Social Work Students Receive National Award

Russ DeGroat, Whitney Ghassani, Hannah Kimbrough, Paula Lodwick, Ashleigh Wall, Margot Yaeger, Paige Johnston, Charles Ronas, and Michael Collie. Photo by Ahn Dao Kolbe.
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Russ DeGroat, Whitney Ghassani, Hannah Kimbrough, Paula Lodwick, Ashleigh Wall, Margot Yaeger, Paige Johnston, Charles Ronas, and Michael Collie. Photo by Ahn Dao Kolbe.

The University of Arkansas Xi Epsilon chapter of Phi Alpha has been selected as a 2012 chapter service award recipient by the national organization. Phi Alpha, the national honors society for social work, chooses four of its nearly 400 chapters to honor each year. The Xi Epsilon chapter is part of the School of Social Work in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

“Our chapter has done an excellent job of enriching the U of A community,” said Michael Collie, assistant professor of social work and the chapter’s faculty advisor. “The work they have accomplished will make a difference far after they have graduated, and they have raised the bar of what can be done by a student organization.”

Xi Epsilon will receive a plaque, $500 to support the chapter’s efforts and the Phi Alpha mission, an invitation to participate in the poster competition at the 2012 Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting in Washington, D.C., and a $1000 reimbursement for the faculty advisor, president or proxy to attend the national meeting.

“Professional organizations like Phi Alpha are one of the many ways our faculty help prepare students for their careers,” said Robin Roberts, dean of Fulbright College. “Our students will soon enter a highly competitive professional environment. The connections they make and skills they gain through extra-curricular activities give them an advantage as they move into professional roles.”

The award was established to recognize chapter achievement in fulfilling the core values of the honor society and the social work profession and is intended to reward quality, effective and active chapters and to encourage further chapter involvement. As a national organization, the society seeks to provide a closer bond among students of social work and promote humanitarian goals and ideals while fostering high standards of education for social workers. Its membership includes those who have attained excellence in scholarship and achievement in the field.

“This is a huge honor and another example of the excellence that our students, faculty and staff consistently aim to display,” said Yvette Murphy-Erby, associate professor of social work and director of the school. “We are extremely proud of our Phi Alpha members for their high level of scholarship, the excellent service they provide and for earning this well-deserved award. To support the chapter’s efforts and to show appreciation for representing the school and the profession with excellence, the School of Social Work will provide stipends for two students to attend the annual program meeting to receive the award and participate in the poster competition.”

Some of the chapter’s award-winning activities included:

  • Hosting the director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill to discuss Arkansas’ failing grade in mental health and what can be done to improve services.
  • Collaborating with the Social Work Action Group to redecorate, paint and provide furniture for a room in the Veterans Administration Center where clients can gather and interact.
  • Raising scholarships and expense funds for ten students to attend the Arkansas National Association of Social Workers Conference n Hot Springs.
  • Providing resume writing and interview training for social work students.
  • Planning and hosting the spring 2012 Phi Alpha Forum that included a forum with First Lady Ginger Beebe, Oryx Cohen from the National Empowerment Center in Boston, Kim Arnold with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Arkansas and advocates from the Personal Empowerment Recovery Coalition.

Officers for the 2011-2012 academic year were Paula Lodwick, president; Russ DeGroat, vice president; Hannah Kimbrough, treasurer; and Stephanie Cochran, secretary. Officers for the 2012-2013 academic year are Tina Smith, president; Charles Ronas, vice president; Margo Yaeger, treasurer; and Paige Johnson, secretary. Collie has served as the chapter’s faculty advisor since 2010 and will continue to serve this year.


Michael Collie, clinical assistant professor, School of Social Wor
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Darinda Sharp, director of communications
School of Law


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