SAGE/CSWE Award for Innovative Teaching in Social Work Education

Teaching Innovation: The UGA School of Law Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Clinic is the nation’s first legal clinic dedicated to representing survivors of sexual abuse in juvenile court dependency matters and civil litigation.

CEASE Clinic and the School of Social Work launched a partnership to develop and refine a model for trauma-informed representation and courtroom practices. Trauma-informed care involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to trauma and ensuring practices do not retraumatize clients. Trauma-informed legal practice is a holistic approach that gives clients more information, knowledge, and autonomy in the legal system than traditional approaches.  Although social work has shifted toward trauma-informed approaches, the legal field overwhelmingly has not adopted trauma-informed practices. Instead, lawyers are trained to separate emotion from legal issues and to look at cases more like logic puzzles in need of a solution. Child welfare attorneys typically have high caseloads and limited funding, and they often lack necessary technical support and training. Similarly, social workers are frequently asked to provide expert testimony in court and can play an instrumental role in advocating for their clients' best interests. Yet few social work programs touch on this area, and few new social workers understand and are prepared for what is expected of them legally. As part of this partnership, we co-developed an interdisciplinary trauma-informed mock juvenile court simulation to address gaps and foster mutual learning in our disciplines. Mock trial programs are an essential component of law school and provide students with an opportunity to increase trial advocacy skills. Role plays are also an essential way to teach practice skills in social work programs. However, in contrast to social work, mock trial simulations are highly competitive, have detailed case packets with strict rules and procedures that must be adhered to, and focus on criminal/civil (never juvenile) cases.


Jennifer Elkins, PhD, MSSW, is an associate professor at the University of Georgia School of Social Work. She has 20 years of clinical social work practice, research, and teaching expertise in the areas of trauma, violence, and abuse. Her scholarship focuses broadly on (a) understanding interpersonal, intergenerational, and historical trauma and (b) addressing trauma through culturally responsive, trauma-informed, developmentally sensitive, multisystemic, and transdisciplinary approaches. She is a co-principal investigator on Project FREE (Fostering Relationships and Economic Enrichment), a 5-year, $8.2 million federally funded grant to promote the safety and well-being of child welfare involved children and families across a 12-county region in Georgia. She also serves as principal investigator on two local projects focusing on individual, family, school, and community well-being in trauma-exposed populations.

Emma Hetherington, JD, is an assistant clinical professor and the director of the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Clinic at the University of Georgia School of Law. The CEASE Clinic, the first of its kind in the nation, is dedicated to legal representation and advocacy for survivors of child sexual abuse in civil litigation and juvenile court dependency proceedings. Hetherington has represented hundreds of children in juvenile court dependency proceedings who have experienced child abuse and neglect, with a specialized focus on representing children who have been sexually abused or exploited. Her research focuses on the rights of children who have been sexually abused and trauma-informed legal practice. Before joining the law school’s faculty, Hetherington served as the managing attorney for the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless and as a senior child advocate attorney for the DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center.

Teaching Innovation: Using social entrepeneurship to challenge the status quo in agencies and starting new social change ventures.

Social entrepreneurship seeks to change a persistent and unequal status quo through disruptive social innovation. A hallmark of entrepreneurship is that entrepreneurs often do not control the resources necessary to innovate but can leverage forms of capital (financial, human, physical, social, and political) to create additional value. With minimal financial resources available, committee members worked to create meaningful opportunities for social work students to explore the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and to design and build solutions to protracted social problems through social enterprise and social innovation.


Upshaw,-Marijo-2013_3400-4x5.jpgMarijo Upshaw, MSW, MBA, is an experienced social entrepreneur. Her career has spanned more than 30 years at the social administration, leadership, and management levels. She received an MSW from Wayne State University and an MBA from the Executive MBA Program at Rutgers University. She serves on the adjunct faculty at the School of Social Work and the Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Previously, she was a principal of Social Work p.r.n., an entrepreneurial start-up that grew into a national provider of social work staffing services and a leading advocate for social work entrepreneurship. She has also served as the leader of financial services for Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, Inc., where she led a broad portfolio of dynamic programs to help vulnerable populations build financial capabilities that touched the lives of 10,000 people annually.
Marijo consults and volunteers her time to help build mission capacity for several grassroots and nongovernmental organizations serving the humanitarian needs of Syrian internally displaced persons and refugees. She serves on the advisory board of the International Community Action Network based at McGill University and consults with the organization on a special program to build social work capacity for Syria by educating and training Syrian nationals in rights-based social work practice.

Tamarie-Willis-Photo.jpgTamarie Willis, MSW, has based her social work education on macro practice, with a focus on the community and policy platforms. Willis spoke at the State Supreme Court Administrative Office 10th Annual Child Welfare Services Issues Conference on policies related to college access and retention for foster youths. She recently co-authored a policy brief titled "Meeting the Education Needs of Foster Care Youths: A Review of Laws and How to Maximize Their Implementation." As an academic advisor, Willis works with students who are interested in macro social work. This work has also included helping develop and advise several student organizations, including the Association of Black Social Workers, the Coalition of Community Social Workers, and the Muslim Women Social Work Association. The groups have won national and international awards, including ACOSA’s Student Group of the Year for 2016 and 2017 and the International Journal of Social Work Student Activists of the Year 2018. Willis has been invited to present internationally through the National Academic Advising Association (England 2017, Ireland 2018), among other national and local presentations on topics relating to student engagement, projective identification, and advisors as allies to student activism. She was named Academic Advisor of the Year for Michigan in 2018. Willis worked for 2 years as a research assistant for Wayne State University Center for Social Work Research. Her research interest centers on the intersection of incarceration and child welfare. She is working on research that resulted in a congressional briefing in Washington, DC, and the drafting of two federal bills aimed at increasing visitation between incarcerated parents and their children in the child welfare system. Willis is enrolled in the Wayne State University School of Social Work doctoral program, double minoring in criminal justice and statistics.