Alumni Awards and 75th Anniversary Celebration

On April 29, 2023, the School of Social Work celebrated its 75th Anniversary and the 2nd Annual Alumni Awards. The details and awards winners are described below. Congratulations to our amazing alumni winners!

Alumni Award Winners 2023

Alumni Award Winners 2023

2023 Winners

Charon R. Smalls, CLAS '07, MSW2 '17

Emerging Social Worker Leader

Charon R. Smalls, CLAS '07, MSW2 '17
School Social Worker for CREC at Museum Academy SEARAC

This award honors an alumnus social worker who is at the beginning phase of their career and who has demonstrated outstanding leadership as a developing professional.

Charon Smalls is a native of New Haven, CT and transitioned to the Hartford area in 2012. In 2017, he graduated from UCONN School of Social Work with his MSW.

Charon is currently a school social worker for CREC at Museum Academy in Bloomfield, CT. He is serves in the following organizations:

-       Interval House CT, Board of Directors

-       Achievement First Hartford, Board of Directors

-       Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, Beta Sigma Lambda chapter, Executive Board as Social Action Chair

-       National Pan-Hellenic Council of Greater Hartford, Executive Board as Chaplain

Charon lives in Bloomfield with his wife, UConn SSW Alumna, Dr. Samantha Smalls, 2 children, Isaiah and Nia, and his fish, Bluey.

Precious Price, MSW ‘16

The Trailblazer Award

Precious Price, MSW ‘16
Executive Director & Lead Organizer of the Middletown Racial Justice Coalition

This award honors social work alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years and who have had significant impact within their profession, contributed to their community, and show promise of continued success.

Precious Price, a Connecticut native, grew up an advocate for youth in foster care by sharing her own experiences within the foster care system. Her passion for advocacy for transforming inequitable systems grew out of this work, and led her to Washington DC, interning for both Senator Chris Murphy and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute where she published and presented policy recommendations around the overmedicating of youth in foster care. Precious holds a master’s in social work with a concentration in community organization from the University of Connecticut. In 2016, Precious began organizing with the North End Action Team which broadened her lens of organizing and advocacy to include racial justice. In 2018, after being featured in Connecticut Magazine’s Top “40 Under 40”, Precious also became the Executive Director & Lead Organizer of the Middletown Racial Justice Coalition. In 2021, following another passion, Precious became a doula and doula advocate, working both with families as well as systems, in order to change childbirth outcomes for Black women in CT. She sits on multiple boards and committees, including the Governor’s Hate Crime Advisory Council, the Black Infinity Collective, and Doulas4CT. 

Joanne Tremblay Jackson, LCSW, ACSW, MPH, MSW ‘88

Outstanding Social Worker Award

Joanne Tremblay Jackson, LCSW, ACSW, MPH, MSW ‘88
Director of Student Support Services at Hartford Public Schools

This award honors alumni whose accomplishments, affiliations, and careers have made an outstanding impact and/or have been recognized within their field relevant to community/society in the present-day.

Joanne Tremblay Jackson, LCSW, ACSW, MPH is the Director of Student Support Services for the Hartford Public Schools. Joanne is an alumnus of the UCONN School of Social Work and most recently completed a master’s in public health at The Bloomberg School of Public Health of Johns Hopkins University. Having grown up in Waterbury in an ethnically divided city as part of a working class family, first generation American and English language learner she learned early the impact of violence, poverty and the power of mentors. A caring adult at an opportune moment can change a life’s course and improve both mental health and open new opportunities changing a life’s trajectory.  The focus of the MPH was related to enhancing the services and opportunities available for Adolescent Mental Health with a focus on the impact of violence. Her work with the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee impacted policy and procedure to ensure partial credits become awarded to adolescents in Connecticut who have been impacted by homelessness, and abrupt moves with the Department of Children and Families or the Juvenile Justice System.  Joanne is passionate about growing the social work departments capacity to serve the needs of Hartford students, families and staff.  She has worked tirelessly to enhance the capacity of the social workers through professional development including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Trauma Informed for Schools and Dialectical behavioral Therapy. Joanne has worked collaboratively with community partners and UCONN School of Social Work to enhance service delivery including the training of many interns in the school system.  Most recently her leadership has enhanced the clinical supervision of the over one hundred social workers in Hartford Schools by the addition of Social Work Coaches.

Susan B. Walkama, MSW '89

Lifetime Achievement

Susan B. Walkama, MSW '89
Former President & CEO at Wheeler Clinic

This award honors an alumni social worker who has made significant contributions or developed model programs that have been replicated and has been in the field for at least 25 years.

For over 35 years, Susan has practiced as a clinical and administrative social work leader in the nonprofit sector serving the disabled, children and other vulnerable populations.   As the President and CEO of Wheeler, Susan is credited with significantly expanding services to individuals and families in communities across Connecticut.  Her most significant contributions include transforming Wheeler from a behavioral health provider to a full service, wholistic, integrated healthcare center offering primary care, dental, behavioral health, nutrition and alternative healthcare services.  In addition, Susan promoted the application of evidence-based practice in all types of healthcare, expanded crisis and intensive home-based services to children and families and trained hundreds of healthcare, educators, social workers and clergy in adolescent suicide intervention.  She was appointed to multiple state councils, work groups and task forces and advocated for adequate funding of social and healthcare services at the local, state and federal level.  Susan served on multiple nonprofit and trade association Board of Directors and as Board Chair of the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut.  She has been recognized for her service by the State of Connecticut legislature, universities, local social service organizations and businesses.

Susan proudly holds degrees from Central Connecticut State University in Sociology and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.

Since her retirement in 2020, she spends time with her two beautiful grandchildren, Mason and Austin, volunteers to help resettle newcomers to this country, serves on the Woman’s Board of Day Kimball Hospital and works on the campaigns of democratic and progressive candidates in Connecticut and nationally.

Dr. Leslie J. Torres-Rodriguez, Ed. D, CLAS '97, MSW'00

Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Leslie J. Torres-Rodriguez, Ed. D, CLAS '97, MSW'00 Superintendent at Hartford Public Schools

This award honors an alumni social worker who has made significant contributions or developed model programs that have been replicated and has been in the field for at least 25 years.

Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez is the Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools, one of the largest urban
school districts in Connecticut. Raised in Hartford and a product of Hartford Public High School, she has
served as an education leader in Greater Hartford for over two decades.

Prior to her appointment as Superintendent, Dr. Torres-Rodriguez was Acting Superintendent and the
Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Leadership within Hartford Public Schools, where she provided
culturally courageous leadership to support the comprehensive improvement efforts of a network of 11
schools. Dr. Torres-Rodriguez also taught social and behavioral science at Capital Community College and
served students and families at Goodwin Technical High School as a School Social Worker.

Dr. Torres-Rodriguez received a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and a Master of Social Work
from the University of Connecticut, and she earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Central
Connecticut State University.

Most recently, she was the recipient of the 2022 Association of Latino Administrators and
Superintendents (ALAS) Latino Superintendent of the Year Award. She was also the recipient of the 2019
Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (CALAS) Award for Educational
Leadership, the 2019 National Brillante Award for Educational Excellence from Prospanica, and she was
featured in “Women of Distinction” by Hartford Magazine in December 2019. She is a fellow of The
Broad Academy, the nation’s most prominent professional-development program for urban
school-system leaders. Dr. Torres-Rodriguez currently serves on the Hartford Promise board, co-chairs
the Mayor’s Cabinet for Young Children in Hartford, and is a member of the Governor’s Workforce
Council. She is a proud resident of Hartford, where she lives with her husband and two sons.