Agency Fair at Social Work Day at the Kansas Union

Alumni Spotlight

Our alumni make significant contributions towards improving the lives of vulnerable people and often this work takes place behind the scene. As catalysts for change, it is the results that are the most visible. We honor their success, remembering that there are many others whose valuable works goes unrecognized.

Large Jayhawk Family

total number of alumni worldwide
alumni live in Kansas or Missouri
of western Kansas partnership site graduates stayed in western or central Kansas after graduation
international alumni living in 17 countries

Alumni & Retired Faculty and Staff Profiles

John Sergent, BSW 1996, MSW 2003

“My whole upbringing prepared me for day one in social welfare,” John declares. “I grew up with multiple stressors in my home and at different points in time, was a recipient of the ‘system.’ I was familiar with being on the other side, and how accessing those services can appear punitive to recipients.” Read full story about John Sergent  

Sierra Two Bulls

The School would like to send a heartfelt congratulations to Sierra Two Bulls, Oglala Lakota, KU MSW ('17) and Haskell Indian Nations University alumna on the role she'll play on the research team with the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS).

"For nearly ten years, the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) has continuously conducted research and compiled data on Indian Boarding Schools in the U.S. Throughout that time, we have identified 367 institutions, as well as other descriptive information, like location, dates of operation, Tribal Nations attended, operator, status of buildings and cemeteries, and location of records, among others. To support our ongoing research efforts, NABS is currently working with a team of seven skilled researchers who have been tasked with profiling each boarding school in our comprehensive list. This foundational work will directly support the build of an interactive Digital Map (to be released this year), and the National Indian Boarding School Digital Archive (to be released in 2022)." Read more about the team leading this research on the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition webpage

BSW alum, Robert Sagastume, who is now in the in the master's program at Washington University was honored by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP) at the 5th Annual Social Work Day on the Hill on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. He was awarded Outstanding Student of the Year. Robert Sagastume was selected among thousands of applicants to attend the 11th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) this fall. CGIU seeks to bring together student leaders to develop concrete steps toward solving global issues. Sagastume received this honor based upon his “commitment to action” proposal, which came from an idea he had while serving as co-director of an undocumented youth-led group, the Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance. “It includes a program where undocumented/DACA students mentor other immigrant and non-immigrant students so they can achieve postsecondary education,” he explained. Sagastume was born and raised in Honduras until age 12 before migrating to the United States, navigating through society as a DACA immigrant. At the Brown School, he is a Clark-Fox Policy Scholar, which provides a rigorous and immersive experience to help understand the formation of social policy as a high-impact tool for positive change. He will graduate with a dual master of social work and master of social policy degree this year.

Brandi Schneider, Director of Aging Services and Administration at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/Schmieding Center for Senior Education, received her Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in gerontology from Kansas State University in 1996 and received her master’s degree in social work with an emphasis on gerontological administration from the University of Kansas in 1999. She has worked in a variety of geriatric settings, including nursing homes, in-patient geriatric psychiatry, home health, adult day services, and caregiver education. Brandi currently works at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/Schmieding Center for Senior Education as the Director of Aging Services and Administration. In her role there, she offers individualized education and support to older adults and their families, as well as group support and community education. She is involved in program development and community collaboration efforts.

Grace’s Place Crisis Nursery added counseling services to its list of programs to help aid youth in Franklin County. Jorie Moeller, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), will provide counseling services to area youth. She has been practicing in the field of social work for 13 years and has a wide range of experience including work in the foster care system, working with at-risk adolescents in a wilderness treatment facility, mental health case management and providing counseling services in an array of different settings. Moeller received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Kansas State University and a master’s of social work from the University of Kansas. Read more. 

The Kansas Department for Children and Families has named Tanya Keys deputy secretary. Keys previously served as regional director for the Children’s Division in Jackson County, Mo. She began her human services career in front-line foster care case management and previously served as child welfare director for the former Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Keys earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. Read more. 

Sheria Howard

Sheria Howard, a nontraditional student, wife and mother, chose to come to the KU Edwards Campus with the goal of earning a degree that would allow her to pursue her passion of serving others and extend a helping hand to communities in need. Howard achieved this goal and graduated in May 2018 with a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.). Howard is currently pursuing her second master’s degree at the Edwards Campus – a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.). What keeps her going is seeing how government can affect social change. Read more

Michelle Needham will serve as the Director of Operations and Scheduling for Governor-elect Laura Kelly. She will oversee all scheduling and internal office operations. Previously, she was campaign scheduler for Kansas Secretary of State candidate Brian McClendon. Needham graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Welfare. She went on to work in various family and behavioral welfare positions focused on improving the lives of families and adults with disabilities. 

Anna Williams

Anna Williams, s'05, was elected to the Oregon Legislature to represent House District 52. She is the voice for the 63,000 constituents who live in this district in the Oregon House of Representatives. The voters loved her social work and education background, and her priorities are addressing climate change, housing, education, and access to social services for people who live in rural communities. She is looking forward to using her social work administration degree to improve how legislation is created and implemented in Oregon. She is currently employed with Simmons College in Boston, MA.  

Joni Colwell

Joni Colwell named new manager of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. Colwell is a native of Yuma County, Colorado, and a graduate of Benedictine College, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in both sociology and English. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Kansas. Read more. 

Reno County Magistrate Judge Cheryl Allen announced she is retiring Nov. 30 and will move to Lawrence to be closer to her children. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Kansas and a law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law. Read more. 

Staci Smock

Staci Smock joined Katie's Way in September 2018. She is a Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker and completed her Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Wyoming before completing her master’s degree in social work at the University of Kansas in 1998. After completing her MSW, Staci served for six years as the social worker for the inpatient Geropsychiatric Unit at Geary Community Hospital. Staci then worked for eight years as a Program Manager in Behavioral Health at Mercy Regional Health Center overseeing an intensive outpatient mental health program.

Prior to joining Katie’s Way, Staci worked for the VA Hospital providing therapy for Veterans dealing with issues including depression/anxiety, trauma, relationship issues and substance abuse. She is skilled in utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Prolonged Exposure (PE) and Solution Focused Brief-Therapy (SFBT). Staci primarily serves thier teenage and young adult population and specializes in mood disorders, anxiety/panic disorders, PTSD, psychotic disorders, adjustment disorders and family conflict. Staci looks forward to partnering with individuals and families to develop a treatment plan which aligns with their goals and desires and promotes their journey to wellness and recovery. Information courtesy of Katie's Way website

Lawrence Public Schools recognized MSW clinical student Carole Cadue-Blackwood, Kickapoo, for her tireless work to rename a local middle school. Her community organizing that led to naming the school Billy Mills Middle School also caught the attention of the National Indian Education Association. NIEA recently named Carole “Parent of the Year” at their national conference. Congratulations Carole! Carole also played a large role in helping establish Billy Mills Day. During the City Commission meeting on October 16, it was proclaimed, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, as Billy Mills Day.

Lynne Horwitz Green, s'70, founder of Van Go Inc., an arts-based social service and job-training agency for at-risk teens in Lawrence, will retire in December after 23 years at the helm.

Melinda Carden Lewis, s'99, an associate professor of social welfare at KU, co-wrote Making Education Work for the Poor, which was published in August by Oxford University Press.

Amanda Spangler Everson, c'12, s'18, works at KVC Kansas in Olathe, where she’s a child-placing agency supervisor. She lives in Overland Park with her husband, Jeffrey, and their two sons, Mason and Brantley.

Kelly Riegel Miller, s'18, works at the welcome center at KU’s Edwards Campus.

Melissa Byler Burrow, s'18, is a Parent Management Training-Oregon model (PMTO) therapist at KVC Kansas in Olathe. She and her husband, Zachary, live in Kansas City.

Jennifer Ananda, alum, has been hired as Emporia State’s first Title IX Coordinator

Kim White

Kim White, s'05, Career in social work has provided opportunities to be advocate, inspire change.

Susan Ridenour, s'85, currently works for Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. 

Suzanne Wikle, s'06, currently works for the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington D.C.

Michelle Ree Patterson, s'95, is employed with HIT Inc. in Kansas City. She purchased this company in July 2017 and moved back to the KC area. 

Erin Pullen, s'11, works at Wyandot Center as the director of housing programs. 

Becky Fast, s'93, g'96, is the executive director for the Kansas Chapter, NASW. She has diverse background in clinical practice and macro policy through working as a clinical social worker at Kansas City Hospice and serving as a city council member on the Roeland Park City Council.  She was first introduced to the advocacy efforts of KNASW through leading the Chapter's political action arm and later served on the KS Chapter and NASW Board of Directors. During her tenure on the board, she helped facilitate the passage of the Social Worker Safety Act in honor of Teri Zenner.

MSW grad, Keri Ingle was elected to the Missouri Legislature in this past election. "She is smart, terrific and passionate, and she worked in child welfare for many years. I couldn't be prouder of her accomplishment, winning in the 35th in Lee's Summit, MO, in a district where a different party from hers had dominated for a bit. Pretty cool and it makes me feel hopeful... wanted to pass it on to all of you.” - Ed Scanlon

Recent PhD graduate, Dr. Eunji Nam, has received the Korean American Social Work Educators 2018 Award for her dissertation. Dissertation title: Family, Friends, and Romantic Partners’ Influence on Mental Health Recovery among Emerging and Middle-aged Adults with Serious Mental Illness. Dr. Nam is settling in her new home in Orlando for her position as assistant professor at University of Central Florida.

Kevin Wayne Edwards, s'97, is currently working at Deloitte Consulting LLP in Florida.

Cheryl Mathis, s'07, is currently working at Dignity Health in Arizona.

Marcy Shadden, s'16, s'18, is team lead at Comprehensive Mental Health Services in Independence, Missouri. She has two sons, Tyree and Terrell.

Kaylee Edwards, s'18, works at American Century Investments in Kansas City, where she is a client services representative. She lives in Mission with her husband, Leon, and their son, Leon III, who just turned 1.

Abigail Eisenhutt, s'18, is a day-treatment specialist at Cornerstones of Care in Kansas City.

Jennifer Manka, s'18, works for Johnson County in the department of human services. She and her husband, Keith, live in Shawnee and have two children, Caleb and Athena.

Jason Hurd, s'18, is a recovery advocate at First Call in Kansas City.

Laura Sadowski, s'18, lives in Dodge City, where she is a therapist at Compass Behavioral Health.

Kimberly Darrough-Hayden, s’18, is a counselor at Ulysses High School. She and her husband, Sam, live in Ulysses.

Camille Bollig Ellard, s’84, s’86, works at Haysmed in Hays, Kansas.

Laurita Burbach, s’96, is currently living in Collyer, Kansas.

Robin Unruh, s’02, works at Genesis Family Health in Garden City, Kansas.

Gretchen Heasty, s’94, c’95, s’98, director of TRIO Supportive Educational Services (SES) & STEM at KU, in May was named 2018 Academic Advisor of the Year.

Tiffany Gabel Rito, s’02, s’03, is a licensed master social worker for the Johnson County Department of Corrections.

Dawn Puderbaugh Hodges

Dawn Puderbaugh Hodges, s’92, s’96, JD 96, was recently hired as the Administrator/COO of the Greenwood Genetic Center. The Greenwood Genetic Center is a nonprofit institute centered on clinical genetic services, diagnostic laboratory testing, educational programs and resources, and research. Read more

Preston Williams

Preston Williams, s’79, and wife just celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary on June 26, 2018. They have a 12-year-old granddaughter who just was promoted to the 7th grade and their only child, who is 36 years of age, is being promoted to an upper tier position with the IRS agency in Missouri. Preston is a cancer survivor, having survived thyroid cancer, and both he and his wife are type II diabetics but doing reasonably well at the ripe old ages of 67. They cheer for KU in both football and basketball, and hope that the football team will be a success this Fall. His wife is also a 1973 social work undergraduate from Washburn University in Topeka. (picture above) 

Anna Bailey, s'10, s'13, joined Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as a Law and Policy Fellow and works with the Connecting the Dots: Bridging Systems for Better Health project. She has prior experience at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and in both the U.S. House and Senate. Anna also worked for a community mental center for three years in her native state of Kansas where she served people experiencing homelessness. Anna holds a bachelor's and master's degrees in social work administration from the University of Kansas and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. (

Andrew Brown, s'12, is currently working at KDADS in the Behavioral Health Services Commission as the Prevention Program Manager. He serves as the state's representative to the National Prevention Network (NPN) and chairs the NPN Research and Evaluation Committee.

Jay Logan, s’99, currently works with the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka, Kansas.

Sallie Mae West, s’99, currently works with the State of Missouri in Liberty, Missouri

Judi Berry, s'76, is currently self-employed.

Beth Black, s’77, is a physical therapist at Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. She lives in Albuquerque with her wife, Gail.

John Blosser, s’96, s’98, lives in Overland Park, where he’s president of Integrated CareGroup and Pharmacy Distribution Partners.

Heather Bradley-Geary, s'04, currently works as an adjunct instructors with the KU School of Social Welfare and serves on the national NASW Board of Directors. She is the director of supportive housing for Vecino Group in Kansas City. The Vecino Group is a company devoted to housing for the greater good. Affordable housing, supportive housing, student housing; every project they touch has to address a broader community issue, set an example, give back, and inspire the people working on it with a sense of higher purpose. That's housing for the greater good. That's what they do. This position currently involves working for a national NGO on ending homelessness via increasing affordable housing.

Portia Davis-Owens, s'15, is currently employed with Swope Health Services in Kansas City.

Russell DeTrempe, s’81, is director of maximum security and chief of operations at Fulton State Hospital, where he’s worked for more than 30 years. He makes his home in Hartsburg, Missouri.

Tim DeWeese, s'99, is currently employed with Johnson County Mental Health Center

Kimberly Downs Gorombey, s’03, is a social worker in the Liberty School District in Missouri.

Taylor Ermoian, s’16, recently returned from Jerusalem, where he spent a year working as a human rights researcher and a social worker and teacher at a local school. He now lives in Los Angeles.

Kristi L Giltner, s'88, is currently employed with State of Kansas, Department for Children and Families.

Francis S. Hastings, s'87, s'87, recently moved to Arizona as his wife accepted a position as an occupational therapist at Valley View Medical Center. They moved from Fleming Island, Florida, where they lived for seven years after leaving Kansas. Francis worked for Florida Mentors for a period of time before his health prevented him from doing the work he loved and trained for. His wife and him are getting to celebrate thier 10th anniversary in July, and his 20th anniversary of his liver transplant end of March.

Helen Kershaw, s'86, is enjoying retirement years living half year in Texas and other half in the mountains of North Carolina. Even though she retired, her social work classes and work experiences continue to be useful in both her life and the lives' of her friends.

Lemuel E. Kimes, s'85, principal at Kimes and Associates in Kansas City, Missouri. Kimes & Associates provides several services to assist in the areas of business consulting, individual coaching, and group or staff training.

Fred M. Kouri, s'86, is licensed as a MHA, MSW, LMSW, LCSW, CNP and currently employed with Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Jacob Marshall, s’16, is a sign-language interpreter for Kansas City Public Schools. He lives in Prairie Village.

Rose McClanahan Schmidt, s'70, s'77, is retired.

Cynthia A. O'Connell

Cynthia A. O'Connell, s'98, is retired, but planning on having a small private practice this year in Manhattan, Kansas, that specializes in trauma recovery and addiction recovery.

Cheri L. Pfanenstiel, s'92, is retiring after 34 years of service to the social work profession. The last 26 with the Manhattan/Ogden school district as an elementary school social worker.

Eric Sader, s'13, is currently employed with the City of Bloomington in Indiana.

Tara Scarce, s'10, is currently employed with USD417.

Avis Smith, s'84, is currently employed with the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare as a lecturer at the Edwards Campus.

Catelyn Smith, s'13, s'14, is currently employed at the State of Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Leslie Traylor, s'15, is currently employed with Immanuel Lutheran Church and University Student Center.

Susan Tusher, s'92, s'94, is currently employed with the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita/Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center.

Mary Webb Murphy, s'80, s'82, is currently employed with Kingswood, a not-for-profit Life Plan Community in the heart of in Kansas City.

Sheri Pierce Williams, s’74, is the DCF East Region Supervisor for Foster Care and Residential Licensing Division. Her two children, Danny Williams and Katie Williams McGee are KU graduates. She has been married to husband Gary Williams for 42 years.

Adele Falk, s’14,after graduation, she passed her LMSW exam and went to work for Skills to Succeed, an organization that serves adults with autism in Olathe, Kansas. Then she went on to secure employment as an Outreach Advocate for the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center (WASAC) in Wichita, Kansas.

Yehoshua M. Othniel, s’07, Yehoshua, a.k.a. "Josh" Othniel, returned to the seminary and earned his Doctorate in Ministry in the spring of 2015 fulfilling a life long dream and giving his late mother bragging rights in Paradise. Now she can say "My son the doctor!" Yehoshua is employed full-time as a Renal Social Worker with two dialysis centers, Independence and Parsons, Kansas where he was recently promoted to Social Worker II. Prior to enrolling at KU, Yehoshua was an ordained Rabbi. In 2017, he became  a volunteer Police Chaplain for the Independence Police Department; their first non-Christian chaplain. Yehoshua is the current Vice President of the National Association of Social Workers, Kansas Chapter and a volunteer board member on four additional boards of directors. After a two year clinical internship with Care Counseling, Inc. of Parsons, Kansas, Yehoshua has been specializing in "Faith-based Therapy Services," which combines the early roots of social work with evidence based practices in the service of families and individuals.

Victoria Sander, s’17, currently working on clinical licensure; working in a private practice, Mindful Matters providing therapy and Brookdale Home Health assisting elderly clients in accessing community resources to help them be successful and maintain independence for as long as possible.

Michelle R. Shaheen, s’80, s’85, Clinical Manager: Social Work, Chaplain and Bereavement Services at Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice in Wichita, Kansas. 

Kathryn Anderson Orr, s'12, joined McCallum Place as a community liaison and outreach representative, working to support and educate community clinicians, school personnel and medical providers about eating disorders and resources for treatment.

James Edward Hafner, s'87, has maintained a career for the past 30 years in nephrology social work. He has been a long-standing member of the Council of Nephrology Social Workers having leadership roles in both the local chapter and on the national level. He recently decided to retire at the end of March 2018.

Timothy Hornik, s'10, is one of the eight KU students to receive a Wounded Warrior Scholarship for the 2017-18 academic year. Timothy Hornik is the recipient of the Bill and Shanthi Eckert WWS at KU. Hornik is a native of Chicago, a retired U.S. Army captain and the CEO of Blind Not Alone LLC.  In 2004, while serving in Iraq as an Air Defense Artillery platoon leader, he was shot in the head and consequently blinded. Despite his injuries, Hornik obtained a master¹s degree in social work from KU in 2010 and is currently pursuing a doctorate in therapeutic science at the KU Medical Center. He plans to use his degree, along with his considerable social work case management experience, to assist and advocate for disabled veterans. Hornik, his wife, Cate, and their two daughters live in Lawrence.

Claire Jones, s'15, received her LCSW in Missouri and is working in private practice.  Clientele is often from foster and adoptive resources where children have been impacted by trauma.

Krista Kastler, s'10, is currently a Child and Family Therapist at The Children's Place, where she specializes in addressing issues related to complex trauma, attachment, and the difficult behavioral struggles that often accompany those areas. She is also an EMDRIA Approved Consultant and assist with EMDR trainings across the region.  

Lemuel E. Kimes, s'85, currently works at Kimes & Associates.

Jacob Marshall, s¹16, is currently working in the Kansas City Public Schools.

Mary Webb Murphy, s'80, s'82, is currently working at Kingswood.

Cheryl Karczewski Rathbun, s'87, was promoted to chief clinical officer at Saint Francis Community Services in Salina, where she has worked for the past 39 years.

Harry Satariano, s'77, has a private practice in Overland Park. After the past five years providing clinical services in rural communities, Harry has re-established private practice in Overland Park, KS. specializing in family and group psychotherapies.

Kim White, s'05, earned the 2016 West Virginia Social Worker of the Year, presented by the National Association of Social Work, West Virginia Chapter. She completed her doctorate in education last year, and started teaching in social work in Marshall University¹s new master¹s program in the fall of 2016. Kim also is a member of the board for Mental Health Matters, a grassroots group fighting for expanded mental health access, and Create Huntington, the grassroots group of people in the city sharing ideas and working toward positive changes.

Ashley Williamson, s'17, after graduating Ashley was hired at Women's Employment Network, her practicum site, as the Community Engagement Coordinator. At WEN she has revamped and re-energized the volunteer program and the alumnae association. She also manages a program helped develop with WEN staff called WEN on the Road, an initiative that brings client-favorite workforce and financial workshops directly into the community. Williamson was recently selected to the steering committee for Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Nonprofit Connect and as a protégé in the C. Stephen Metzler Mentor program of the Mid-America Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Catelyn Holmes

Catelyn Holmes, 2017 MSW balanced work at CRADO and academics to earn her M.S.W.

Social policy faculty who taught Catelyn Holmes at the BSW level, recognized her interest in shaping social policy and recommended her for a staff position at the Center for Research on Aging and Disability Options (CRADO). In 2013, after graduating with her BSW, she successfully competed for a position at CRADO. Her outstanding work indicated she had clear potential to earn an MSW. Catelyn approached CRADO Director Rosemary Chapin and Assistant Director Carrie Wendel-Hummell to discuss pursuing her MSW. CRADO staff supported Catelyn’s goals and were able to provide letters of reference as Catelyn applied to school and for scholarship opportunities. Carrie and Catelyn worked closely together to make it possible for her to balance her position in the Center and her academic workload. Now Catelyn is graduating as an MSW and was a Behavioral Health Scholar. CRADO Assistant Director Carrie Wendel-Hummell said she was delighted to contribute to the success of such an outstanding BSW and indicated that this is yet another example of how the School of Social Welfare Research Centers support the academic mission of the School.


Sharon Brown, Johnson County Department of Corrections, KU M.S.W.

Gravitated towards corrections as she felt there was a strong need for social workers in this setting.

Annie Olsen-Meehan, Ewing Marion Kauffman School, KU M.S.W.

Annie remembers sitting in a social work class at KU and deciding this is what I want to do. It wasn't just about helping people, but it was also appealing to her that she would have multiple career paths or avenues after graduation.

John Sergent

John Sergent, Ambulatory Social Worker, Mercy Hospital, KU B.S.W. and M.S.W.

I choose Social Work because it gave me an opportunity to understand the hardships of my past much better and change the trajectory of my future. Social Work is one of the most universally recognized professions in the delivery of both national and international social service programs. Initially, I received my Bachelor of Social Work, which provided many opportunities at the state level during my tenure as an investigator in Child Protective Services, as well as, opportunities in Higher Education, as a Trainer, in the School of Social Welfare. With an interest in advancing my education in social welfare, I completed my Master of Social Work with a concentration in Social Work Administration, A Master's Degree in this concentration of Social Work afforded me many more opportunities to learn about program development, program management, human resources, incorporating evidenced based practice in service delivery, etc. This advanced degree provided a foundation for my introduction into many leadership opportunities with community based behavioral health service programs.
Initially, I managed a Family Resource Center, which was part of a much larger local collaborative, all providing early intervention and prevention services to at risk children and families. The direct service provided by my staff transformed many lives of single mothers and new born children. During my tenure in this agency, a wise leader strongly recommended all leadership staff become licensed at the highest level of their profession.  This introduced me into the world of becoming clinically licensed. Fortunately, my education at The University of Kansas enabled me to immediately register in the State of CA, as an Associate Social Worker, and begin accumulating time and supervision for clinical licensure. Shortly after obtaining licensure, my life took a much different direction after a decision was made to relocate to a different state and much smaller community.  
Upon arriving in our new life, I quickly learned my clinical licensure would serve me much better than my vast experience in management. I joined the home health community, as a home based clinical social worker and added health care experience to my new arsenal of experience in social work. Little did I know within a year of this journey, we would be faced with another significant move, thereby providing me additional opportunities to utilize my clinical social work experience with my introduction to physician based ambulatory case management services. Within a year in this arena, I accepted a new leadership opportunity in the delivery of employer based health care plans. I am finally utilizing all 21 years of my cumulative experiences in social work. Each area of social work prepared me for my next opportunity, often times, when I didn't ever anticipate the need for such skills or experience. Social Work is the most marketable degree and has afforded me many on-going professional development opportunities, all appropriate to my level of education and experience. 

Michelle Levy

Michelle Levy, Research Associate, KU School of Social Welfare, KU B.S.W.

I met a social worker for the first time when I was 15 years old. That was the day I was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare childhood cancer. That same day, my dad was across the city in a rehabilitation hospital after an accident that had left him paralyzed. We were hundreds of miles from our home in Great Bend and more than a little overwhelmed from all that was happening. The social worker that I met that day helped my family navigate through those challenging times. I am forever grateful for her support and for introducing me to the profession of social work. I am a proud graduate of the KU BSW Program and University of Chicago - School of Social Service Administration. I worked briefly in public health education, aging research, and foster care before I found my niche in writing grants and carrying out research and training projects at KUSSW. Several of these initiatives have focused on educating future social workers including my current position as Director of the Behavioral Health Scholars Program.
My advice for students is to be proud of yourself and the profession that you have chosen. For many of us, our life experiences provided an ability to feel the pain of others and the desire to fight injustices in the world. At times, we seem to fall victim to the idea that as social workers, we are misunderstood and undervalued. Yet our unique skill-set and knowledge base allows us to work in so many ways to support and empower individuals, families, organizations, systems, communities, and society. It is an awesome opportunity and obligation. I know it may sound trite (and some days it will not feel this way) but you will change lives and make our world a better place. Always be proud to be a social worker!

Kellie Henderson

Kellie Henderson, 2014 M.S.W.

When Kellie Henderson worked with Washington policymakers this summer (2014) to improve the nation’s foster care system, she brought a perspective that extended beyond her master’s degree in social work from the University of Kansas.

Henderson, a Wichita native who currently resides in Phillipsburg, offered her own experiences as a foster youth.

“The biggest obstacle I faced in college was the absence of parents to talk about challenges such as peer pressure, career choices, life in general and, essentially, about my fears and anxiety once I leave the academic realm,” she said.

Henderson was one of 12 current and former foster youth from across the nation who spent the summer on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., as a part of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Foster Youth Internship program. This summerlong assignment provides individuals who have spent time in the foster care system with an opportunity to intern in a congressional office and share their experiences, opinions and unique perspectives with policymakers in Congress. Henderson was an intern for U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch.

As part of their assignment, the Foster Youth Internship Program participants research issues affecting children in foster care, then compile their findings and recommendations into a policy report. This document is presented at a congressional briefing and shared with child welfare advocates across the country. In past years, these reports have generated both local and national attention to the critical issues facing more than 400,000 children currently in the foster care system.

Henderson's proposal included that each state should be obligated to develop an informative curriculum to better prepare youth for the foster care system. That curriculum would provide information to youth on their specific rights in addition to detailing the role of professionals they may come into contact with.

Since 1999, more than 230,000 young people have transitioned from foster care without permanent family connections. Only 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19, compared with 87 percent of all 19-year-olds. While 70 percent of all foster care youth have the desire to attend college, less than 20 percent actually pursue higher education, and less than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25.

“Foster youths often consider post-secondary education unattainable or undesirable due to circumstances they faced in their childhood or foster homes,” Henderson said. “In my opinion, the child welfare system does not do enough to prepare foster youths for the possibility of a college education, and neither does the high school they attend. There is a need for a sincere, concerted effort across all systems to support foster youths to make an informed decision about their educational future.”

Kellie was one of twenty students who began KU master’s classes the summer of 2013 with the launch of KU’s new western Kansas-based M.S.W. “I’m so excited,” said Henderson, a 2013 Fort Hays graduate who wanted to begin her graduate program immediately and stay in her home community. “This will open up so many opportunities for me. I hope to be a school social worker. Kids need mentors who can help them stay in school and set goals.”

Molly Tye

Molly Tye, 2006 B.S.W.

Molly Tye graduated from the KU Bachelors of Social Work program in 2006. She went on to obtain a Masters of Social Work from Howard University in Washington D.C in 2008.  Following what some may call an unusual career path for a social worker, Molly was recently named Academic Coordinator for the Penn State football program. She began her career as a volunteer academic support assistant for the men's basketball program at Howard University during her studies there. After two years with the Virginia Tech Student-Athlete Support Services, she returned to Howard’s Athletics Department as the Senior Academic Advisor for two years. Molly served for three years as the Asst Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Support at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where she worked specifically with high risk student-athletes. The program won national accolades for academic achievement during her time there. Molly enjoys being able to join her lifelong love for athletics with her passion for social work and feels inspired by how competitive sports provide talented students with educational opportunities they may not otherwise have access to.

Molly’s interest in social work began with a desire to mentor youth in the inner city. She was able to sharpen her skills during her practicum at an inner city school district. Molly believes that her education in the social work program at KU taught her to collaborate with people from opposing viewpoints to achieve a common goal, an experience which still impacts the way she makes decisions today. Her experiences in the BSW program at KU also taught her to think critically and look for the strengths in every person and situation. In many ways her undergraduate studies prepared her for the experience of being in the minority at a historically Black College for graduate school, by teaching her the value of diversity as well as how to relate and connect with people from a completely different background than herself. Molly credits her upbringing in a church community for teaching her the important values of hard work and compassion for others which led her to the social work profession. Molly’s faith has remained at the center of her career and has been her inspiration through the many challenging cases she has encountered in her profession.

Molly also followed a family tradition and became a foster parent, fulfilling what she feels is her calling to nurture and care for the orphaned. She has proudly mothered five foster children over the course of two years and looks forward to mothering many more. As a foster parent, she encourages social workers to never underestimate the value of foster parents in ensuring the welfare of children and their place in the social work profession.

Venida Chenault

Venida Chenault, 1986 B.S.W., 1990 M.S.W.

Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Director Dr. Charles M. Roessel today announced the selection of Dr. Venida S. Chenault as president of Haskell Indian Nations University (Haskell). Chenault, an enrolled member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas and a University of Kansas School of Social Welfare B.S.W., M.S.W. and Ph.D. graduate, had been serving as vice president of academic affairs at Haskell since December 2004. Her new appointment is effective Jan. 12, 2014.

"Dr. Venida Chenault is an experienced administrator whose leadership at Haskell Indian Nations University and strong commitment to American Indian higher education is well-known among her students and colleagues," Roessel said. "Her familiarity with the needs of students, her respect for the school community and her vision for the institution itself has made her the right choice as Haskell president. I am proud to have her on my education management team."

Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn also praised the appointment: "I am very pleased at the selection of Dr. Venida Chenault for Haskell president. This institution is one of the most important Indian higher education institutions in the country. Our search for new leadership at Haskell has led to a strong and able education professional, a person who has long been committed to this institution, and who will work towards its constant betterment."

Chenault has held several positions at Haskell during almost 21 years of her association with the university. With a B.S.W. and M.S.W. from the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, she started in 1991 as social work faculty and as an advisor where she taught and developed pre-professional courses and curriculum in social work, American Indian studies and addiction until August 2004. During that time, she also served as interim director of American Indian studies (June 1996 to July 1999); as acting associate dean for the Division of Instruction (December 1997 to June 1998); as acting director of the Institute for Distance Education (April to August 2003); and as co-director of a Ford Foundation grant that Haskell held in conjunction with the University of Kansas, exploring the Native American experience.

From October 2008 to October 2009, Chenault served as a Visiting Scholar in Social Welfare at the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, where she worked to advance research and scholarship on the topic of violence and abuse against Indigenous women. She also authored a book on the same topic during this period.

In December 2004, Chenault was named Haskell’s vice president of academic affairs, which gave her administrative oversight of a $3-$4 million budget and supervisory responsibility for all academic programs, budgets, faculty and staff within the Division of Academic Affairs. In her position she also served as acting vice president for university services from October 2009 to January 2010; acting Haskell president from January to May 2010; and at BIE headquarters in Washington, D.C., from September 2012 to April 2013. While with the Bureau, she helped lead key priority post-secondary education projects, including developing partnership agreements with tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) and working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services and the National Park Service to design professional development curriculum. From 2006 to 2007, she also held consultations and workshops on tribal sovereignty and self-determination as well as academic assessment and research for TCUs.

Chenault attended Haskell as a student in the fall of 1975 and the spring of 1984. She later attended the University of Kansas where she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work in 1986, a master’s in social work in 1990, and a Ph.D. in philosophy in 2004. She has given numerous presentations on the subject of violence and substance abuse activity and prevention within the American Indian community, and developed and taught courses on human behavior, community health social work practice, chemical dependency and social work as they relate to Native people. In addition, she has published numerous articles and reports on a variety of topics related to the study of American Indian societies and cultures.

She has received several awards, including Haskell Outstanding Alumni of the Year (Spring 2009) and the Crystal Eagle Indigenous Leadership Award, Center for Indigenous Studies, University of Kansas (Spring 2005). She was named both a Kellogg Minority Serving Institutions Leadership Program Fellow and an American Indian Higher Education Consortium Fellow in 2003, and an American Indian College Fund Mellon Award Fellow in 2004. From 1998 to the present, she served at various times on Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Education, Social Services and Constitution committees, and the Nation’s Social Service Advisory Board.

Chenault will lead a BIE-operated university which has been educating American Indians and Alaska Natives from the nation’s federally recognized tribes for almost 130 years. Opened on September 1, 1884, as the United States Industrial Training School with a focus on agricultural education in grades one through five, the school was known as Haskell Institute throughout Indian Country until 1970 when it was transformed into a two-year higher education institution and renamed Haskell Indian Junior College. In 1993, the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs approved changing the school’s name to its current form.

Haskell has grown from its original 22 students to an average enrollment today of over 1,000 each semester from tribes across the United States. It offers associate and baccalaureate programs accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and integrates American Indian and Alaska Native cultures into its curricula. Students may transfer to another baccalaureate degree-granting institution or go directly into the workforce. For more information, visit the Haskell Indian Nations University website.

The Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs oversees the Bureau of Indian Education, which operates the federal school system for American Indian and Alaska Native children from the federally recognized tribes. The BIE director is directly responsible for implementing federal education programs and laws, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, in 183 elementary and secondary day and boarding schools on 64 reservations in 23 states serving over 40,000 students. The BIE also funds or operates off-reservation boarding schools and peripheral dormitories near reservations for students attending public schools. In addition, the BIE provides post secondary education opportunities to American Indians and Alaska Natives by offering higher education scholarships, providing operational support funding to 26 tribal colleges and universities and two tribal technical colleges, and by directly operating two institutions of higher learning: Haskell and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M.

Laura Moriarty

Laura Moriarty, 1993 B.S.W.

Laura Moriarty graduated from the B.S.W. program in 1993. She is currently working as a professor of creative writing at the University of Kansas and continues to write fiction novels. Moriarty’s fourth novel, The Chaperone, was released last year and awarded The New York Times bestseller and the USA Today #1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer. It was recently announced that Fox Searchlight acquired the worldwide rights to The Chaperone with plans to turn the novel into a movie.

Moriarty started her writing career during her B.S.W. practicum. She became very interested in the patients’ stories, and one day, she decided to start writing down her interactions with patients. Instead of writing down her own thoughts, she decided to write the stories from the perspectives of the patients.

Moriarty believes that her social work career shaped her writing career. Her social work background allows her to understand her characters and see them in a different light. The values she learned in school made her aware of the complexities of family dynamics. It truly sparked her passion for writing.

Sam Finke

Sam Finke, 2004 M.S.W.

Sam Finke graduated from the B.S.W. program in 2003 and the M.S.W. program in 2004. Since graduating, Sam has held various positions within government agencies. Currently, she is the press advance lead and special assistant for The White House. In this position, she assists in planning and preparation of official domestic and international events for the President of the United States.

Finke never intended to work in politics. She says it was a fortunate accident. She was graduating with her M.S.W. and had no idea what she wanted to do with her degree. The only thing she was certain about is her passion for community organizing/service. She was also fascinated with how the political process affected a social worker’s ability to work with clients and within their organizations; however, at the time she didn’t know how to combine the two passions. After graduating, Finke applied and accepted a position working in Nevada on Senator Harry Reid’s campaign. After that, she found her calling and the rest has been history.

Finke’s current job is something that she has dreamed of since she had the opportunity of doing press advance on the Clinton campaign in 2008. She loves her job because it is rewarding and exhilarating all at the same time. She has had the opportunity to meet and work with incredible people from all over the world. She has been able to see things that she never dreamed of seeing such as the Blue Mosque in Turkey, the Kremlin in Russia, the beautiful countryside of Kosovo and the Nobel Peace Price ceremony in Norway just to name a few.

Photo taken in Rio on Sugar Loaf Mountain

Joel Karman

Joel Karman, 1996 M.S.W.

Joel Karman graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s of arts in psychology in 1992 and a master’s of social work in 1996. In high school, Karman wanted to go into journalism and chose KU for it journalism program. However, prior to stepping foot on the KU campus, Karman’s mother was in a terrible car accident, which landed her in a coma for two years. This life-changing event placed Karman on a path he never imagined. However, the people he interacted with at the hospital along with a professor at KU influenced and encouraged him to change his career path. After graduating with his BA, Karman took a year off of school to grow as a person and then decided to come back to KU to obtain his M.S.W.

After graduating with his M.S.W., Karman started working as a transplant social worker in a hospital in Chicago, Illinois. This position was just his entry into the health system. After five years of working as a transplant social worker, Karman decided he wanted to have a more global impact and decided to move into hospital administration. By moving up the ladder and also obtaining a master’s in public health policy administration, Karman has held multiple director level positions within the hospital system. Currently, Karman is the associate hospital director at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System where he manages 35 departments and roughly 400 employees. Karman continues to use his social work license by working at NorthShore University HealthSystem on the weekends. Even though Karman wanted to have more of a global impact, he still didn’t want to give up the one-on-one contact with patients. By working on the weekends as a social worker, he is allowed the best of both worlds. He spends his weekdays in hospital administration and his weekends on-call for the department of psychiatry for those in crisis in the emergency department.

Karman thinks a social work degree is a great base for multiple career paths. He believes his social work degree has helped him communicate better with a variety of different people and personalities, which is a crucial aspect of almost any job, but especially crucial in his hospital administration positions where he has worked with and managed multiple departments and staff.

Paul Gutierrez

Paul Gutierrez, 2009 M.S.W.

Paul Gutierrez graduated from the M.S.W. program in 2009. Since graduating, Gutierrez has worked in direct therapy and counseling at the Mattie Rhodes Center in Kansas City. One of his job duties at Mattie Rhodes was to help with the annual Day of the Dead event. When planning for the event, Gutierrez had an idea to have businesses in the area participate in the event. Not only would this bring more attention to the event and the center, it was sure to help revive the businesses in the area. Gutierrez took it upon himself to start the conversation with the business owners. After going door to door and receiving positive feedback, he decided to start a community group who would meet regularly and discuss other ways to promote the area. With Gutierrez continuing to lead the charge, the group has since come up with the name 17th and Summit, created a logo, and started a Facebook page, website and directory.

Because of his creative and entrepreneurial skills, Gutierrez was named one of 34 KC Business’ Rising Stars in 2012. In addition, this project has sparked a new passion for Gutierrez, and he wants to continue to help in this way.

Gutierrez Photo: As seen in KC Business, photo by Gary Rohman

Adele Falk

Adele Falk, M.S.W. student

My name is Adele Falk. I’m working on my master’s of social work at the University of Kansas in Overland Park.

Music was important to me in high school so that’s what I studied in college. I was trained as an opera singer as an undergraduate, but I realized I didn’t want to make it a career.

I started volunteering at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, or MOCSA, the rape crisis center in Kansas City. Eventually I decided I wanted to work in victim services. Therefore, I needed a degree in a related field, which meant a social work graduate degree.

One main reason I chose KU in Overland Park is the faculty and staff are so accommodating. I have mild autism, and it’s important for me to go to a school where I’ll find support if I need it. Student Services and my professors helped me meet my academic goals. Even though all schools are supposed to do that, it doesn’t mean they all do.

I also chose KU’s master’s program because the administration and advocacy concentration offers classes in topics like public policy and community organizing – for what I want to do.

I would love to get a job in public policy, advocating for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence so I can work with legislators to change legislation. That is my passion, and my degree from KU in Overland Park will help me stand out among the rest and make a difference.

Felicia Mitchell

Felicia Mitchell, Ph.D. student

Felicia Mitchell is a KU School of Social Welfare doctoral student with a clear path and ambition for social work that has grown throughout her education and work experience. As a freshman at KU, Felicia joined the First Nations Student Association as a way to get involved and meet new people. At the time she didn’t realize that by just wanting to meet new people, she would learn so much about herself in the process. As she explained her interests and background to others in the group, one person spoke up and said, “you sound like a social worker.” At the time, Felicia didn’t really know what that meant or what social workers really do, so she decided to do a little research. After looking into the profession and major, she realized a social work degree fit with her personal values and her need to give back to the community. Her newfound friend was exactly right. Social work was the perfect major for her. By finding a major that she was passionate about, it sparked her interest in education in general. She wanted to further her knowledge of social work, so she decided to go on and obtain her master’s of social work as well.

After attaining her master’s of social work, Felicia found herself working with minority populations experiencing health disparities. Her specific work with tribal communities and diabetes prevention and self-management programs led her to her true passion and decision to go back to school. Most of her work in the field was individually based programing and services, which was extremely effective for the individual; however, she started to see the issue on a more macro level, as a community or societal issue. She started to wonder if there was a way to help on a larger scale, such as providing programs that support the community as a whole and aid in preventing the progression and spread of diabetes within Native communities. This change in thinking made her realize she wanted to go back to school to continue to research these issues and help educate future social workers.

Margaret Lloyd

Margaret Lloyd, Ph.D. student

Margaret Lloyd, Ph.D. candidate, chose to attend KU School of Social Welfare because she wanted to work with Jody Brook. She met Jody while she was working as a children’s program facilitator at First Call (the Kansas City affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence). Margaret was very interested in Jody’s community practice-based research and her preference for incorporating quantitative and qualitative analysis to paint a more complete picture of her inquiry. Margaret wanted to learn from Jody about how social workers were improving outcomes for children, adults, and families affected by substance abuse.

“Getting a research assistantship with Jody that would cover the cost of my education and provide a stipend made coming to the KU School of Social Welfare a no-brainer. I was also accepted without an M.S.W. and was able to continue living in Kansas City, so the short commute was another perk.”

Margaret is focusing on the intersection of substance abuse, child well being, and the legal system. She is concentrating on her dissertation research on the influence of drug testing in child welfare courts.

Even though it is still early in her career, Margaret has had the opportunity to conduct community-based research at two family drug courts.

“Family drug courts are an innovative approach to addressing substance abuse among child welfare involved families, but best practices within family drug court programs haven’t been systematically evaluated. The results of that study are being published in the peer-reviewed literature.”

She has also been able to travel to Hong Kong to present the initial findings at a global social sciences conference and hopes those efforts will help move future research, practice, and policy in the right direction.

“I have had a phenomenal experience at KU. I have put in 110 percent and have gotten that back plus more. I’ve had more opportunities to learn, grow, push myself, and transform into a better researcher, scholar, and advocate, than I could have ever imagined.”

While working with Jody, Margaret has worked on two of the Regional Partnership Grant projects, one serving families at risk of entering the child welfare system in Oklahoma and one serving families involved in family drug court in Iowa. Both of the sites have fully implemented the Strengthening Families Program, which is an evidence-based family skills program. The Iowa site has also implemented the Celebrating Families program, which is designed specifically for families with substance abuse. She has also learned about practice-based research as a result of working on those projects.

Margaret has had the opportunity to provide extensive technical assistance to the clinical workers at each site, including educating them about the process of research, including informed consent procedures, data collection and management, data entry, and other aspects of program implementation. 

“Building relationships with the clinical workers who are implementing the program we are researching has been integral.  Jody calls this approach “researcher-in-environment,” an approach I intend to adopt when I’m eventually heading up projects myself.  She sets the example of the type of researcher I want to be.”

“The mentoring relationship between a GRA (in this case, Margaret) and her faculty mentor (me) provides a forum through which doctoral students can learn about many aspects of academic life. In this case, by working with Margaret on research projects, I was able to teach her about the content and process of research, and show her about the daily realities of applied research. She has been able to take the content of her courses and watch it 'come to life' in the work that we do together. It's been wonderful!” Jody Brook, assistant professor, KU School of Social Welfare.  

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