Month: June 2009

UConn Social Work Professor, Student and Alumnus honored with top awards from NASW/CT 2009: Lirio Negroni, Educator of the Year, Celaura Estrada MSW Student of the Year and Christopher Donovan, Recipient of Special Recognition Award

Storrs, CT – Lirio K. Negroni, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut’s School of Social Work, has been named the 2009 Educator of the Year by the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Also honored were UConn student Celaura Estrada as the NASW/CT 2009 MSW Student of the Year and UConn alumnus and Connecticut Speaker of the House of Representatives Christopher Donovan, who received the chapter’s Special Recognition Award.

The three award winners will be recognized at the chapter’s 2009 annual awards dinner Thursday, June 18 in New Haven.

Negroni was selected for her outstanding contributions to social work education nationally, regionally and in the state of Connecticut.

“Dr. Negroni is considered one of the leading social work educators on issues related to Latino and Latinas in social work in the United States,” says UConn School of Social Work Associate Dean Catherine M. Havens. Havens says Negroni’s charisma, energy and excitement as a teacher has made her an inspiration for students and an accomplished member of the faculty.

Lirio K. Negroni earned her bachelors and masters degrees in social work from the University of Puerto Rico and a Ph.D. in clinical social work/ research from Boston College. Since 1998 she has been educating and mentoring students at the UConn School of Social Work.

Negroni’s local, regional, and national service has positioned her as a Latina social worker and educator who has promoted Latino leadership, culturally competent practice and recruitment. She has also been active in the retention of Latinos in education, culturally competent mentoring and different community-university collaborations.

She currently serves as a faculty member of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Project, a program supported by the School of Social Work. She, along with several students and one other faculty member, recently traveled to Puerto Rico in June 2009 as part of the collaborative exchange program with the University of Puerto Rico’s schools of social work.

Celaura Estrada, a Norwalk native, is a 2009 graduate of the UConn School of Social Work having completed requirements for a masters of social work degree. Her degree concentration was in group work with a focus on mental health and substance abuse.

Estrada is being honored as NASW/CT 2009 MSW Student of the Year because of her exemplary academic record and contributions to the professional community.

While attending the School of Social Work, Estrada was involved in a number of school-related activities and events including serving as co-chair of the Latin American Student Organization. She participated in a focus group for the “Latino Health Summit,” an event sponsored by the UConn School of Social Work, The Center for Eliminating Health Disparities Among Latinos, Hispanic Health Council, Latino Policy Institute, Universal Health Care Foundation, and the Connecticut Health Foundation where more than 150 professionals from public and private organizations across many disciplines were brought together to address health conditions of particular concern to Latino communities. Estrada was also involved in a forum titled “Corporate Social Responsibility: The Cutting Edge of Business,” which was also co-sponsored by the School of Social Work and the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work.

She was a student representative on the planning committee for the 2008 Summer Puerto Rican Travel Study Project and was a participant in the recent Travel Study to Puerto Rico with several other students and two faculty members from the School of Social Work where she had the opportunity to increase her knowledge of the social work movement in Puerto Rico.

“Celaura is a role model and a successful Latina that has the capacity to embrace diverse groups.  She will be a leader in the social work profession because of her determination, passion, and commitment to equality for all society’s members,” states Associate Dean Havens, “Her uncanny ability to work with students, faculty and staff of diverse backgrounds is a true reflection of her well roundedness as a growing social work professional.”

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan is Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives representing the 84th Assembly District of Meriden.  He is the first MSW to achieve this public office, earning him the NASW/CT 2009 Special Recognition Award.

Christopher Donovan earned his masters degree in social work from the UConn School of Social Work, specializing in community organization. In addition, he formerly served as a member of the UConn School of Social Work Dean’s Advisory Committee and continues to mentor social work students who are interested in political advocacy.

“The School of Social Work is especially proud of our alumnus, Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan,” says Associate Dean Havens. “He is most deserving of this recognition by the Connecticut Chapter of NASW.”

Patricia Hartman, professional development coordinator for NASW/CT, said picking this year’s winners was easy.

“They were simply outstanding,” Hartman says. “The committee spent little time debating the obvious!”

The University of Connecticut’s School of Social Work is one of four graduate professional schools located in the Greater Hartford area. This proximity to the capital, one of the state’s areas of greatest need, enables these professional programs to help carry out the University’s public service mission, particularly to oppressed populations. The School of Social Work is located in its own building on the University’s Greater Hartford Campus in suburban West Hartford just four miles from downtown Hartford. For more information, please go to:

UCONN News Release

For more information:

Joanne Donati, (860) 570-9295,

Jessica Marciniak, (860) 486-0878,

#09093                                                                                                        June 17, 2009

Social Work Graduate Named “Unsung Hero” by the Connecticut Federal Executive Association

WEST HAVEN, Conn. – The Connecticut Federal Executive Association announced the winners of the 2009 “Excellence in Government” awards program at a May 8 ceremony held at Villa Capri in Wallingford. University of Connecticut School of Social Work graduate Donna LaVorgna Cramond, LCSW, MBA (class of 1973) was named the winner in the “Unsung Hero” category. Donna works for VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, Conn., where she is the social work department supervisor as well as coordinator for the Contract Nursing Home Program. Donna has worked for the VA for 32 years.

An avid runner, Donna was recognized for her efforts in organizing the inaugural Veterans Day 5k walk/run in 2008. Organizers had hoped the mid-week race would attract at least 75 entrants and were thrilled by the support from more than 250 entrants – including high school cross country teams and young children. The event was held on the grounds of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System West Haven campus. The race received extensive media coverage with proceeds benefitting indigent veterans who receive care at the hospital. Because of her efforts in the inaugural event, the healthcare system has decided to make this an annual event. Donna served as the race coordinator in addition to her regular duties as a supervisor in the social work department.

The Connecticut Federal Executive Association represents more than 20,000 federal employees here in the state. The “Excellence in Government” awards program is held annually to recognize the top federal employees in 15 categories. Winners are named at a ceremony during National Public Service Recognition Week which is observed the first full week in May.

Social work researcher explores treatment goals at end of life for older African Americans

Karen Bullock, Ph.D. has been awarded a Diversity Supplement Grant from NIH to explore treatment goals at end of life for older African Americans. As the principal investigator of the grant, Dr. Bullock will partner with a geriatrician at Yale University to carry out the study. This research supplements an RO1 grant awarded to Dr. Terri Fried at Yale University. In order to examine race as a primary variable in explaining end-of-life care decisions across groups, African American older adults in Hartford will be recruited to participate in the research, which will supplement the data on African American older adults in the New Haven area to increase racial diversity among research participants of RO1 research grant.

Advance directives are mechanisms that can be used to help patients receive optimal care at end of life. Individuals who engage in advance care planning (ACP) and use these tools to improve communication regarding care to be delivered or withheld are said to experience better care at end of life than those patients who do not complete advance directives. Unfortunately, Black patients who tend to have higher morbidity and mortality rates than their White counterparts are less likely to engage in advance care planning and to completion of advance directives than their White counterparts. Although meeting patients’ treatment preferences is a core tenet of quality end-of-life care, these preferences are frequently not met.  A necessary first step to meeting preferences is to improve advance care planning, the process by which patients express their preferences for future care in the case that they can no longer participate in decision-making. Few studies have sought to understand these racial differences in end-of-life care decision making. Dr. Karen Bullock’s previous research has documented racial differences in attitudes toward advance directives across racial groups. Her present research applies a model of health behavior change to ACP in order to determine the components, dimension, and scope of potential interventions to improve ACP.

To better understand why African Americans tend to under-utilize advance directives, it is imperative to include them as research participants in the exploration of treatment goals at end of life. “Because African Americans are less likely than their White counterparts to participate in medical research, our challenge to identify, recruit and enroll them in the study is one which NIH supports.” Dr. Bullock also says, “Fortunately, I have a number of African American community partners with whom I have established relationships over the years, who are willing and ready to assist in carrying out the research.”

“Ultimately, the intent of the research on Treatment Goals at the End-of-Life: The Role of Race in Advance Care Planning Decisions is to change care at the end of life to be more consistent with patients’ preferences.”  The intermediate goal is to improve the process of ACP.  In order to achieve these objectives, the immediate goal of this research is to apply models of health behavior change to ACP in order to determine the components, dimension, and scope of potential interventions to improve advance care planning.

Karen Bullock is a Recipient of the 2009 Women of Color Recognition Award

Karen Bullock has been named a recipient of the 2009 Women of Color Recognition Award. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the University and excellence in leadership, achievement, and service.

Dr. Bullock has served as chair of the Black Studies Substantive Area since 2002 where she is responsible for curriculum oversight and teaching courses. She currently serves as faculty advisor for the Organization of Black Social Work Students (OBSWS) at the UConn School of Social Work and provides leadership to student members. She has served on a number of committees in UCSSW as well as University-wide committees such as (Search Committee for the VP for Research & Dean of Graduate Education and the Committee for Excellence in Graduate & Professional Education). Dr. Bullock is an affiliate faculty member at the Center for Health Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), and participates in the Neag Cancer Center Breast Cancer Translation Research Group.

Karen also serves on several professional and community boards where she brings expertise in working with African American and Latino populations. The boards include Hartford Hospital Ethics Committee, Chrysalis Center, Inc., North Central Area Agency on Aging, Connecticut Multiultural Health Partnership and the Connecticut Coalition to Improve End-of-Life Care.

Dr. Bullock states her commitment to enhancing social capital and quality of life for Women of Color can be seen in the mentoring that she does with young people, especially those in higher education and in her involvement in university and community activities where minority women are often excluded. “I don’t mind being the only one (minority) at the table if it is going to create an opportunity to open the door for others to be present in the near future.”  Historically, women [and to a greater extent women of color] have been denied educational opportunities, leadership positions, professional equity and social capital.  Dr Bullock’s demonstrated commitment to serving as a role model to women of color is evidenced by her work with these women through her distinguished service to the university, academic and career achievements which are modeled for women of color, and the positive impact she has on the community through her research, scholarship and mentoring.

Annual International Day Features Disaster Experts

Three experts on social work roles in natural disasters were the featured speakers at the School of Social Work’s Annual International Day on April 8. Dr. Peta-Anne Baker and Ms Aldene Shillingford of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus in Jamaica and Dr. Letnie Rock, University of the West Indies, Barbados, shared their practice and research work in responding to natural disasters in the Caribbean. The Zachs room was also transformed into a gallery of multiculturalism, with student and faculty displays from diverse countries.

Dean Salome Raheim and Dr. Peta-Anne Baker

International Day has been an annual tradition at the School of Social Work for almost 20 years. The event features an academic presentation or panel on an important topic in international social work, plus food and displays celebrating the countries of origin of students and faculty. Other displays emphasize global problems or policy issues, such as human trafficking. The 2009 event included displays on Haiti, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Korea, Armenia, Mexico, Hungary and more. In addition, undergraduate students from the Greater Hartford Campus displayed posters on global issues that they had prepared for the global club in the branch. The role of social work in disaster work is a topic of increasing interest. Natural disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods cause large-scale human misery and displacement. Experts expect the incidence of severe weather-related disasters to increase due to climate change. As our speakers noted, social workers can play important roles in all phases of disaster work, from prevention and mitigation to response and recovery. Dr. Baker has been involved in projects in Jamaica that emphasize community participation and forward-looking development in rebuilding after hurricanes. Dr. Rock organized social work students to travel to Grenada as part of disaster response teams after Hurricane Ivan devastated the island. She has also recently participated in a disaster workshop sponsored by UNICEF. The UWI faculty members were accompanied on a two day visit to the University of Connecticut by 7 graduate students in social work and social policy. Their participation in the International Day event was an added benefit. (see separate article on the UWI visit and link. International Day is sponsored by the Center for International Social Work Studies at the School. The affiliated student organization, International Students and Company, co-sponsors the event and was particularly helpful in recruiting students to organize cultural displays.

April Visit By Faculty And Students From Jamaica And Barbados

Three faculty members and 7 graduate students from the University of the West Indies were hosted for a two-day visit to the School of Social Work in April. UWI faculty members Dr. Peta-anne Baker, Aldene Shillingford and Dr. Letnie Rock brought the group of social work and social policy students to the U.S. for the annual Social Work Day at the United Nations in New York. As part of their trip, they traveled to UConn to participate in the School of Social Work’s Annual International Day and other activities. A highlight of their visit was a meeting at the Legislative Office Building, where Representative Kenneth Green, MSW, and Representative Toni Walker, MSW, briefed the group on policy issues and the work of social work legislators. The students and faculty were greeted at a welcome dinner attended by UConn faculty and students and took part in the International Day activities (see separate article). Home hospitality was provided by faculty members Barris Malcolm and Lynne Healy and students Eva Csejtey and Shazia Chaudrey.

The visit was arranged as part of an ongoing linkage and exchange project between the social work program in Jamaica and the UConn School of Social Work. Initiated in 1993, the linkage relationship has resulted in several student exchanges for field placement and short term study-travel experiences and numerous faculty exchanges. Highlights of the collaboration were a co-sponsored international conference in 1999 and publication of a jointly edited special issue of the Caribbean Journal of Social Work. During the April visit,  Professors Baker, Shillingford and Rock met with Dean Salome Raheim, Associate Dean Catherine Havens, and Director of the International Center, Lynne Healy, to discuss ways to continue the partnership. One student from UConn is completing her second year field placement in Jamaica in summer 2009 under the agreement.