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Mariah Cowell, UNC graduate student, receives social justice award

Friday, February 22, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Valerie Arendt
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From Daily Tarheel

A UNC graduate student will be recognized as the 2019 recipient of the NASW-NC President’s Award for Master of Social Work students, which has not been awarded to a UNC student since 2010.


On March 15, Mariah Cowell will be recognized as the recipient of the President's Award, which is communicated through North Carolina’s National Association of Social Workers chapter. It will be presented at the 2019 NASW-NC Ethics Conference and Awards Luncheon. 


The recipient of the President’s Award is decided by an independent committee composed of seven board members who are past President’s Award winners, professors and social work experts. The awardee is selected on their leadership and community impacts in the field of social work. 


“The award honors our president and a master's of social work student who demonstrates exceptional leadership skills and potential," said Valerie Arendt, executive director of NASW-NC. "The candidate also demonstrates exemplary performance in social work, internships and field placements."


Academic excellence is also an important component when selecting the recipient of the President’s Award. Several of Cowell's professors said they feel strongly that her accomplishments in social work demonstrate this quality. 

“Mariah has an extraordinary commitment to enhancing the student learning experience at our school and at other schools of social work,” said Tonya VanDeinse, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Social Work. 

Professor Rachel Goode also has high regard for Cowell's engagement within the School of Social Work. 


“Mariah received the award because of her engagement with the NASW-NC and her incredible work while serving the organization," Goode said. "She has also been heavily involved with research at UNC’s School of Social Work.” 


The President’s Award includes a $1,000 scholarship and membership dues in the NASW-NC for two years. There are almost 5,000 active members in NASW-NC, including nearly 1,000 college students, Arendt said. 


Cowell found her inspiration for pursuing the President’s Award while working as an intern at NASW-NC and completing her bachelor’s degree in social work at UNC Charlotte. 


“I owe everything to NASW," Cowell said. "They are a great organization."

While she has demonstrated success in her field, Cowell said she has struggled with adjusting to the climate at UNC considering the conversations and events surrounding Silent Sam. 


“I think it has been hard to be at UNC and learning about all of the strikes that have been going on," Cowell said. "Being in a profession that really values social justice and seeing all of the horrendous treatment of students of color in members of our community is not easy."


After Cowell finishes her master's in social work, she plans to pursue policy work, research and data analysis in the field. Cowell said she would like to earn her Ph.D. in social work to further her involvement in research and teach about social justice.


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