Livingstone, Mitchell, Dupont
From left to right: Kimberly Livingstone, Alison Mitchell, Sara Dupont

The University social work program earned well-deserved recognition this spring with three faculty members receiving awards for teaching and service. The major’s program coordinator, Professor Kimberly Livingstone, has overseen its rejuvenation since joining PSU in 2017,

Less than a decade ago, the Maine native was helping to shepherd people experiencing homelessness in New York City toward permanent housing situations, imagining she would one day be an organization CEO. Then a peer got her interested in social research and policy, and Livingstone transitioned into macro-focused social work and higher education, accepting her first, full-time teaching position at Plymouth State and completing her social welfare dissertation simultaneously.

The program had dwindled to the point that Livingston was its sole faculty member in 2021. Now she and two colleagues have received major teaching awards, honors that came in part for garnering roughly $1.6 million in state and federal grants and championing the programs they funded.

Two social work students also received recognition this year, one as Outstanding Senior Student for highest GPA and the other for Outstanding Community Service.

“It’s a comeback story,” Livingstone says. “We’ve come through a major transition in a difficult time. That is who we are as social workers. We’re called to task in times of crisis.”

Livingstone received the University’s Distinguished Scholarship Award, acknowledging the effort and outcomes of two programs, one that helps people at risk of experiencing homelessness and another serving youth and young adults with lived experience with homelessness.

Professor Alison Mitchell received this year’s Transformative Teaching Award. She has worked with preschool-aged children to older adults, specializing in adult women who have experienced interpersonal trauma(s), often in combination with substance use disorder, especially those recovering from opioid use disorder.

“She teaches in a way that makes you intrigued and excited for the future,” says one of her student nominators. “She transforms social work students into social workers.”

A third colleague, Professor Sara Dupont, received the Campus Compact for New Hampshire Presidents’ Good Steward Award. With a background volunteering within the corrections, probation, and parole system, Dupont is a strong advocate for social justice who connects her students with the important work of nonprofit partners.

Livingstone chose Plymouth State in part for its Clusters initiative, which is in line with social work as a discipline.  The program’s mission is to prepare students for the field in a way that’s rooted in the six core values of social work: respect for dignity and worth of a person, service, social justice, the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.

“The values are integrated in the content we present to students and ingrained in how we educate them,” Livingstone says, adding the teaching aligns beautifully with the Cluster model’s Tackling a Wicked Problem and themed courses, Open Labs, and Integrated Capstone projects.

Student achievements illustrate the program’s success.

Rebekah Lewis ’23 was recognized in April for outstanding community service, and Chad Boxall ’23 for highest GPA and his successes in a 450-hour workforce development program supported by a grant partnership with the state Division of Children, Youth, and Families. Students selected for this program earn full tuition and work for DCYF for up to four years after graduation. As he begins his new job, Boxall will also begin work on a master’s in social work.

“All the social work faculty come from different backgrounds in social work and bring with them first-class experience that helps each student learn,” Boxall says. “Likewise, students have different backgrounds and stories, and the faculty allow us to have our stories and use them to bring out the social worker inside ourselves.”