The Department of Social Work was recently in the spotlight when two faculty members and an alumnus were recognized with prestigious annual awards from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Connecticut chapter (NASW-CT).
In October, Stephen Monroe Tomczak, ’89, professor of social work, was named Educator of the Year; Isabel Logan, professor of social work, was named Social Worker of the Year; and alumnus Stephen A. Wanczyk-Karp, BSW, ’77, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The awards were presented at the 2023 NASW-CT Chapter annual awards dinner.
Tomczak, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Southern, an MSW degree from the University of Connecticut, and a Ph.D. in social policy from Brandeis University, has an extensive background in social work education and research, particularly in the areas of social welfare policy, poverty, and the history of social work/social welfare. The award recognizes him for being an exceptional educational leader who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the profession of social work, his students, and the community.
Having joined the Social Work Department in 2004, Tomczak teaches courses on social welfare policy, community practice, social planning, and advocacy at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral level.
The award committee praised him for going above and beyond for his students and creating forums for creative and passionate discussions on social issues of the day. He was also commended for providing detailed and supportive feedback on students’ work and for being committed to growing the profession on all levels. He is known for his passion in the classroom, and he never forgets to express gratitude for the opportunity to teach.
Tomczak’s leadership in the social work field was cited, his leadership exemplified by his participation in the NASW Lobby Day Training and Social Work Lobby Day for many years, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has worked to bring together most schools of social work in Connecticut in partnership with NASW-CT in the creation and delivery of these events, and these experiential opportunities have introduced thousands of students to the legislative process in Connecticut. These students represent the next generation of trained social work advocates.
Holding himself accountable to the values he teaches through his advocacy and service and regularly supporting local and statewide protests, Tomczak serves on the NASW-CT’s Education and Legislative Action Network (ELAN) and is regularly engaged in the legislative and political process, providing public testimony at sessions of the Connecticut General Assembly. He also currently serves on the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, and he is a longtime activist and past president of Southern’s chapter of AAUP, the faculty union for the Connecticut state universities.
An engaged member of NASW-CT, Tomczak is the first second-generation awardee, as his mother, Sally Tomczak, was named the NASW-CT Social Worker of the Year in 1993.
Isabel Logan earned a BSW degree from St. Joseph College (now the University of St. Joseph), an MSW from Fordham University, and an EdD from the University of Hartford. She is the executive director and co-founder of the Social Work and Law Enforcement Project (SWLE), a first-of-its-kind program that imbeds social work students into police departments. Her award recognizes her for her outstanding contributions as a social worker, a scholar, an educator and community leader; for her instrumental role in the development of a police social work model in Connecticut, making the state a national leader; for her commitment to building relationships among students, community, and institutions; and for making a difference every day in the field of social work.
The SWLE Project was created after the passage of Connecticut’s Public Act 20-1 “An Act Concerning Police Accountability” in July 2020. This legislation encourages police to use social workers on calls for assistance, especially after high profile incidents of police brutality. Together with the Willimantic Police Department’s Lieutenant Matthew Solak and University of Saint Joseph Professor Robert Madden, JD, LCSW, Logan formed SWLE, which began as a single BSW internship placement, in August 2020, during the COVID epidemic and has now developed into a statewide collaboration including Willimantic, Milford, Norwich, West Hartford, and Suffield police departments, as well as seven undergraduate and graduate students from eight schools in three states (CT, NY, AL). It is now a national model and has gained national attention and praise from U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
Logan and the SWLE Project have also led the development of a curriculum for a first-in-the-country Police Social Work Training Academy and has received calls from around the country to share her innovations with law enforcement agencies and schools of social work. The academy prepares the interns who will be placed in law enforcement settings and the police professionals who are preparing to be their task supervisors. It is also used to train newly hired social workers who are starting work in a police social work position.
Logan and the SWLE Project have become the model for practice standards in police social work. She has created a statewide network to support interns and newly hired police social workers and a national network to link those who are developing this field in multiple states across the country. As part of this work, Logan has presented at two National Conferences and is the first to create integrative police social work practice model published in the Journal of Social Work Education in an article on the preparation of social workers for police social work. In May 2024, Logan and the SWLE Project will host the 3rd Annual National Conference on Police Social Work at Southern Connecticut State University.
Having taught at Eastern Connecticut State University from 2016 until her recent move to Southern this fall, Logan worked for 20 years as a social worker for the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services in New Haven Superior Court and Superior Court for Juvenile Matters at Hartford. She also has a private practice. Her research areas include microaggressions and police social work, and she is a Crisis Intervention Coordinator and a POSTC (Police Office Standards and Training Council) Police Instructor.
Stephen A. Wanczyk-Karp, ’77, has been a part of the social work profession and community in Connecticut since he entered the social work program at Southern in 1975. He received his BSW in 1977 from Southern and his MSW in 1983 from Fordham University. His award honors him for his extraordinary career as Connecticut’s NASW executive director for 35 years; his persistence in elevating and sustaining the profession of social work in Connecticut; his exemplary leadership in creating collaborative networks; his brilliance as a lobbyist, which influenced the creation of positive reforms and advanced social justice; and for being a respected, valued, and innovative social work role model for generations of social workers.
Over the years, Wanczyk-Karp has shared his time and expertise with many organizations in Connecticut and has served on advisory boards for almost every school of social work in the state. He taught community organization classes and social policy classes for Southern, as well as Central Connecticut State University and Saint Joseph College; presented at many statewide and national conferences; and contributed opinion editorials for several publications.
Beginning in the 1980s, Wanczyk-Karp became involved with NASW, first as director of Legislation and Political Action for the New York State chapter, then as executive director of the Connecticut chapter, followed by a short stint in Washington, D.C., as the national director of Chapter Services and Continuing Education and Ethics.
Since his early years as director of NASW-CT, Wanczyk-Karp has established and nurtured working relationships with many state coalitions focusing on advancing racial, economic, environmental, and social justice; protecting safety net services; expanding access to comprehensive medical and behavioral health care; and seeing to positive reform in policing, reproductive rights, housing, voting, and taxation. He has worked over the years to mobilize chapter members and activate networks to lobby for change, not only to improve communities but to protect and strengthen the profession of social work. He has helped build a relationship between NASW and the state legislature, culminating in the passage of critical legislation.
During Wanczyk-Karp’s tenure and under his guidance, Connecticut LCSWs in private practice became providers for Medicaid HUSKY, and the ratio of beds to social workers in nursing homes went from 120/1 to 60/1. His leadership and his partnerships with other organizations helped to stop bills that would have allowed health insurers to offer “bare bones” policies omitting coverage for mental health, and these same partnerships then became critical in passing mental health parity laws back in 1998 and 2000.
During the legislative session of 2022, Wanczyk-Karp led NASW-CT through a session that was perhaps the most productive for the advancement of social work in at least 30 years. The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the importance and value of social workers to policy makers, allowing for the passage of a bill that now permits trauma-informed LCSWs, joining psychiatrists and psychologists, to conduct mental health assessment of police officers. Wanczyk-Karp lobbied for allowing out-of-state social workers who have existing therapeutic relationships with clients to continue treating their Connecticut clients through telehealth. In 2022, he also crafted and delivered Recommendations for Addressing Children’s Mental Crisis in CT to key legislators and members of the Children, Public Health, and Labor and Public Employees legislative committees at the start of the session.