School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

The VCU School of Social Work is pleased to recognize the recipients of its highest annual faculty and staff awards from the 2022-23 academic year: Youngmi Kim, Ph.D., associate professor, received the Social Justice Award; Anna Givens, M.P.A., senior development specialist, received the Outstanding Staff Award.

The Social Justice Award recognizes the work of faculty who make an impact with work that addresses social injustice both locally and around the world. An excerpt from Dr. Kim’s nomination:

“As a member of the Sustainable Food Access iCubed Core, Dr. Kim has been a lead implementer and researcher of the Little Ram Pantries. Her research on food insecurity, and engaging in tangible actions, such as starting and evaluating the Little Ram Pantries, are excellent examples of social justice in action.”

Kim, who joined the school in 2011, says the award was “an entirely delightful surprise and honor. I am very grateful to have my work recognized and nominated by VCU colleagues and the community.”

What does it mean to be recognized with this annual award?
This recognition means my work contributes to increasing public awareness of food insecurity. More importantly, this recognition affirms social workers’ leading roles in addressing food hardship and hunger.

Why is food insecurity such an important part of social justice?
Food security is fundamental for basic needs and living. Many of us are not free from limited food access or such worries for individual and systemic barriers. Unfortunately and unfairly, marginalized and racially minoritized individuals and families face higher risks. Many people do not realize that food needs are less prioritized than and easily compromised by competing demands. We should know that it has long-lasting cumulative impacts on health and mental health concerns.

How can the VCU and Richmond communities support the needs of those who are food insecure?
Create a community of trust and respect, and openly talk about food hardship and normalize these challenges! My collaborations and dialogues with community stakeholders have taught me that hidden support structures and lacking information generate stigma and distrust. I am impressed by strong interests in mutual aid from students, faculty and staff for the Ram Pantry and Little Ram Pantries. Please know your little action will make a big difference. For example, donations and volunteers are always welcomed for campus and neighborhood pantries; I did a garage sale to support VCU pantries – truly an excellent opportunity to talk about food insecurity with community members and provide a channel for their contribution. I strongly recommend we continue collaborative community engagement based on a sense of community.

Do you have any new projects or research related to food insecurity, or any updates on the Little Ram Pantries project?
I have completed focus groups to evaluate the beginning stage of the Little Ram Pantries. We expect the findings to inform the campus-based little satellite pantry model. Also, I will conduct a study to develop and implement a peer support-integrated food pantry intervention. The first pilot intervention will be conducted with VCU first-generation and minoritized students. I hope my work serves as an inspiration for food justice efforts.

At the May 2023 School of Social Work Commencement ceremony, Youngmi Kim, Ph.D., is second from left; along with social work colleagues Kyeongmo Kim, Ph.D., left; Sarah Kye Price, Ph.D.; and Hollee McGinnis, Ph.D.

The Outstanding Staff Award recognizes and honors staff for their exceptional performance, achievement, service, and support of day-to-day activities that enhance the school’s image and mission. An excerpt from Givens’ nomination:

“Anna is a standout employee and champion for social justice in the School of Social Work and the university. Anna seamlessly works across departments within the SSW. She has tirelessly kept staff informed of pertinent information and served as a voice for staff with the dean and on Dean’s Cabinet. She is working as part of the diversity driving excellence strategic initiatives group and working with faculty on moving the school toward a shared governance structure that includes the voice and vote of staff members. Additionally, Anna speaks out and kindly calls people in when needed. She is friendly, enthusiastic, and adds so much value to the School of Social Work as a senior development specialist and Staff Council president.”

Givens, who joined the school in 2019, says “this award is a great honor. Throughout my time at school, I have strived to be a reliable teammate and colleague, and I am grateful to be acknowledged for my efforts.”

What accomplishments are you most proud of the past year?
As the Staff Council president, my top priority was to create a safe and inclusive environment for all attendees at our meetings. I strived to balance informative discussions with opportunities for individuals to share their experiences and engage with others who face similar challenges in their work environment. I am most proud of this effort. 

Why is it important for staff to have an equal voice in school and university governance?
Staff are an integral part of the school and the university. Historically, faculty have led the governance of schools, and with the influx of staff roles, things have to change. Staff are now serving as leaders at our school. It doesn’t make sense for them to be a leader of our school and not be able to vote on changes that will affect their roles. I believe this is an issue of inclusivity as well. If staff members are not allowed to vote, then it’s difficult to claim that our school is an inclusive environment.

At the May 2023 School of Social Work Commencement ceremony, Anna Givens, M.P.A. is at far right. She served as a marshal, assisting Ph.D. graduates. From left are current Ph.D. student Ya-Li Yang; graduates Sunghwan Cho, Sarah Lineberry, Jennifer Murphy and Camie Tomlinson; and current student Jeffrey Ciak.

Categories Faculty and staff
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