‘Classic social worker’: Lynch is 10 Under 10 winner for 2020
By VCU Office of Alumni Relations
VCU Alumni’s 10 Under 10 awards program recognizes the noteworthy and distinctive achievements made by alumni who earned their first VCU degree (undergraduate, graduate or professional) within the past 10 years. The School of Social Work’s winner for 2020 is Stephanie Lynch (B.S.’10/H&S; M.S.W.’13/SW).
Lynch never thought she’d run for public office or even take a front-and-center role in politics. She’s more of a policy wonk — and proud of it.
“I am a classic social worker, a policy practitioner. What I really like is the down-and-dirty policy work that I do every day, the behind-the-scenes stuff that you don’t get credit for or you may not see in headlines; it’s consensus building, it’s connecting people and getting things done for the people in the community — the stuff that really makes an impact and a difference in people’s lives.”
So says the 5th District Richmond (Virginia) City Council member, who won a special election in 2019, becoming the first woman to represent the district. Now she’s running to keep the seat in the general election in November.
Her resume reads like a policymaker’s dream — director of government affairs at Good Neighbor, a nonprofit focused on mental health, where she continues to work; a key lobbying position representing Medicaid managed care plans, who helped push through Medicaid expansion in Virginia; and various policy and administrative jobs for state departments such as social services.
She also sits on the governor’s Task Force for Behavioral Health Workforce Development, the governor’s Children’s Cabinet for Trauma Informed Care and the governor’s Task Force for School-Based Health.
While her work has often focused on policy areas such as health care, mental health access and criminal justice, the common thread is how it all affects real people — frequently people without the wealth and power that often guarantees a voice in public decisions. For example, her work on Medicaid was spurred by one of her social work clients.
“She was like a grandmother to me. She died of a preventable disease, and she would be with us here today if she had had health insurance. She inspired me to fight and go change the system. Now we have 400,000 [more] lives that are covered.”
She has VCU to thank for her current career, she says. As an undergraduate, she was influenced by a number of professors to be a changemaker, while her double major of women’s studies and psychology, with an African American studies minor, “allowed me to see the world from a lens and a perspective that to this day shapes the way I see the system and what solutions we apply to change it. ”
Her experience in VCU student government helped forge her standards of transparency, consensus building and collaboration — not just as guiding principles but also because putting those principles in action is the best way to get things done.
Lynch has her immediate sights on the upcoming election. Whether it’s ultimately a step toward higher office remains to be seen, she says. That’s a standard nonanswer from an elected official, but in her case, it stems from a deep respect for the job. She’s spent plenty of time as an advocate in the state legislature and watched people run for Congress; as important as those roles are, she relishes the direct impact she has at this level.
“I’m like, man, local politics is no joke. It is not for the faint of heart, but the opportunity for impacting and improving the community is extremely tangible and real.”
And it’s exactly where she wants to be.
10 Under 10 awards ceremony
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. Oct. 15, 2020
Celebrate the noteworthy and distinctive achievements of 10 alumni who earned their first VCU degree in the past 10 years at the annual 10 Under 10 awards, held virtually this year. Registration required. RSVP for the Zoom link.