Social workers take home three awards

The Graduate School of Social Work teamed up with local organizations to honor social work students, educators and professionals Friday at the eighth annual awards breakfast in the University Hilton.

"The award ceremony provides an important opportunity to celebrate social work’s accomplishments," Michael Parrish, Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County quality management and compliance manager, said.

Ira Colby, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, said the social work profession faced public misconceptions, as most people tend to think all social workers are employed by Child Protective Services and take couples’ children away.

"We believe in justice and equality," Colby said. "We must work to unify ourselves."

He said people are not aware that social workers seek to help people affected by politics, such as immigration and the Iraq war.

Colby said war has created a need for social workers because of the increased amount of wounded soldiers or families with soldiers requiring assistance.

"(I was) intrigued with the notion of working with people who had problems and who wanted to participate in their communities in a way that I was able to and they were not," Colby said.

Of the 14 awards given to social workers, two were given to UH students and faculty.

Virginia Cooke Robbins, a social work clinical professor, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Houston branch of the National Association of Social Workers, but was not present.

The Graduate School of Social Work Alumni Association awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award to Shannon Bishop, director of the cooperative for after-school enrichment. Social work graduate student Mindy Gillian received the Charlotte Campbell Award for her work in helping political causes, such as a disaster recovery project after Hurricane Katrina and a prison and jail accountability project with the American Civil Liberties Union.

"As a political social worker, I hope to influence the development of public policy toward the aim of social justice," Gillian said.

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