2024 Awardees

2024 Professional Recognition Award Recipients

  • Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Education Award

    Dr. Cathryne L. Schmitz
    Cathryne L. Schmitz, PhD, MSW, is a Professor Emerita in the Department of Social Work at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG). Across her career, she has been committed to community, collective action, advocacy, and social change. The core areas of her scholarship reflect her overall career development–critical multiculturalism, ecological justice, analysis of the privilege/oppression nexus, mentoring for leadership, interdisciplinary education, community building, global engagement, human rights, and peacebuilding.

    She has been engaged in intercultural global teaching, environmental education, knowledge building, and curriculum development. She is a co-author of several books that cover these areas: Mentoring Women for Leadership: Empowering the Next Generation; The Intersection of Environmental Justice, Climate Change, Community, and the Ecology of Life; and Critical Multiculturalism and Intersectionality in a Complex World. Through her cross-disciplinary appointments with the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies and the Program in Women and Gender Studies she expanded her vision. She further contributes to, and learns from, her work in the community and with the UNCG Center for New North Carolinians.

    For three decades, Dr. Schmitz learned as she educated social workers. Her investment in social work at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels continues as she supports and encourages students and faculty. Her commitment to the profession is demonstrated through her service to CSWE, including her work on the Commission on Diversity and Social and Economic Justice, the Council on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression, and the Committee on Environmental Justice, where she was instrumental in bringing environmental injustice and climate concerns to the forefront. 

    Working within communities, including academic communities, her values of collaboration and mutual learning intensified. Change, systemic and interpersonal, requires reciprocal mentoring. Having worked across diversity, she experienced the wisdom of creating spaces for nurturing mutual growth. This commitment is deeply intertwined with her dedication to anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice and education. Dr. Schmitz is dedicated to guiding faculty, particularly women, as they navigate the challenges of social work practice, academia, and administration. The co-authored book on mentoring women exemplifies her collaborative work. In joining forces to write as a team, “we expand the growth as we learn from each other.”

    Dr. Schmitz’s commitment to social work’s vision and mission are seen across her life’s work and the impact that she has on the profession and the work for racial, social, and environmental justice.
  • Established Faculty Service and Leadership in Social Work Education Award

    Dr. Barbara W. Shank
    Dr. Barbara W. Shank graduated from Macalester College with a BA in sociology, and earned her MSW and PhD from the University of Minnesota. She was engaged in social work administration for over forty years, starting as BSW Field Coordinator and ending as founding Dean and Professor of the School of Social Work at the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University. 

    Her research interests included sexual harassment in the workplace and academe, social work curriculum and program development and "teaching to mission."

    Barbara served BPD as Program and Conference Chair; NADD as President, Vice President/Program Chair, Treasurer and Co-Chair of the International Task Force; ICSD as Newsletter Editor and President; Catholic Charities USA as Participating Observer on the Board of Trustees; NASW, MN Chapter as President and Secretary; on the Board of Directors of NASW National; CSWE on the COA, Educational Policy, Global Education, and Information Management and Research, as a certified site visitor, as Treasurer and Chair of the Board of Directors both for two terms; and as Secretary of the IASSW for two terms  She is a member of the International Advisory Board for the Global Institute - Singapore and was named a Fellow in 2017. She  currently serves on CSWE's Katherine Kendall Institute Advisory Board. 

    Dr. Shank with Dr. Julia A. Watkins founded the Southeast European Women's Leadership Initiative in 2013 with the goal of developing leadership within early career academic women in social work from the transition countries of Southeast Europe. Since 2008, Barbara has been honored to host two international doctoral students, one from Croatia, one from Italy, as well as a senior faculty scholar from Brazil.

    In 2015, Dr. Shank was appointed as Conservator and Trustee for the Estate of an elderly friend. She had the responsibility of distributing over $6 million dollars in donations from his estate. 

    Dr. Shank is recipient of the following recognition awards: Social Worker of the Year, NASW, MN Chapter (1993); Distinguished Citizen Citation, Macalester College (2000); Presidential Award, BPD (2008); Named as one of the 125 Most Interesting and Influential People in the 125 Years of the University of St. Thomas (2009); presented the Commencement Address, Graduate College, St. Catherine University, Five Rules for Commencing a Professional Career, (2014);  NASW National as Social Work Pioneer (2015); Significant Lifetime Achievement Award, BPD  (2016); delivered the 4th William “Bill” Culp Endowed Lecturer, Abilene Christian University (2017); Distinguished Service Award, University of St. Thomas (2017); Lifetime Achievement Award, NASW, MN Chapter (2019) and Named as one of 50 Notable Social Workers in US History (2019).

    She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the See Them Grow Foundation, Uganda, the Highland Park Montessori School, St. Paul, and as a member of the Women's Christian Association Foundation (WCA) Signature Fund, Minneapolis Foundation. 

    Under her leadership, the School of Social Work at St. Catherine University/University of St. Thomas grew from 50 students to over 600, 4 to 34 full-time faculty and one to five programs. In 2014, the School of Social Work launched a DSW online program with a focus on "Education as Practice." Dr. Shank retired in 2018 and now holds the title of Dean and Professor Emerita. She endowed the BWS Scholarship Fund for indigenous doctoral students at the University of St. Thomas.

    Dr. Shank is married to Richard Shank, MD, and has two adult children, Katherine and Daniel, and two grandchildren.  
  • Early Career Faculty Service and Leadership in Social Work Education Award

    Dr. Karen A. Johnson
    Karen A. Johnson, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama's School of Social Work and Visiting Scholar at Yale University, is a distinguished 2023 Boston Congress of Public Health, Health Innovator to Watch. Dr. Johnson has a Ph.D. from Columbia University's School of Social Work and post-doctoral training in Implementation Science from Columbia University / New York State Psychiatric Institute and Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Johnson is the Associate Director of Community Sciences for the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for AIDS Research and the founder of the HEAL-Lab located within the University of Alabama School of Social Work. She actively partners with social work students, system-involved populations, and system providers to improve health equity, and develop and implement evidence-based interventions and practices.  

    With over 20 years of direct practice experience, Dr. Johnson’s work is inspired by the challenges she encountered early in her career across various practice settings trying to implement evidence-based practices. With funding from sources such as the National Institutes of Health through the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for AIDS Research, The Bureau of Justice Assistance,  the New York State Office of Mental Health, and Alabama Transportation Institute, she is dedicated to bridging education, research, and practice gaps. 

    Currently, Dr. Johnson has eight active research studies, all of which focus on improving the health and well-being of racially and other minoritized populations. Her studies include:
    • Project Possibilities Community Stigma aims to address the stigma faced by probation and parole personnel and participants across multiple criminal legal system locations.  
    • Dr. Johnson also leads Projects E-WORTH South, E-WORTH South – Rural, and  E-WORTH South Bridging the Trust Gap, in which she collaborates with Black women on probation and parole who reside in rural and sub-urban areas, and their providers, to tailor and pilot an evidence-based HIV/STI prevention intervention for delivery in the Deep South. Among other strategies utilized, Dr. Johnson leverages artificial intelligence to optimize HIV prevention efforts and implementation effectiveness.
    • In historic Selma, Alabama, Project Family Preservation provides individualized family services to prevent foster care placements and reduce future criminal justice involvement.  
    • Dr. Johnson’s work also impacts populations residing in the Caribbean through Project Pruning the Root. This project, located in Barbados, focuses on addressing trauma experienced by court-involved youth, aiming to build trauma-informed care acumen in probation and parole officers serving this population. 
  • Distinguished Recent Contributions to Social Work Education Award

    Dr. M. Sebrena Jackson
    Sebrena Jackson, PhD, MSW, BSW, is a strategic-thinking, servant leader with over 25 years of social work practice and leadership experience. Over the span of her career, she has worked with diverse populations with the goal of inspiring them to do the healing work that leads to living on purpose and reaching their fullest potential.

    Dr. Jackson’s diverse career in academia has spanned from Title IV-E Coordinator/Instructor of a BSW program at an HBCU, to Director of Field Education for the first fully online university to receive CSWE accreditation for an MSW program, to her current role as a tenured Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Educational Programs and Student Services at a Research I university, The University of Alabama.

    As a first-generation college student and former CSWE MFP Fellow, Dr. Jackson is passionate about education. This passion has guided her practice, research, and scholarship. Her two lines of education research include: (1) post-secondary education access and success for youth transitioning from foster care and (2) online education.  She has published and presented on these topics at state, national and international conferences. The pre-college program she founded, the National Social Work Enrichment Program (NSEP), provides a 4-week college experience for foster youth. NSEP seeks to encourage foster youth to consider social work as a college major, while inspiring youth to graduate high school and enroll in college.

    As a licensed clinical social worker in both Georgia and Alabama, Dr. Jackson has practiced in a variety of settings, including medical social work, crisis intervention, child welfare, community organizing, and private practice. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work. She was honored as the Social Worker of the Year in two states, NASW-GA in 2009 and NASW-AL in 2017, for her work with transition-age foster youth. She was recently appointed as a co-lead for the Social Work Grand Challenge: Harnessing Technology for Social Good. 

    She obtained her BSW from Tuskegee University and her MSW and PhD from Clark Atlanta University. Dr. Jackson is a trailblazer in the profession, and through her leadership, practice, and research, a college education has become a viable option for hundreds of youth transitioning from foster care.