Above and beyond: Wayne State Social Work faculty member receives Excellence in Teaching Award

Wayne State University School of Social Work Associate Professor Suzanne Brown has been named a recipient of the 2021 Wayne State (WSU) President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Suzanne Brown smilingThe President's Awards for Excellence in Teaching recognizes faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to teaching. Brown is one of ten 2021 recipients from across the University. Since 1977, 288 WSU faculty members have been recognized for their teaching with these awards.

Brown received her PhD in 2012 from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH and her MSW in 1994 from the Smith College School of Social Work.  At the Mandel School, she was a NIDA-funded research fellow on a study of the social networks of women in substance abuse treatment, and conducted her own research on the parenting competence, parental bonding history, and social networks of mothers with addictions. Currently Brown is Principal Investigator on a HRSA funded student training grant on Trauma Informed Integrated Healthcare.  She also collaborates with colleagues in research related to family members of individuals with opioid use disorders, parenting in contexts of risk, and the role of PTSD and adverse childhood experiences in adult social network composition. Brown is an independently Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Michigan.  She was Clinical Director of an outpatient mental health organization in Boston, prior to receiving her PhD, and was responsible for supervising outpatient mental health services, case management services, and day treatment programs for adults and elders with persistent mental illness. 

Nominated by fellow faculty and students, Brown has displayed her commitment to the betterment of our Detroit home both in and outside of the classroom. Teaching at both the masters and doctoral levels, Brown has demonstrated her innate ability to pivot between different teaching methods to keep students engaged and respected. According to MSW student Emily Bremer “Dr. Brown has demonstrated her excellence as an educator by demonstrating that education, the act of learning, is not fundamentally about a teacher passively transmitting knowledge to students. But in fact, education is about the relationship that is created in the classroom and the trust and engagement created between a teacher and students.” As a doctoral advisor and dissertation chair, Brown has supported numerous PhD students as they undertook their dissertation project and passed along valuable lessons guiding them beyond the classroom. Alum Lori Vanderwill, PhD noted, “Throughout Dr. Brown’s time as the chair of my dissertation committee, she provided structure, support, and showed genuine interest in my success at Wayne State and beyond. I am now a research scientist in a tier 1 research university working on national grants with organizations across the country to improve the child welfare system, and I owe that in part to the support I received from Dr. Brown and the knowledge that she bestowed upon me. Her lessons continue to guide my path as a social scientist.”

Brown continues to rise to the occasion and spearhead new projects addressing the needs of students and the Detroit community. In spring 2020 Brown was recognized by the WSU Board of Governors as a recipient of the Warrior Unsung Hero for her work coordinating, launching and managing a crisis hotline for healthcare workers in metro Detroit. Again, in November 2020 Brown helped to create a hotline for caregivers of older adults. Brown displayed not only her empathy, creativity and selflessness with these projects, but also took the additional time-consuming step of making the caregiver hotline a learning opportunity for students who she trained to support the hotline. According to her colleague and co-PI on a substance use practitioner student training grant, Social Work Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Anwar Najor-Durack, “Dr. Brown is continuing to develop new partnerships  to support and strengthen our students as well as our community agencies while helping to connect students with research and practice experiences based directly in the communities.”

Dr. Brown models what it means to be a social worker through her actions, activities and commitments every day. She cares deeply about translating and transferring knowledge and practice wisdom to students, faculty and the community at large. I greatly appreciate her willingness to share her incredible skills and talents with our social work community. – Social Work Dean Sheryl Kubiak

Learn more about Brown’s research and writing focused on traumatic stress, substance use disorders, interpersonal relationships, and clinical social work practice on her Social Work faculty profile.

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