School announces 2020 Social Work Month award winners

The ASU School of Social Work has announced its list of 2020 Social Work Month award winners. March is Social Work Month, the annual celebration of the social work profession’s positive impact on society. This year’s theme is “Generations Strong” and recognizes the contributions social workers make throughout their careers. This year’s 19 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 recognized three community organizations for their support of the social work profession and for their outstanding services of impact to the community.

While the School was unable to host its March 27 awards reception due to the coronavirus pandemic, the School’s director, James Herbert Williams, emphasized the importance of recognizing the 2020 award winners.

"Even 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. Our award winners remind us of the critical supply and expansive borders of our profession. It is also time to recognize that there is a new generation of social workers coming to the fore who are already making a positive mark on our society.”

Social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States, with the number of people employed in social work to grow by 11 percent over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You will find social workers almost everywhere in our society. In schools, in centers for veterans, in mental health and health care facilities, in corporations and in local, state and federal government to name a few. In fact, social workers account for the largest group of mental health care providers in the United States.

Still, the profession faces challenges. Williams explains, “there is a critical shortage of social workers in our nation’s schools, where the profession is needed to help young people deal with complex issues such as trauma, poverty and the impact of our nation’s opioid addiction crisis. The School of Social Work is committed to preparing the next generation of this important workforce.”

Student awards

Outstanding BSW graduate (Tucson): recognizes a student nominated by peers as an outstanding practitioner of promise as a BSW graduate at the Tucson campus.


Awardee: Bruce Ybarra

Bruce is a personable and instinctive leader who was nominated by his fellow BSW program classmates. In class projects and group assignments, he works collaboratively and demonstrates his commitment to professionalism. He also is passionate about ending homelessness in Tucson.

Outstanding MSW graduate (Tucson): recognizes a student nominated by peers as an outstanding practitioner of promise as a MSW graduate at the Tucson campus.


Awardee: Rachel Mueller

Selected by her MSW student peers in Tucson, Rachel is known for integrity and passion in the classroom and in the field for social justice and empowerment for individuals and families within the context of immigrant rights and holistic behavioral health. She is a role model for other students on how to be passionately empathetic and curious in both clinical and advocacy work.

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


Awardee: Erik Larson

With Erik’s help as an MSW intern, the Camp Colley Foundation was recently awarded a contract with the City of Phoenix to operate its summer camp and provide environmental education and social-emotional skill development for over 450 underserved children in the coming 2020 season.

Emerging leader award: recognizes a student nominated by peers as a future practitioner of promise and whose leadership sets an example for peers. 



Cynthia Alaffa

Cynthia is an MSW student at the downtown Phoenix campus and serves as the lead peer mentor for the ASU Bridging Success Early Start Program. She passionate about supporting students in pursuing higher education, especially students who have experienced foster care.


Jessica Kazandjian

As an MSW student in Tucson, Jessica was recognized by peers for inspiring great conversation and practice insights during classes. Through her volunteer work with Stand Up for Kids, a group that supports youth who are homeless, Jessica also demonstrates a commitment to serving the community.

Alumni and professional achievement awards

Early Career Achievement: recognizes an alumnus/ae of the School of Social Work 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.


Awardee: Richard Berg (MSW, 2015)

Richard is the Camp Colley Foundation’s first Executive Director Camp Colley Foundation and assisted in the organization’s transition to providing direct services to thousands of Phoenix children including a cost-free summer camp and a year-round environmental science education program.

Professional achievement award: recognizes an alumnus/ae of the School of Social Work who graduated five or more years ago and who has accomplished achievements of distinction in the social work profession to promote the general welfare of all people. 


Awardee: Patricia Dominguez (BSW, 1997; MSW, 2007)

Patricia is the Director of Kinship Services at Duet Partners in Health and Aging. Through her 21 years of passionate leadership and advocacy, she has supported over 20,000 grandparents in getting the resources and supports needed and the tools to be empowered in their journey raising grandchildren.

Alumni achievement award: for achievements of distinction by a graduate of the ASU School of Social Work-Tucson campus.


Awardee: Mary McGuire

Mary is the director of One on One Mentoring Kids in Tucson. She previously practiced at the University of Arizona’s pediatric pulmonary center where she focused on training graduate social work students in serving children, adults and families diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and severe asthma.

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 Arizona State University.


Awardee: Kelly Huey (MSW, 1990)

Kelly is the Director of Integrative Services and Social Work at Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers. During a career that has spanned over 30 years, Kelly’s social work experience has included practice and leadership roles in child welfare, health care, hospice, and philanthropy. In her current leadership role she developed an innovative integrative services department to provide oncology patients evidence-based non-traditional therapies such as yoga and meditation in addition to their medical treatments. She also makes time to train and mentor future social workers by hosting interns. In her role as board member of the Full of Hope Foundation, she has helped fund scholarships for students interested in oncology social work.

Faculty and staff awards

Instructor of the year: recognizes excellence in classroom instruction as nominated and selected by students.



Kristin Ferguson-Colvin (selected by students at the Downtown Phoenix campus)

Dr. Ferguson-Colvin is Professor at the School of Social Work who also leads ASU's Center for Human Capital and Youth Development. In addition to her excellence in the classroom, students appreciated Dr. Ferguson’s mentorship, which often extends beyond the classroom such as helping PhD students with data analysis and preparing for academic conference presentations. 


Jane Holschuh (selected by students at the Tucson campus) 

Known to students as a “brilliant and compassionate educator”, Jane’s engaging teaching style and sense of humor creatively introduce difficult concepts to students. By bringing such passion to her teaching, students are inspired to deepen their practice.


Elisa Kawam (selected by students at the West Campus)

Dr. Kawam is a lecturer at the School of Social Work selected by students at the West campus for her exemplary classroom instruction, including her use of guest speakers, her challenging classes and her thoughtful answers to student questions. One student remarked Dr. Kawam always “made me feel like no question was irrelevant or foolish” as she introduced undergraduate students to social work as a career and profession.

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.



Dawn Baumgartner

Dawn is a social worker at Phoenix Elementary School District #1 and is known as a strong student advocate who works diligently to provide oversight and support to interns as both field instructor and as a field liaison. As a clinical social worker, Dawn brings her training to the field experience to create a positive learning environment for our next generation of social workers. 


Grace Brown Womack 

Grace is a social worker at Mercy House Permanent Supportive Housing in Santa Ana, CA. She has trained 10 students since becoming a field instructor just two years ago. She has shown flexibility and creativity in training online MSW students who also have full time jobs. She has provided challenging opportunities for students to perform needs assessments, develop personal treatment plans, and provide service referral and advocacy for individuals in supportive housing.


Stacey Gandy

Stacey has been a field instructor for 14 years and also teaches at the School of Social Work. Stacey provides a safe and inclusive environment for student interns. She assists students in identifying and pursuing their passion while creating an enriching learning environment that allows students the freedom to develop their own projects and solutions at the Community Collaborative at the Westward Ho.


Kristina Lopez

Dr. Lopez is an assistant professor who also has served as a field instructor with Amanda Hope Rainbow Angels, a pediatric cancer charity. She is an “exemplary mentor” who provides learning opportunities in both macro and micro social work, challenges students to explore personal biases, and provides the utmost attention and support to ensure students are learning while also practicing self-care.

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 began her career with the School of Social Work on May 10, 1971, retiring in 2018 after 47 years of dedicated service. 



Robbin Cooley

Robbin is an Academic Success Specialist who showed grace and perseverance in serving as the primary advisor for nearly 1,000 students during Summer 2019 when the academic services team was temporarily short staffed. Robbin exemplifies teamwork and problem solving skills to improve academic services and to deepen collaboration among other staff units to better serve student needs. 


Tonia Stott

Dr. Stott is the Director of ASU’s Child Welfare Education Program. Her nomination singles out her leadership in merging the undergraduate and graduate child welfare training programs into one integrated program in a manner that has increased the organizational and operational effectiveness to support the child welfare workforce in Arizona.


Mary Lutes

In her many years of service as a Student Support Specialist, Mary has accumulated a wealth of knowledge regarding student services, which she generously shares with others. Mary also supports the PhD Program Coordinator and PhD students by providing support services for their many needs. She also has taken the initiative to build community within the School by spearheading the annual fundraiser for United Way.

Community awards

Community Impact Award: awarded to organizations that exemplify social work values and principles and provide outstanding services of impact to the community.



Phoenix Elementary School District (PESD) #1

Demonstrating a commitment to social emotional learning and well being, PESD #1 employs at least one full-time social workers at every one its 14 campuses to provide case management for basic needs, assess for safety concerns, and provide individual, group and family counseling. As an organization, the district endorses and understands the values, ethics and skill set social workers bring to multidisciplinary teams in schools. 



For 35 years, Ability360 has offered programs to empower people with all disabilities to take personal responsibility so that they may achieve or continue independent lifestyles within the community. The organization’s staff, including social worker and Vice President of Advocacy, April Reed work tirelessly as an advocate for people with disabilities throughout our state. 


Casa de los Niños

In Tucson, Casa de los Niños is a leader in promoting child well-being and family stability. The organization and its 300 employees embody social work values through its advocacy and the continuum of prevention, intervention and treatment services that focus on the whole family.