Wayne State School of Social Work announces 2024 Teaching and Service Award recipients

For over 89 years, the Wayne State University School of Social Work has been committed to quality teaching and community engagement that encourages cultural humility, benefits the community, and pays attention to social, economic, and environmental justice. In support of this mission and Wayne State’s commitment to accelerate mobility for our students through engaged teaching methods that utilize Detroit’s rich urban resources, we annually call on students, faculty, and staff to nominate faculty and staff for teaching awards. Additionally, we recognize faculty and staff that empower health and prosperity through meaningful community partnernships via our annual service awards. 

Each year, our students nominate full-time and part-time professors who they believe exemplify excellence in the classroom. These nominees are not just great social workers—they also have a unique gift for communicating the essential concepts of social work practice and research in a way that makes them exciting, accessible, and memorable, so their students draw upon them for years to come.

Social Work Teaching Awards

J. Lloyd AllenJ. Lloyd Allen, PhD joined Wayne State University’s School of Social Work in 2017 as an assistant professor. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia and his MSW from Florida International University. His research interests include gender and sexuality, HIV policy and advocacy, mental health and Black/African American gay men, program evaluation, and gender inequality. His dissertation, “Parent-Child Communications with Self-Identified Out Gay Men: A Qualitative Study,” helped to unearth some unique insights regarding how to improve better policies, procedures, and interventions that may effectively reduce HIV infection rates, improve self-esteem among gay men and address potential mental health issues among gay males. Over the years, Allen has amassed a vast amount of social work clinical experience as well as helped to coordinate, oversee, and evaluate several public health, mental health, HIV/AIDS, and STI infection programs that affected LGBT individuals.

Allen was nominated because he “demonstrates a strong commitment to students and teaching and learning by constantly challenging his students.” His teaching strategies were noted as “effective because he is very flexible and understanding. He takes into consideration that his students have busy lives outside of school and will work with his students so they can have the best outcomes possible.” One student noted that Allen “made a demonstrable impact on my intellectual and professional development, as well as who I am as a person. I appreciate the time he takes to make thoughtful comments on my assignments, and his feedback has been very valuable for me.” Further, they appreciated “that he takes the time to make thought-provoking points and challenge my views will only make me a better social worker in the future.” They noted that Allen deserves this award because he is a leader, hardworking, and really cares for his students.

Suzanne BrownSuzanne Brown, PhD joined the Social Work faculty in 2012 as an assistant professor and was promoted in 2018 as an associate professor with tenure. She received her Ph.D. in 2012 from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Currently, she is the coordinator of the interpersonal practice concentration and was recently named the acting associate dean of academic and faculty affairs. Brown’s expertise focuses on mothers with substance use disorders, co-occurring substance use, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Her research also focuses on attachment and reflective functioning in mothers with substance use disorders and neurobiological dimensions of addiction and trauma. She has extensive experience providing clinical services and is the former clinical director of an outpatient mental health organization.

Brown’s students nominated her for a 2024 Teacher of the Year Award because they have "individually and collectively benefited from her stellar clinical and research expertise, dedication to her students, and wise counsel in guiding them." They noted that her teaching methodology "transcends conventional boundaries, transforming the classroom into a dynamic space where theory meets practice. She makes magic happen in the classroom." Her students also described Brown as having "equal parts humor, inquisitiveness, and an incisive eye for what was core to each of our research agendas," which 'brought the research process alive." They appreciate her "unwavering dedication to our academic and professional growth" and her "meticulous attention to each student's unique needs and interests."

Anthony KingAnthony King, PhD is a part-time professor at Wayne State University School of Social Work. He has a B.A., Masters, and Ph.D. in Social Work. He's worked as a professor at various universities, where he taught a variety of social work courses. King also served as a consultant to community corrections agencies and programs. King's research on criminal justice populations and African Americans' attitudes toward marriage has been published in scholarly journals and edited books. King is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army Reserves, and the Missouri and Alabama National Guard. King served as an enlisted Marine and commissioned Army Reserves officer, as a mortar man, military police officer, platoon leader/ detachment commander, psychological operations officer, and social work officer.

King was nominated for the 2024 Teacher of the Year Award for his “outstanding contributions to teaching and social justice advocacy.” His students noted, “his passion, expertise, and unwavering dedication to his students set him apart as a truly exceptional educator and mentor.” His students “learned what it means to go beyond traditional boundaries and pursue creative thinking and solutions on social justice issues.” His lectures are described as “captivating journeys through the intricate landscapes of social justice.” Further, they noted that King “possesses a remarkable ability to contextualize complex theories and concepts, making them accessible and relevant to our everyday lives.” Further, they noted that King “creates a safe and inclusive space where students from diverse backgrounds feel valued and heard. He encourages us to challenge our assumptions, confront discomfort, and embrace the discomfort of growth.”

Social Work Service Awards

Juanitta Hill Juanitta Hill has worked at Wayne State University since 1986. She serves as a co-building coordinator and is responsible for addressing business office requests. Additionally, Hill prepares hiring paperwork for staff and part-time non-instructional assignments and processes cash receipts and deposits. Finally, she trains faculty and staff on Travel Wayne and troubleshoots issues that arise.

Her colleagues nominated Hill because she “embodies the very essence of what it means to be an exceptional colleague” and “exemplifies dedicated service, making her an indispensable pillar within the Dean's Office and the wider School of Social Work community.” Her colleagues appreciate her “infectious enthusiasm and energy that makes interactions with her relaxed, yet purposeful. She is a person who exemplifies that spirit of collaboration and teamwork.” They noted that she “approaches every task with a positive mindset and willingness to learn and grow,” and she “fosters a culture of kindness, cooperation, and mutual respect within the School.” Additionally, “her attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile have consistently elevated the effectiveness of the school and its operations.”

Andre IadipaoloAndre Iadipaolo, MSW is an academic services officer II, focusing on student retention and recruitment. Iadipaolo also leads the Social Work Student Alliance, working alongside the various social work student organizations to implement student activities, resources, and advocacy projects. His work with students seeks to create rich professional engagement opportunities outside the in-person and virtual classrooms. Iadipaolo received his MSW with a concentration in Community Development from Wayne State University in May 2020. He specializes in capacity building and small-group development and is particularly interested in voting rights, equitable access, and community organization. Before arriving at the Wayne State School of Social Work, Iadipaolo worked as an outreach specialist at the non-profit group Transportation Riders United, where he advocated for more and better public transportation services across Metro Detroit.

Iadipaolo's colleagues nominated him for his exceptional service and dedication to the school. They identified his standout qualities “as his proactive involvement in event planning and content creation for various activities.’ His enthusiasm for his work with students was described as “contagious, and he consistently provides constructive feedback and innovative ideas to enhance programming, student services, and support.” His colleagues noted that Iadipaolo has “leveraged his connections with faculty and staff to enrich the experiences of current and prospective students. His ability to connect with individuals across the school and university community has not only enhanced the visibility of our social work programs but has also contributed significantly to student preparation for professional practice.” Further, they noted his initiatives have “not only increased student engagement but has also fostered a supportive and inclusive environment for students to thrive.”

Kess BallentineKess Ballentine, PhD joined Wayne State University’s School of Social Work as an assistant professor in 2021. Prior to earning her doctorate, she worked as an elementary special educator, as well as on a NIMH-funded study of group home care for children with mental health and behavioral disorders. Ballentine has also worked as a domestic violence advocate and a community program developer. Through her practice, she has gained insight into education, mental health, and child welfare and is now applying this knowledge as an engaged researcher on efforts to improve family and child well-being among lower-income families. Ballentine is passionate about community impact and teaching. She is also committed to expanding diversity in social work practice and leadership through teaching and supporting historically and systematically excluded students. She invests time in collaborative mentorship and advocacy with graduate students, alumni, community members, and colleagues. She serves on the advisory board for the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies program and is the faculty advisor for Rad Social Workers.

Ballentine was nominated for her work to “enhance camaraderie among faculty and staff at the SSW, and she continuously engages in actions to make her desires a reality.” She has “worked tirelessly to incorporate Restorative Practices into instructional activities and everyday engagement within the SSW.” Ballentine authored a comprehensive guide on Restorative Practice for faculty and staff with strategies and guidance, which the committee noted has helped advance social work education. They noted that she is “successful in balancing her scholarship while being intentional in creating a work environment where everyone feels included.” They applauded her “initiatives on inclusive classroom design and teaching practices, noting these actions of curricular advocacy, leadership, and development speak to her talents for innovation and creativity.”

Faculty spotlight

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