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Watkins and McGovern named Outstanding Doctoral Students for 2017

Charity S. Watkins and Patricia (Tricia) McGovern are the 2017 recipients of the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. Both students were honored during the School of Social Work’s Ph.D. reception on May 12.

“These are two really great students who are beloved by their peers and as such, there was tremendous support for both of them to receive this award,” said Matthew Howard, associate dean for doctoral education. “I think that both of them are going to be extremely successful.”

Watkins received both her undergraduate degree in sociology and her MSW degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on academic resilience among low-income African American children and the role of parents in supporting their children’s academic success during elementary school. Howard praised Watkins’ research work and entrepreneurial spirit, noting that she has published two book chapters and four peer-reviewed journal articles, with one more under review and two others in preparation.

In addition, Watkins’ colleagues praised her as a “champion for social justice across the school, campus and the state.” Throughout her academic career at Carolina, Watkins has served on numerous University and School committees that are focused on creating more inclusive communities. Through her ongoing advocacy work, Watkins further demonstrates her passion to the social work field, Howard added.

“She is always trying to increase our attention to social justice issues and to issues of equality,” he said. “In some sense, she’s been the conscience of the program in a lot of ways, and I think that takes a lot of courage.”

McGovern received a bachelor of arts in psychology and her MSW from Carolina. A skilled clinician with six years of clinical practice experience, mostly as an addictions therapist, McGovern is interested in substance use and early intervention. In recent years, her research has focused on college student alcohol use and behavioral economics, with an interest toward developing an intervention to prevent alcohol-related mishaps.

“She is really a great combination of a scientist practitioner­ – a person who is really clinically in tune to substance use disorders and mental illness and also to the research in that area,” Howard said. “So I think she’s going to do some great things.”

McGovern’s colleagues, who praised her “supportive” and “collaborative nature,” also noted her ability to connect with students in the classroom and her skillfulness in making “complex research and clinical constructs accessible to students without minimizing issues or infantilizing her audience.”

According to her CV, McGovern has published four peer-reviewed journal articles, has two others in press, two more under review and three others in preparation. “Tricia is just an incredibly hard worker, and she’s really on a trajectory to be an outstanding clinical researcher in the next couple of years,” Howard added.