UConn Social Work Professor, Student and Alumnus honored with top awards from NASW/CT 2009: Lirio Negroni, Educator of the Year, Celaura Estrada MSW Student of the Year and Christopher Donovan, Recipient of Special Recognition Award

Storrs, CT – Lirio K. Negroni, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut’s School of Social Work, has been named the 2009 Educator of the Year by the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Also honored were UConn student Celaura Estrada as the NASW/CT 2009 MSW Student of the Year and UConn alumnus and Connecticut Speaker of the House of Representatives Christopher Donovan, who received the chapter’s Special Recognition Award.

The three award winners will be recognized at the chapter’s 2009 annual awards dinner Thursday, June 18 in New Haven.

Negroni was selected for her outstanding contributions to social work education nationally, regionally and in the state of Connecticut.

“Dr. Negroni is considered one of the leading social work educators on issues related to Latino and Latinas in social work in the United States,” says UConn School of Social Work Associate Dean Catherine M. Havens. Havens says Negroni’s charisma, energy and excitement as a teacher has made her an inspiration for students and an accomplished member of the faculty.

Lirio K. Negroni earned her bachelors and masters degrees in social work from the University of Puerto Rico and a Ph.D. in clinical social work/ research from Boston College. Since 1998 she has been educating and mentoring students at the UConn School of Social Work.

Negroni’s local, regional, and national service has positioned her as a Latina social worker and educator who has promoted Latino leadership, culturally competent practice and recruitment. She has also been active in the retention of Latinos in education, culturally competent mentoring and different community-university collaborations.

She currently serves as a faculty member of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Project, a program supported by the School of Social Work. She, along with several students and one other faculty member, recently traveled to Puerto Rico in June 2009 as part of the collaborative exchange program with the University of Puerto Rico’s schools of social work.

Celaura Estrada, a Norwalk native, is a 2009 graduate of the UConn School of Social Work having completed requirements for a masters of social work degree. Her degree concentration was in group work with a focus on mental health and substance abuse.

Estrada is being honored as NASW/CT 2009 MSW Student of the Year because of her exemplary academic record and contributions to the professional community.

While attending the School of Social Work, Estrada was involved in a number of school-related activities and events including serving as co-chair of the Latin American Student Organization. She participated in a focus group for the “Latino Health Summit,” an event sponsored by the UConn School of Social Work, The Center for Eliminating Health Disparities Among Latinos, Hispanic Health Council, Latino Policy Institute, Universal Health Care Foundation, and the Connecticut Health Foundation where more than 150 professionals from public and private organizations across many disciplines were brought together to address health conditions of particular concern to Latino communities. Estrada was also involved in a forum titled “Corporate Social Responsibility: The Cutting Edge of Business,” which was also co-sponsored by the School of Social Work and the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work.

She was a student representative on the planning committee for the 2008 Summer Puerto Rican Travel Study Project and was a participant in the recent Travel Study to Puerto Rico with several other students and two faculty members from the School of Social Work where she had the opportunity to increase her knowledge of the social work movement in Puerto Rico.

“Celaura is a role model and a successful Latina that has the capacity to embrace diverse groups.  She will be a leader in the social work profession because of her determination, passion, and commitment to equality for all society’s members,” states Associate Dean Havens, “Her uncanny ability to work with students, faculty and staff of diverse backgrounds is a true reflection of her well roundedness as a growing social work professional.”

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan is Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives representing the 84th Assembly District of Meriden.  He is the first MSW to achieve this public office, earning him the NASW/CT 2009 Special Recognition Award.

Christopher Donovan earned his masters degree in social work from the UConn School of Social Work, specializing in community organization. In addition, he formerly served as a member of the UConn School of Social Work Dean’s Advisory Committee and continues to mentor social work students who are interested in political advocacy.

“The School of Social Work is especially proud of our alumnus, Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan,” says Associate Dean Havens. “He is most deserving of this recognition by the Connecticut Chapter of NASW.”

Patricia Hartman, professional development coordinator for NASW/CT, said picking this year’s winners was easy.

“They were simply outstanding,” Hartman says. “The committee spent little time debating the obvious!”

The University of Connecticut’s School of Social Work is one of four graduate professional schools located in the Greater Hartford area. This proximity to the capital, one of the state’s areas of greatest need, enables these professional programs to help carry out the University’s public service mission, particularly to oppressed populations. The School of Social Work is located in its own building on the University’s Greater Hartford Campus in suburban West Hartford just four miles from downtown Hartford. For more information, please go to: http://ssw.uconn.edu.

UCONN News Release

For more information:

Joanne Donati, (860) 570-9295, joanne.donati@uconn.edu

Jessica Marciniak, (860) 486-0878, Comm_MediaRelations@uconn.edu

#09093                                                                                                        June 17, 2009