NASW local branch honors Social Work Dean, Professor with highest awards

Thursday, Mar 25, 2021

By Valerie Fields Hill

School of Social Work

 Dean Scott Ryan Associate Prof. of Practice Kiva Harper
Dean Scott Ryan        Associate Prof. of Practice Kiva Harper

A Texas Social Work organization will recognize the dean of the School of Social Work and a faculty member with its highest honors during a virtual celebration this week.

The North Central Texas Fort Worth Area Branch of the National Association of Social Workers will honor UTA School of Social Work Dean Scott Ryan and Associate Professor of Practice Kiva Harper with its Lifetime Achievement and Social Worker of the Year awards, respectively.

The two honors are the highest Social Work recognitions given by the branch. The honors recognize outstanding achievements in the profession and noteworthy service in the community and state.

The Lifetime Achievement and Social Worker of the Year honors will be given at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 25, during the branch’s 2021 Social Work Awards banquet. The event is part of a virtual watch party. It is free and will premiere on the School of Social Work’s Facebook and YouTube pages and on the branch’s Facebook page.

“Our steering committee identified some amazing Social Workers and future Social Workers and community members as our 2021 awards recipients,” said Angela Lutts, North Central Texas Fort Worth Area Branch chair.

The association is comprised of professional Social Workers, Social Work educators, Social Work university administrators and Social Work students.

The group also will recognize Texas State Representative Chris Turner, a Democrat from Grand Prairie, with its Public Elected Official of the Year Award. Branch members said Turner champions equity in housing, transportation and other areas affecting underserved North Texas residents.

In accepting the award, Turner stated “Social Workers are Essential,” the theme for this year’s Social Work Month celebrated annually in March.

“I value so much the work that Social Workers do in Texas and throughout our country, Social Workers are on the front lines of tackling injustices,” Turner said in a recorded video while accepting the award.

Another area resident, Mary Dominguez-Santini, president of the Hispanic Heritage Ambassadors, will receive the Public Citizen of the Year award from the association. Santini’s organization provides healthy meals to Arlington and Grand Prairie school children through a food pantry, among other services to needy families.

“Mary is a hero who leads with courage and dedication for children and families in need in the community,” said Blanca Sanchez McGee, an NASW Steering Committee member involved in nominating Dominguez-Santini for the recognition.

The UTA honorees have worked locally and nationally supporting mental wellness of crime victims and advocating for foster and adoptive children.

Harper works with those traumatized by criminals and supports them through the legal process. Prof. Harper through her private practice provides counseling to families of police officers who died by suicide, said Diane Mitschke, associate dean of academic and student affairs in the UTA School of Social Work and a colleague.

“Arlington Police Department’s Victims Service Unit has referred complex cases to her,” Dr. Mitschke said.

Harper thanked peers, friends and family for recognizing her professional and community work.

“It is truly a pleasure to be named Social Worker of the Year,” said Harper, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “This is truly a career highlight for me.”

Similar to Harper, Dr. Ryan researched issues affecting foster and adoptive children.

“He worked for many years as a front-line foster care/adoption Social Worker and clinical therapist, helping hundreds of children and families,” said Dr. Debra Woody, senior associate dean in the School of Social Work in a recorded message about her peer.

As the field instructor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., Dean Ryan “worked with his students to change policies…to better support deaf and hard of hearing clients' access to services,” she said.

Dr. Ryan, who has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in three states and is a registered play therapist, said he was humbled by the recognition of his life’s work.

“This Lifetime Achievement Award is so special and meaningful,” he said. “Thank you for this award and recognition. I greatly appreciate it.”



* Use the links below to watch the premiere live at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 25.

School of Social Work’s YouTube page:

School of Social Work’s Facebook page:

NASW North Central Texas Fort Worth Area Branch Facebook page: