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2014 Social Work Award Recipients
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2014 NASW/Texas Award Recipients


The NASW/Texas Awards seek to honor the achievements of NASW/Texas Members throughout their professional careers, as well as honor the contributions of publicly elected officials, public citizens, and members of the media to the values and mission of social work. Award recipients are nominated by their branches and selected through a review and voting process by the NASW/Texas Board of Directors. The 2014 Award Recipients will be honored during the Opening Plenary  of the 38th Annual State Conference at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in San Marcos, Texas, on Saturday, October 18.


Congratulations to the 2014 NASW/Texas Award Recipients and to everyone recognized by their local branches for their contributions to the goals and mission of the social work profession.

Please click on an image below to read more about the awardee or scroll down to view all.


Lifetime Achievement Award

Sandra Lopez, LCSW, ACSW, DCSW


Social Worker of the Year

Deborah Webb, PhD, LCSW, LPC, LCDC


Social Work Student of the Year

Alma Elisa Gonzalez

 Public Elected Official of the Year
Rep. Garnet Coleman
 Public Citizen of the Year
Dr. Diana Natalicio
 Media Award
Karisa King & Sig Christenson
San Antonio Express-News



2014 Lifetime Achievement Award_

Sandra Lopez, LCSW, ACSW, DCSW


Each year, the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers selects a social worker for this award to celebrate a lifetime of accomplishments. In honoring the Lifetime Achievement Award winner, NASW/Texas recognizes the best social work values and accomplishments demonstrated in the social worker’s lifetime. Recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Awards demonstrate repeated outstanding acheivements, make contributions of lasting impact, demonstrate outstanding creativity, and receive recognition beyond the social work profession.

Sandra Lopez
is a visionary, an educator, a practitioner, and an activist. Ms. Lopez has over thirty-three years of practice experience as a Social Worker and holds the distinctions of Academy Certified Social Worker and Diplomate in Clinical Social Work through NASW. Since her graduation from the University of Houston, Graduate School of Social Work, she has worked in a variety of settings including hospital, family service agency, private clinical practice, and academia. Ms. Lopez recently retired from the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, where she served as Clinical Professor and had twenty years of service with the college as a full-time Clinical Faculty and seven years as an Adjunct Faculty before that time.

During her affiliation with UHGCSW, she was selected as Outstanding Faculty by the graduating students for ten years and Mentor of the Year for 2007. In 1991, she was selected as Distinguished Alumni of the Graduate School of Social Work Alumni Association and in 1989 she was selected as Hispanic Social Worker of the Year by the Hispanic Social Workers of Texas.

An ambassador for both the profession and NASW, Ms. Lopez has held various leadership positions with our association including Board member, Vice-President and President of the Texas Chapter, Chair of the National Clinical Council on Social Work, Chair of the NASW/Texas Cultural Diversity Committee, and most recently served as Chair of the NASW National Nominations and Leadership Identification Committee. She was selected as Social Worker of the Year for 1999 by the Houston NASW Unit and by the Texas Chapter of NASW. She established and chaired the NASW Legal Regulation Task Force which was instrumental in developing the social work Licensure Act and Regulations. Due to her long history of contributions to NASW and to the Social Work profession, in November 2005, NASW/Texas named our Annual Leadership Institute the Sandra Lopez Leadership Institute.

Over the span of her professional social work career, her publications have focused on topics such as culture and adolescent grief, aftermath of suicide, end of life and cultural transference, and group supervision. She has co-authored several NASW national publications having to do with case management, clinical supervision, and clinical social work practice. In the last several years, Ms. Lopez has dedicated herself to promoting education about the incidence of compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, and vicarious trauma and the importance of practicing self-care to Social Workers and other helping professionals. She was instrumental in advocating for the development and eventual adoption of a policy statement called, “Professional Self-Care and Social Work,” for NASW’s Social Work Speaks and developed the first social work graduate course on this important topic.

Her colleagues and students praise her passion, energy, insightfulness, organization, empathy, and vision.

Through her lifetime of professional work Ms. Lopez truly embodies our belief that all people matter!


Houston Branch


2014 Social Worker of the Year_

Deborah Webb, PhD, LCSW, LPC, LCDC


The Social Worker of the Year Award honors a member of NASW/Texas who exemplifies the best of the profession’s values and achievements. In honoring the Social Worker of the Year, NASW highlights superb accomplishments in the practice of social work. The Social Worker of the Year demonstrates outstanding leadership, advocates for clients, and takes risks to achieve outstanding results.

Dr. Deborah Webb
has made significant contributions to the social work profession. Throughout her profession she has embodied the essence of social work values. Dr. Webb is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work and has had a private practice since 2006.

Dr. Webb is a pioneer and leader in the field of dual diagnosis treatment and the founder of Good Chemistry groups, a psychoeducational group approach for those with co-occurring disorders. This approach was the topic of her dissertation research. Early in her career she set up the first transitional apartments for persons with dual disorders. She worked for twenty-three years at Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center (now Austin Travis County Integral Care). She began as a caseworker and held other clinical and supervisory positions. When she resigned from ATCMHMR she had worked her way to the Division Director of Adult Behavioral Health Services. Dr. Webb became the Executive Director of Planned Living Assistance Network of Central Texas, providing services for persons who have dual disorders, addressing their immediate needs and planning for the future. She also was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Sobering Up Stations for the City of Austin.

As an educator at St. Edward’s University and The University of Texas at Austin she has made a significant impact on her students developing and teaching a course about dual diagnosis. She opens her students’ minds to what the title “social worker” means and sets high standards so that her students are well prepared to advocate for their clients. In 2003, Dr. Webb received the Charles I. Wright Distinguished Alumnae of the Year Award from the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work.

Throughout her career Dr. Webb has made time to work directly with clients and has demonstrated a willingness as a leader to take risks in order to meet the needs of the community and achieve outstanding results.

Dr. Debbie Webb is an inspiration as an educator, clinician, and advocate. Throughout her professional career she has ensured that all people matter!


Capital Area Branch



2014 Social Work Student of the Year_

Alma Elisa Gonzalez


The Social Work Student of the Year Award honors a student member of NASW/Texas who is enrolled at least halftime (as defined by their school) in a graduate or undergraduate Social Work Program and has made an outstanding contribution to the goals and mission of the profession. The Social Work Student of the Year demonstrates leadership, a commitment to social justice, the profession of social work, and clients, and the integration of social work knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values.

As a MSW student at The University of Texas Pan-American, Alma Gonzalez has demonstrated the ability to take the necessary steps to facilitate changes required to meet the needs of the undocumented immigrant community in Cameron County.

During Ms. Gonzalez’s MSW program she demonstrated a commitment to learning, understanding and implementing the core values that define the social work profession. She completed her foundation internship at La Posada Providencia, an emergency shelter for the undocumented population located in San Benito, Texas. During her internship she was featured on NPR and Telemundo News documenting the work La Posada Providencia provides that addresses the needs of the shelter and the refugees.

After her internship, Ms. Gonzalez joined the shelter’s staff as the Development Coordinator. In this position, she created a manual for interns and developed a program to coordinate spring break volunteers that allows students to serve a much needed population while providing a valuable learning experience. She also started a recognition program for shelter volunteers to help raise their spirits amidst this difficult work. She continues to expand the outreach program by working with the media to put a face to the issue of immigration.

Advocacy has been a large part of Ms. Gonzalez’s education and a life long passion. In 2013, she attended Social Work Advocacy Day with the UTPA student body to advocate for much needed services for disadvantaged populations. She also volunteers her time at the National Alzheimer’s Association assisting with planning the Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Through her advocacy efforts on behalf of the refugee population, Alma Gonzalez has demonstrated an outstanding ability to show all people matter!


Lower Rio Grande Valley Branch



2014 Public Elected Official of the Year_

Representative Garnet Coleman


The Public Elected Official of the Year Award recognizes outstanding service and contributions of an elected official who has shown leadership in the formulation of public policy, particularly policies that affect social justice, health care, education, civil and human rights, and social practice.

Garnet F. Coleman
has served in the Texas House of Representatives for the past 22 years. During his time as an elected public official, he has made significant contributions towards all children and families in Texas. Representative Coleman is a tireless advocate for policies in Texas that advance the needs of vulnerable populations, civil and human rights, and social welfare and -- sometimes more importantly -- stands up against policies that do the opposite.

Representative Coleman has served as the Chair of the Legislative Study Group (LSG), a group dedicated to ensuring that its members have the information necessary to make informed decisions about the impact of all legislation that hits the House floor. He not only supports social work values but furthers the social work profession by having employed 65 social work students as policy analysts in his office and the LSG over the past thirteen years. He recognizes the value of social workers and the holistic perspective that we bring to the policy making process. Representative Coleman has provided a voice for social work values within the legislative process.

Representative Coleman's legislative contributions are numerous. He is a long-time advocate for civil rights issues and is not afraid to provide a firm voice on the House floor for populations who have been oppressed or are otherwise excluded from the process. He authors bills every session to repeal the constitutional ban of same sex marriage, repeal the criminalization of homosexual conduct, and to protect the women's health program, and he helped create the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997. As a member of President Obama's State Legislators for Health Reform, he has played an instrumental role in advancing the need for health reform in Texas and in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Texas.

Most recently in the 2013 legislative session, Representative Coleman championed the passage of a bill which revises and expands the clinical criteria for adults to receive public mental health services at local mental health centers. Representative Coleman's bill expands the criteria from just the "Big 3 Diagnoses” -- schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorders -- to all adults with mental illnesses when their psychological, social, and occupational functioning deteriorates. Representative Coleman also led legislators in increasing funding for mental health care which allows for the expansion of mental health services including coverage for those individuals with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders that fall outside the traditionally covered diagnoses.

These are just a few examples of Coleman's tireless advocacy for those vulnerable populations showing that all people matter!


Houston Branch



2014 Public Citizen of the Year_

Dr. Diana Natalicio


The Public Citizen of the Year Award honors an outstanding member of the community whose accomplishments exemplify the values and mission of the profession of social work and who has acted with courage to make significant contribution to an area or population of concern to the social work profession such as: at-risk or vulnerable populations, quality of life in communities, or social issues.

As President of the University of Texas at El Paso, Dr. Diana Natalicio’s sustained commitment to provide all residents of the Paso del Norte region with access to affordable and high quality higher education opportunities has been a hallmark of her administration and helped make the University of Texas at El Paso a national success story. She has served on multiple boards of national and international organizations supporting higher education and international relations. She currently chairs the Board of the American Council on Education and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation.

During Dr. Natalicio's tenure as president, not only has the university’s enrollment grown from less than 15,000 to more than 23,000 students, but the composition of the student body has also changed. Today, more than 77% of students are Mexican American, in addition to over 1,000 students who commute daily to the campus from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Dr. Natalicio has clearly demonstrated her commitment to social and economic equality for all citizens, particularly for disenfranchised and oppressed populations. Through her commitment to open enrollment, many of the graduates of the University of Texas at El Paso are the first in their families to receive an undergraduate degree and many go on to prestigious graduate programs and enjoy esteemed careers. This open access has become a primary means to lifting people out of poverty and transforms not only their lives but also the entire Paso del Norte region.

Dr. Natalicio is the recipient of numerous awards, particularly for her commitment to reducing poverty and oppression in the US-Mexico Border Region through increased access to higher education. Her commitment to the betterment of minority and oppressed populations is evident in her extraordinary record of accomplishments and honors.

As it relates to our profession, Dr. Natalicio has been a tenacious supporter of the education of social workers in the El Paso community. She strongly encouraged the development of a MSW program to provide the El Paso community with graduate-level services. Her commitment was further evidenced by her establishment of an endowed scholarship for social work students in the name of her brother, William Siedhoff, who is a renowned social worker in St. Louis, Missouri.

Her support of social work values and understanding the role of social work is clear evidence that Dr. Natalicio embraces the goal that all people matter!


Rio Grande Branch



2014 Media Award_

Karisa King & Sig Christenson
San Antonio Express-News


The Media Award recognizes outstanding contributions in Print, Radio, Television or Online Publications that provide information to the general public and demonstrate leadership in their respective media area by: accurately portraying the social work profession; portraying issues of concern to social workers; increasing the understanding, awareness, and value of the social work profession to the general public; effectively communicating the impact of policy decisions on the lives of Texans; using social workers as resources for articles/reports.

In compiling an exposé of one of social work’s policy priorities, the intervention and mitigation of sexual assaults and their prevention, Ms. Karisa King and Mr. Sig Christenson, the former now departed for the Chicago Tribune, deserve recognition for their research and investigative reporting. Ms. King and Mr. Christenson led a talented Project Staff at the San Antonio Express-News resulting in the three-part series on military sexual abuse and cover-ups entitled, Twice Betrayed. The investigative team includes Lisa Krantz, Bob Owen, David Sheppard, Luis Rios, Kin Man Hui, Adrián Alvarez, Mike Howell, Mark Wood, Mike Fisher, and Robert Kolarik.

The number of active duty service members and trainees who had experienced sexual assault in 2012, according to confidential surveys, numbered over 26,000. However, less than 10% were reported, and only a fraction were prosecuted.

Ms. King and Mr. Christensen initiated investigations which led to a military wide documentation of hidden sexual assaults, cover ups by some unit commanders, and the double jeopardy for victims who stepped forward with complaints. Their reporting helped drive the national debate. The series was cited in testimony for exposing the level of retaliation against victims and the lack of prosecutions, and The New York Times linked to the series in an editorial. Despite initial challenges in getting victims to come forward with their stories, victims found and interviewed for the series later told their stories in congressional hearings. Ms. King and Mr. Christensen’s investigations have given strength to those living in fear and those who have been without a voice.

The “Twice Betrayed” series had a major impact on the American public and has resulted in decisive actions by U.S. Senators as multiple bills were introduced to reform military justice. For these reasons, military service members and their families wherever American troops are assigned are grateful to Ms. King, Mr. Christenson, their team, and the leadership of the San Antonio Express-News for using the media to expose injustice and promote compassion for victims.

Through mass media reporting and on the behalf of their project team, Ms. Karisa King and Mr. Sig Christenson truly communicate our shared belief that all people matter!


Alamo Area Branch


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