Wayne State School of Social Work announces its 2020 teaching and service award recipients

For over 85 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, we annually call on students, faculty, and staff to nominate faculty and staff for teaching and service awards.

Social Work Teaching Awards

Each year, our students nominate full-time and part-time professors that 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.

Lisa O'DonnellLisa O’Donnell joined the Social Work faculty in 2017 as an Assistant Professor. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan’s Joint Ph.D. program in Social Work and Clinical Psychology. Her area of expertise focuses on the functional and quality of life deficits of individuals with bipolar disorder and other severe mental illnesses. She teaches advanced clinical courses, including cognitive-behavioral theory and practice and DSM-5.

O’Donnell’s students nominated her to be the 2020 Full-time Teacher of the Year because of her dedication to their learning: “She will do everything she can to make her lessons fit for her class.” “She understands that graduate school can be overwhelming and stressful and is always willing to help her students succeed.” Her students also praised O’Donnell for utilizing active learning approaches, including case examples, role-play activities, and non-conventional learning methods. Further, they appreciate her compassion: “You can easily tell that she cares deeply for each and every one of her studentsIn her classroom, she exemplifies the level of dedication and empathy we need to have in order to be amazing social workers. She shows us with each class what it takes to not only be good social workers but phenomenal ones. Her passion, kindheartedness, and commitment to her students are exactly why she deserves this award.

Rebecca GerlachRebecca Gerlach joined the Social Work faculty in 2018 as a part-time faculty member. She received her MSW in 2012 and is working on a Ph.D. from the Institute for Clinical Social Work. She teaches individual and group practice courses to BSW and MSW students. Her students nominated her to be the 2020 Part-time Teacher of the Year for her passion for social work and compassion for students. “Through this trying time of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been more than understanding and accommodating to my needs and the class as a whole.” Students noted that Gerlach “uses humor to make us relaxed, comfortable, and free in her classroom.” She strives to “create an inclusive classroom environment to meet the needs of every student. I truly believe she deserves this award. Wayne State and all of her past, current, and future students are blessed to have such an amazing individual to lead them and prepare them for their future careers.” 

Social Work Service Awards

Sarah DoyleSarah Doyle joined the School in May 2012 as an MSW Program Academic Advisor and is currently the Academic Services Office II in the Office of Field Education. Doyle received her MSW at Wayne State and served four years as an active member of the School’s Alumni Board. She currently serves on the Detroit Perinatal Wellness Coalition Board, a member of the Michigan Statewide Perinatal Mood Disorder Coalition, WSU Gender Equity’s, and the Child Care and Lactation committees. Doyle continues her practice as a licensed social worker with a focus on maternal mental health and has contributed to a campus-wide study on breastfeeding in the workplace and breastfeeding support to female employees. The study highlighted initiatives across campus to support nursing mothers at Wayne State, which led to University receiving the Michigan Breastfeeding-friendly Workplace Award in 2018. Doyle was nominated and selected by her colleagues for a 2020 Service of the Year Award because “she is in the top tier of professionals who engage in advising students in higher education.” She “has a desire to continue to develop her skills and seek opportunities that will continuously support and challenge her students and strengthen the programs at WSU.” It was noted that Further, Doyle was described by nominees as an individual who “strives to create an inclusive environment to meet the contemporary needs of all students.”

Neva NahanNeva Nahan is the School’s Coordinator for Research. She received her M.A. in applied sociology at Wayne. Nahan has been with Wayne for over 30 years and with the School for almost 20 years. Nahan assists faculty with the development and production of research proposals. She implements the School’s assessment, particularly for reaffirmation with the Council of Social Work Education, and chairs the School’s Assessment Committee. She is an active participant on numerous curriculum committees. Nahan is a member of the Wayne State Internal Review Board, charged with the protection of human subjects in research. She is a founding member and former president of the Michigan Association for Evaluation. Nahan’s colleagues nominated and selected her for a 2020 Service of the Year Award for her outstanding service to our students, staff, and faculty. They noted that she is “well known within the campus community as a competent researcher, staff member, and part-time faculty member.”  Any staff or faculty member who seeks her assistance is “consistently met with positive affirmation, direction, and support.” Nahan is a natural champion for others who desire to grow and help others. She is kind, nurturing, has a positive attitude – traits that embody an excellent teacher, colleagues, and staff member!”

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