By Valerie Fields Hill
School of Social Work
The School of Social Work welcomes eight new faculty members, including a Canadian professor who has encouraged society to move away from using language that traumatizes patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
Michael Bennett, who earned both a master’s and doctorate degree at the University of Windsor, in Windsor, Ontario, will join the Social Work faculty as an assistant professor in practice. Bennett comes to the school after working nearly a decade as coordinator of psychosocial services at Hospice of Windsor-Essex County.
For years, Bennett has championed use of the term “living with” as opposed to the language “dying from” when referring to those in hospice care or who are diagnosed with life-altering conditions.
Bennett has said that describing patients as “living” instead of “dying” encourages the former and not the latter.
“To me, there is a powerful difference between looking at each day through the lens of ‘dying from’ a disease compared to ‘living with’ a disease, and this goes for both me as a Social Worker and the service user living with a terminal illness,” Bennett said. “Some will fluff it off as semantics, but it is perspective. This change in perspective helps me encourage people to continue living the best they can despite their illness and keeps me emotionally well as a hospice worker.”
Bennett is founder of OneDay, an organization that grants dreams to adults living their final year of life. For his community work, the Ontario Association of Social Workers granted Bennett the Inspirational Leaders Award in March 2019, according to an online post from the organization.
Bennett begins his duties as an assistant professor in practice in the School of Social Work this fall.
Bennett joins seven other new faculty members, including Keith Anderson, who has been named the Cheryl Milkes Moore Endowed Professor and the Director of the Doctoral Program in the School of Social Work.
Anderson earned a Ph.D. in gerontology at the University of Kentucky and a Master’s in Clinical Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University. Anderson is editor of End of Life Care Series, published by Columbia University Press. Prior to arriving at UTA, Anderson was a faculty member in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University and a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Montana.
Other new Social Work faculty starting Fall 2020:
Brittanie Atteberry Ash joins the Social Work faculty as an assistant professor. Ash earned a doctoral degree this year in Social Work at the University of Denver and a master’s in Social Work at the University of Michigan in 2011. Ash uses research on LGBTQ populations as an exemplar for understanding the dynamics and processes of oppression within diverse communities and contexts.
- Amanda Aykanian joins the Social Work faculty as an assistant professor. Aykanian earned a doctoral degree in Social Welfare at the University of Albany, State University of New York and a master’s in applied sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Aykanian worked 13 years in program evaluation and community-based research. Aykanian recently guest edited a special issue of the Journal of Social Work Education featuring curriculum, field training, and experiential learning innovations for teaching students about homelessness.
- Danielle R. Eugene joins the faculty as an assistant professor. Eugene earned doctoral and master’s degrees in Social Work at Louisiana State University. Eugene worked as a graduate research assistant at the LSU Social Research and Evaluation Center. Eugene’s research interests include the effects of family, school, and community systems on educational and economic outcomes for economically disadvantaged ethnic minority (EDEM) youth.
- Mia M. Kirby. Kirby joins the faculty as an assistant professor in practice. Kirby earned a doctoral degree in sociology in 2019 at Texas Woman’s University and a master’s in Social Work at the University of Maryland Baltimore. Among Kirby’s interests are the relationship between the strong Black woman archetype and mental health help-seeking behaviors of Black women.
- Donna Schuman. Schuman joins the faculty as an assistant professor. Schuman was an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky in the College of Social Work. Schuman previously worked as a Social Worker for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Army. Schuman is dedicated to improving trauma treatment outcomes for military. Schuman earned a doctoral degree in Social Work from UTA, a Master’s in Social Work from UT Austin and a Master’s in Education from the University of Maryland at College Park.
- Sherece Shavel. Shavel joins the faculty as an assistant professor in practice. Shavel earned a doctorate at Walden University and a master’s at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Shavel is the founding president of Central Texas Association of Black Social Workers, co-founder of the Black Female Fatherhood Scholars Network, and a council member with the National Parenting Network. Shavel’s research interests include post-incarceration paternal experiences of African American men and the intersection of mental health, culture, spirituality and criminality.