Three School of Social Work alumni were presented Distinguished Alumni Awards at the SSW All Class Reunion Lunch on Friday, October 21, 2016.
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes School of Social Work alumni whose achievements exemplify the values of the School of Social Work and who have made an exceptional impact on the profession, the community and/or Social Work education.
Ronald Feldman was honored for his significant impacts on social work education, research, scholarship, and the broader field of social welfare including his 2000-2001 Founding Co-Convener of the St. Louis Group for Excellence in Social Work Research and Education; his service as a member of the Board of Trustees of the William T. Grant Foundation; his service from 1988-1991 as Vice Chairman of the influential National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Social Work Research; his role from 1994-1996 as a Founding Officer and member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Social Work and Research; and, his contributions to the Institute of Medicine National Research Council. Feldman also served as dean of the Columbia University School of Social Work from 1986 to 2001.
"When I was a first year master's student at Michigan, Professor Ed Thomas suggested that I apply to the School's joint Ph.D. program. At the time I didn't even realize that a doctoral degree was available in social work! I followed his advice and have been grateful ever since. Michigan's doctoral program in social work and a social science always has provided the best possible preparation for a career that promotes research, knowledge development, and teaching to advance the quality of social work practice. Throughout my own career I have emulated Ed by recommending Michigan's program to countless students - and many now are my colleagues at America's best universities"
Marvella Ford, professor in the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Department of Public Health Services, was honored for her distinguished career in health disparities research in diverse underserved communities where her work has been significant in closing the gap in knowledge within cancer disparities research and for developing cancer educational programs targeting diverse underserved communities. In 2006, Ford was recruited by MUSC Hollings Cancer Center to create its Cancer Disparities Program demonstrating excellence in leadership and developing statewide partnerships to reduce cancer disparities. Ford is nationally recognized among cancer research scholars for her recruitment, retention and adherence studies with African Americans.
"My deep desire to study health disparities research at the University of Michigan was primarily due to losing all four of my grandparents to death before I was born," Ford said. "As part of my training in the aging program at the University of Michigan, I learned to critically evaluate scientific publications, develop my own plan of research, and write research proposals. The program prepared me well for a career of grant-funded applied research. I am grateful to stand on the shoulders of all of the giants in the health disparities research field! My parents laid the foundation for my focus on discovering solutions to the health disparities that impact our nation. They also taught me that no one succeeds alone. My strong network of family members, church family, friends, and collaborators has definitely strengthened my career. We are all stronger together."
Jessica (Jessie) Fullenkamp was honored for her work as the director of youth Programming at the Ruth Ellis Center, which is a youth social services agency with a mission to provide short-term and long-term residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. She also played an integral role in youth-driven programming Out in the System (OITS) aimed to give voice to LGBTQ youth in the Foster Care system. Her work extends through the design and training of Child Protective Service workers throughout Michigan.
"The most valuable and sustaining part of my education while at the University of Michigan School of Social Work is the importance of positionality and intersectionality," Fullenkamp said. "Knowing yourself, understanding how your social identities have had a profound impact on experiences of privilege and oppression is always applicable to your work. Also, recognizing how the intersection of an individual's social identities offers unique perspectives which strengthen our work."