazos-Barrett, field education specialist/medical placement coordinator; she earned her MSW at ASU.

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

  • Downtown Phoenix: Rachel Torry, a full-time SSW faculty associate. Torry earned a BA and an MSW at ASU.
  • Tucson: Sarah Godsil, an SSW faculty associate who works with diverse populations as a psychotherapist at the Tucson VA Medical Center. Godsil earned her MSW at ASU.

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