College of Social Work Celebrates Alumni Award and Scholarship Recipients
The College of Social Work at Florida State University hosted its 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award and Student Scholarship Awards dinner on Thursday, October 19th. The event honored five distinguished social work graduates and 2022-2023 student scholars.
More than $108K in scholarships were given in 2022-2023 to support undergraduate- and graduate-level social work students with interests in areas including child welfare, social policy, international social work, social work practice and military veterans.
Dean David W. Springer hosted the event along with faculty and administrators Jessica Greil-Burkhart, Jennifer Farinella, Fran Gomory and Vicky Verano.
The five CSW Alumni Award recipients included:
Distinguished Emeritus Alumni Award: Ginny Kennedy Palys
Virginia (Ginny) Kennedy Palys (MSW 1974, BSW 1973) recently retired after a 38-year career in healthcare association management as executive director of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians, which represents more than 1400 physicians practicing emergency medicine. At the same time, she served as the executive director of International Trauma Life Support, a charitable educational foundation dedicated to reducing death and disability from trauma through emergency care training. Ms. Kennedy Palys also previously practiced law working with a Washington, DC trade association working on federal legislative and regulatory food safety issues and as a defense attorney in federal health care litigation in Chicago.
Distinguished Young Alumni Award: Gabriela Holton
Gabriela Holton (BSW 2015, MSW 2021) is senior director of program services at Community Action Stops Abuse in St. Petersburg, Florida overseeing the delivery of trauma-informed quality services to survivors of domestic violence. Gabriela has played an integral part in creating systematic change for survivors of domestic violence. She brought the only Family Justice Center to Florida, a nationwide best practice model for public health and safety endorsed by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Family Justice Center provides comprehensive, collaborative, trauma-informed, free services together in one place. Gabriela also worked previously as a victim advocate with years of managerial and direct service experience. Her professional background includes working with victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, and financial exploitation.
Distinguished Social Work Educator Alumni Award: Kia Bentley
Kia J. Bentley (PhD 1987) spent her 33-year academic career at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Social Work. Upon her retirement in 2022, VCU Provost named her Emeriti Professor and the School of Social Work’s first Distinguished Career Professor. For 13 years, Dr. Bentley served as director of VCU’s Social Work PhD Program where she established a “culture of completion,” playing a role in the recruitment and graduation of more than 100 doctoral students with an 85% retention rate. She has published widely and presented extensively on the interface of social work and psychiatric medication, including the recent fifth edition of her textbook, The Social Worker & Psychotropic Medication: Toward Effective Collaboration with Clients, Families and Providers (Waveland Press).
Distinguished Social Work Practice Alumni Award: Indira Harris
Captain Indira Harris (MSW 2001, BS 1999) is a licensed clinical social worker, board-certified diplomat and an officer in the Commissions Corps of the US Public Health Service (USPHS). She spent the last 13 years in the USPHS providing leadership, mentorship, and expertise on behavioral health, resilience and meditation. She was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Commissioned Corps in 2010 and served at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Brag Army Military Installation in multiple capacities. She has also served with the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative as a public health advisor and the US Health Resources and Services Administration’s HIV/AIDS Bureau as a public health analyst. Capt. Harris is currently stationed with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Health Service Corps as chief of the Behavioral Health Unit since August 2018.
Distinguished Social Policy and Administration Alumni Award: Kimberly Boswell
Kimberly Boswell (MSW 1984) was sworn in as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health in December 2020. In this role, she has focused on furthering accessibility, interconnectedness, effectiveness and a just system of care for individuals served by the department. Ms. Boswell has more than 36 years of experience working with individuals with mental health challenges, substance use disorders and developmental disabilities. She has also served the department in multiple roles including chief of staff, associate commission for administration and director of human resources. Over the course of her career, Ms. Boswell worked as a planner to improve human service delivery systems, a program evaluator, a School to Work transition coordinator and served as a state office administrator for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.