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GSSWGraduate School of Social Work

GSSW celebrates 12 standout students for scholarship, service

June 27, 2018

Amanda Moore Mcbride, Jean East and Stephanie Milici  Pictured left to right: Amanda Moore Mcbride, Jean East and Stephanie Milici

Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) students regularly give the school opportunities to celebrate outstanding scholarship, service and other accomplishments. As part of its summer 2018 Commencement celebrations on June 8, the school formally recognized 12 standout students at the annual GSSW Awards Brunch.

Student Awards for Academic Papers
Jeffrey L. Jordy (MSW ’18), Edith M. Davis Award
The Davis Award recognizes the best paper focusing on a person or persons of color. This award honors Professor Emerita Edith M. Davis, who was the founding director of the GSSW doctoral program. Jordy’s paper explores cultural, historical and social factors that may impact individuals of Jewish descent. Jordy balances genuine openness and shrewd analytics in his scholarship, nominators said. These characteristics were apparent in his paper, which discusses the social work implications connected to issues of social justice and cultural responsiveness when working with people that identify as Jewish.

Estella Soto (MSW ’18), Tommi Frank Memorial Award
Named for the late Tommi Frank, MSW ’64, the Frank Memorial Award recognizes the student judged by faculty to have submitted the most creative and imaginative piece of writing related to social work. The award particularly values the creation of new concepts, arrangements of concepts and/or new ways of relating knowledge to practice, profoundness of thinking and the scholarly application of such thinking to the refinement of theory and/or practice and to applicability for use in practice. Soto’s paper explores the complexities of a 67-year-old recently released prisoner with a history of sexual assault and murder as well as his own sexual/physical abuse and grief. Soto bares her soul as she tries to make sense of her client’s life, her own professional life and their professional relationship.

Lizett Justa Gutierrez (MSW ’18), Dorothea C. Spellmann Award
The Spellmann Award honors a student whose paper or project best demonstrates understanding, creativity and competence in work with groups, including an understanding and appreciation of groups as a primary means of service with people. The award was named for Professor Emerita Dorothea Spellmann upon her retirement in 1972. Gutierrez’s paper identifies issues and techniques to best understand and prevent the complex problem of suicidality among Latina youth. Gutierrez articulates mental health disparities and risks, and she includes content about how immigration, among other problems, impacts this population.

Allyson Howe (MSW ’18), Meritorious Program Evaluation Award
This award was created by the OMNI Institute, a Denver-based research firm committed to applied research in the social sciences. It honors a student whose individual paper demonstrates exemplary understanding of, and commitment to, social work research. Award criteria include relevance to social work practice, originality, depth of analysis, clarity and excellence in writing. Focused on the telehealth potential for multisystemic therapy practice, Howe’s paper was selected by the award committee for quality, mythological vigor and clear value to the field. Her findings informed every effort to move this therapeutic approach to the online environment, and it contributed to telehealth strategies worldwide.

Student Awards Based on Faculty and Field Nominations
Jessica Lynn Sparks, Outstanding Dissertation Proposal Fall 2017
Sparks’ dissertation is titled “Social conflict on the seas: Links between marine fish stock decline and forced labor and slavery.” Her dissertation uses stakeholder knowledge to identify and quantify the bidirectional links between overfishing-induced marine fish stock declines and increases in forced labor and slavery on the high seas in the context of inadequate and siloed international, regional and local maritime and labor policies and natural resource governance. “[Sparks’] attention to critical detail, feedback, and the scope of the two fields she deftly melded together was nothing short of inspiring. I’m so glad to have known her and her work,” said Assistant Professor Jennifer Greenfield.

Katie Massey Combs, Outstanding Dissertation Proposal Spring 2018
Comb’s dissertation is titled “Evaluation of a sexual health training for child welfare caseworkers.” This quasi-experimental study will examine the efficacy of a sexual health training for child welfare caseworkers by comparing the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of those who participate in the training to those who participate in other (non-sexual health) trainings through the Colorado Child Welfare Training System. Award nominators noted that Combs developed a rigorous research plan and brings strong quantitative skills to the project, which was selected for the award because it addresses a significant need.

Samantha Corryn Espinoza (MSW ’18), Ruth Marx Stark Award for Excellence in Field
The Stark Award recognizes excellence in fieldwork, emphasizing innovation, creativity and commitment to social work practice. The award is named for Ruth Marx Stark, who attended the University of Denver in the mid-1930s then devoted many decades of her life to volunteering in Denver-area agencies, international development programs and political action organizations. Espinoza was nominated by her field supervisors at the Colorado Children’s Campaign. She encouraged the Children’s Campaign to support a bill that would prevent youth from being sent to juvenile detention for truancy. Espinoza conducted extensive research and created a compelling case for why this advocacy was important. The campaign’s vice president of education initiatives used her talking points with committees at the state legislature, and the bill passed.

Davina D. Morris (MSW ’18), Catherine F. Alter Merit Award
Named for Dean Emerita Catherine F. Alter, GSSW dean from 1996–2006, this award recognizes a graduating student from GSSW’s off-campus MSW programs who most closely epitomizes the best of professional social work — a keen intellect, a passionate dedication to empowering underserved populations, and a commitment to continuously improving practice. Throughout her time at GSSW, Morris embodied leadership by serving on the Graduate Student Association and creating a sexual assault prevention program called SACRED (Sexual Assault Campus Resistance Education). Morris exemplifies social work knowledge, values and ethics, nominators said, and worked diligently to balance the obligations of being an employee, student and mother while fully participating in her learning. She also shows a strong dedication and desire to make a difference on the Navajo reservation, where she plans to give back to her people.

Moné Madison Miller (MSW ’18), William Bartholomew Memorial Award
Established in 2018, this award is named for William Bartholomew, MSW ’04, who devoted his professional life to empowering individuals to fulfill their potential and overcome barriers posed by factors such as trauma, addiction and oppression. This award honors a student who embodies principles of social justice, preservation of human dignity and a commitment to facilitating healing of human suffering. Miller, a dual-degree graduate in social work and law, strives to be a civic engagement advocate for marginalized groups. She has a passion for policy and advocacy, especially when it comes to educating others on how to mobilize for their rights.

Stephanie Nicole Milici (MSW ’18), Dean Emil M. Sunley Merit Award
The Sunley Merit Award was first presented in 1971 by Dean Emil M. Sunley, in whose honor the award was created. It recognizes meritorious service to the school or the social work profession. Milici has demonstrated her commitment to GSSW and social work in a number of ways. She worked part time as a behavioral health coach at an eating disorder clinic, served as president of Phi Alpha and was a concentration representative to the Graduate Student Association. Nominators said she was a valuable team player who hosted events and self-care stations for her fellow classmates.

Adrienne Aguirre Deshaies (MSW ’18), Jean Peart Sinnock Award
The Sinnock Award honors Professor Emerita Jean Peart Sinnock and recognizes a student who has demonstrated outstanding capacity for leadership, purposeful working relationships with faculty and students, and outstanding classroom performance. The recipient must demonstrate conviction about the values of the profession and must have developed a social conscience and an active awareness of — and participation in — community concerns. Deshaies is exceedingly bright, wise and thoughtful, nominators said. She embraces learning, synthesizes that information and yearns to put it to use to help others. She is compassionate for all humans and other animals, and always provided sincerity and insightful ideas in the classroom.

View photos from the GSSW Awards Brunch.