Doctoral Graduate Awarded 2021 GADE for Educational Leadership in Doctoral Education

Kia Bentley

Dr. Kia Bentley (PhD, 1987), professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), was awarded by the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE) the 2021 GADE for Education Leadership in Doctoral Education.

The award is given to current or former GADE members who have shown a strong commitment and made significant contributions to advancing social work doctoral education. GADE comprises more than 80 social work doctoral program directors worldwide with the primary purpose of promoting rigor in doctoral education in social work, focusing on preparing scholars, researchers and educators who function as stewards of the discipline for more than forty years.

“I am pleased about this moment of recognition and validation, knowing how rare they can be,” said Dr. Bentley. “I am thankful to my nominator, Dr. Thyer, one of my mentors from Florida State, who has been in my corner since day one of my own doctoral program.”

From 1999 until 2012, Dr. Bentley led the VCU School of Social Work’s Doctoral Program. An active GADE member during this period and for several years afterward, Dr. Bentley commissioned updated GADE Guidelines for Quality in Doctoral Programs in Social Work in 2013. She also chaired the conference committee that year, bringing the GADE conference to Richmond, Virginia and securing Brené Brown as the keynote speaker.

“I have known Dr. Bentley for over 40 years and have followed with keen interest her wonderful achievements in social work education and scholarship, highlighted by her contributions to doctoral educational leadership,” wrote her nominator, Dr. Bruce Thyer, a distinguished research professor at Florida State University College of Social Work and the 2020 recipient of the GADE for Education Leadership in Doctoral Education award.

Dr. Bentley looks back on her time with GADE as a very positive experience that left a lasting influence on her life and career. “There were some deep connections formed with other directors over the years who were a source of much support, not to mention fun and frivolity,” she recollected. “It was, and is, a true think tank for sharing ideas about doctoral education, and literally everyone is so committed to excellence in research and advancing the field of social work through scholarship.”

Looking back on her tenure as the doctoral program director at VCU, Dr. Bentley is most proud of creating what she calls “a culture of completion,” where policies and practices were designed to highlight students’ movement towards the successful completion of their doctoral education. “Success was defined as a positive, nurturing learning experience within a strong sense of community and collaboration,” emphasized Dr. Bentley. “The hope was for graduates to have a clear professional identity, mission and complete dissertation product that made an impact and made them proud.”

Dr. Bentley is especially proud to see several of VCU’s doctoral graduates as members of GADE, who serve as program directors at their educational organizations. She maintains a strong connection with former students and facilitates a peer mentoring group with four graduates who are now social work educators. “We meet twice a semester to challenge each other with professional development questions, bouncing ideas about our own research, and process an interesting article that one of us has chosen,” she shared.

A member of the peer group Dr. Cory Cummings, assistant professor of social work at Nazareth College, recalls entering his doctoral education unsure about what it meant to be a social work scholar. “Kia both modeled this and gave me the space to define it for myself,” he reflected.

Dr. Rachel Casey, an assistant professor at the University of Southern Maine and another peer group member, recalls how invaluable the group was as a social work scholar. “She has consistently been clear of vision, yet eager for new learning, vulnerable yet never shying away from challenges, and always authentic,” said Dr. Casey, describing Dr. Bentley. “These are qualities that I aspire to as a scholar and as a person.”

Dr. Bentley will be presented with the certificate and monetary award at the Doctoral Student Award Breakfast on Friday, November 5th, during the 2021 Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Annual Program Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

"From left to right: VCU social work doctoral alumni with Professor Kia J. Bentley, PhD: Jenny Crowell Thompson (PhD 2007), Jen Keast Charles (PhD2015), Dr. Bentley, Rachel Casey (MSW 2012, PhD 2018), Cory Cummings (PhD 2017) and Mel Bellin (MSW 1998,  PhD 2006)."

From left to right: VCU social work doctoral alumni with Professor Kia J. Bentley, PhD: Jenny Crowell Thompson (PhD 2007), Jen Keast Charles (PhD2015), Dr. Bentley, Rachel Casey (MSW 2012, PhD 2018), Cory Cummings (PhD 2017) and Mel Bellin (MSW 1998,  PhD 2006).

Tuesday, November 2, 2021 - 03:02 PM
Last updated: Thu, 12/02/2021 - 04:20 PM