2022 MSW Student Awards
Recent MSW grads represent the best of social work scholarship, service and practice
University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) students give the school many reasons to celebrate their scholarship, service and other accomplishments. Nine students have received additional accolades as part of the school’s 2022 spring Commencement celebration.
Agustina Yanez (MSW ’22), Edith M. Davis Award
The Davis Award recognizes the best paper focusing on a non-dominant racial or ethnic group or a person or persons of color. The award honors Professor Emerita Edith M. Davis, who was the founding director of the GSSW doctoral program. A bilingual (English–Spanish) advocate for well-being and healthy youth development in marginalized communities, Yanez was recognized for her paper “Food Security in Venezuela,” which faculty readers said “offers a compelling argument about an international issue that requires the attention of social work as it relates to human rights.” Yanez graduated in spring 2022 with a concentration in Organizational Leadership & Policy Practice and also earned a Latinx Social Work Certificate.
Liana Moss (MSW ’22), Tommi Frank Memorial Award
The Frank Memorial Award is named for the late Tommi Frank, MSW ’64. It recognizes the student judged by faculty to have submitted the most creative and imaginative paper or project in social work or social welfare. 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. Moss’s paper, “Free In-Patient Substance Use Rehabilitation: Co-housing Adults and Their Canine Companions,” provided a comprehensive proposal of the components that can help provide substance abuse treatment for individuals who own dogs without separating the clients from their animals. Moss graduated in spring 2022 with a concentration in Organizational Leadership & Policy Practice and earned a Human–Animal-Environment Interactions in Social Work Certificate as well.
Julia Kennedy (MSW ’22), Ina Mae Denham Award
The Denham Award is presented annually to the graduating student who writes the best clinical paper describing and analyzing his/her own actual case practice, including the rationale and application of appropriate interventions based on relevant theory and clinical literature. The Colorado Society for Clinical Social Work created the award, which includes a cash award and society membership. Kennedy’s case conceptualization paper “displayed a strength of your clinical insight, application of clinical assessment and theory and critical self-reflection,” the Faculty Awards committee wrote. Kennedy graduated in spring 2022 and aims to become a licensed clinical social worker.
Anna Vivian (MSW ’22), 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. Faculty found Vivian’s paper “IPV Intersections: Mental Health and Substance Use: A Professional Development Manual for Child Welfare Case Workers” to be “amazing — an impressive amount of work, professional and incredibly comprehensive.” Vivian graduated in spring 2022 and has joined Denver Human Services as a social caseworker, partnering with families to pursue safety, wellness and permanency for children and young people.
Joel Berdie (MSW ’22), William Bartholomew Memorial Award
The William Bartholomew Memorial Award was established in 2018 to honor 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. The award honors students who embody principles of social justice, preservation of human dignity, and a commitment to facilitating healing of human suffering. Berdie was honored for his essay “Reciprocal Medicine,” which the Faculty Awards Committee found to be “incredibly thoughtful and self-reflective.” In the essay, Berdie discusses the death of a family member by suicide, an event that sparked his interest in walking alongside people in pain as a social worker. “The more I sit in these raw spaces, perhaps counterintuitively, I feel a warm sense of confidence, solidity, value, and pride in being present for people’s tears and despair. It is reciprocal medicine; it is an honor,” wrote Berdie, a 2022 graduate of the Four Corners MSW Program.
Read more about Joel Berdie and his work to create a peer-centered community behavioral health program in Durango, Colorado.Read More
Jodie Miller (MSW ’22), Dean 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 Four Corners MSW Program 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. “Jodie has been an eager learner though her internship. She takes initiative when it comes to her learning and continues to be receptive to feedback and adjusts her practice in timely and efficient ways,” her faculty nominator wrote. “She has always been willing to try new things and step out of her comfort zone with the appropriate support for her growth. It has been a fun and rewarding experience to see Jodie have ‘light bulb’ moments and begin to apply her classroom learning to her practice with clients.” A spring 2022 graduate, Miller supervises the vocational program at Axis Health in Durango, Colorado.
Jesse Villanueba (MSW ’22), MSW@Denver Merit Award
The award recognizes a student from the MSW@Denver program 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. In the Substance Use Interventions class, Villanueba’s “work on assignments and comments in class discussions showed a keen understanding of the structural barriers to recovery from substance use and a commitment to advancing social justice for people who use drugs, especially those involved in carceral systems like parole and child welfare and those living in more rural settings,” a faculty nominator wrote. “He is an asset to the field and to our school.”
Corinne Cooke (MSW ’22), Dean Emil M. Sunley Award
The Sunley Merit Award was first presented in 1971 by Dean Emil M. Sunley, in whose honor the award was created. It recognizes a graduating Denver Campus MSW student for meritorious service to the school or the profession of social work. Cook navigated class discussions, assignments and clinical explorations through an antiracist and social justice lens, a faculty nominator said. “Corinne showed a dedication to learning, critically examining assignments and readings, enhancing her clinical practice and striving to submit respectful and thorough work,” the nominator wrote. “I saw that she truly embodies our social work values, mission and therefore meritorious service to our social work profession.”
Breanna Fortier (MSW ’22), Ruth Marx Stark Award for Excellence in Field
The Stark Award recognizes excellence in field work, 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. Fortier completed her concentration-year internship with the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, where she managed a caseload of up to five targeted case management (TCM) clients “and has been pivotal in effecting amazing outcomes,” her nominator wrote. For example, with Fortier’s help, one client is now working a full-time job and has transitioned from assisted living to fully independent living. Fortier also helped to develop a customized TCM assessment tool, provided adaptive cognitive behavioral therapy to clients, and developed a self-esteem/self-identity group for people with brain injuries. Fortier graduated in 2022 with a concentration in Health & Wellness.