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New scholarship honors Iris Carlton-LaNey; benefits MSW students interested in social justice, racial equity

A new scholarship has been established to honor Berg-Beach Distinguished Professor Iris Carlton-LaNey and to benefit under-represented MSW students who have an interest in working in the field of social justice and racial equity.

The “Iris Carlton-LaNey Scholarship Fund” was created with a $50,000 gift from UNC School of Social Work alumnus Noel Bost, MSW ’96, of Greensboro, N.C. The School plans to seek additional donations to fully endow the fund by the end of the year, with the hope of awarding the first scholarship to an MSW student in 2018.

“The Iris Carlton-LaNey Scholarship Fund provides a lasting legacy in recognition of Dr. Carlton-LaNey for her many contributions to the profession of social work and to the UNC School of Social Work,” said Dean Gary L. Bowen, who praised Bost for his generous gift. “I cannot think of a higher honor for an MSW student than to be known as an Iris Carlton-LaNey Scholar.”

As a former student of Carlton-LaNey’s, Bost said he felt called to give back to the community of social work and to recognize Carlton-LaNey’s leadership on addressing racial equity and other diverse societal issues. Carlton-LaNey is a nationally renowned scholar who has engaged students in and out of the classroom on social justice issues throughout her 40-year career with the UNC system, including the last 23 years at UNC School of Social Work.

Her efforts have earned her national recognition, including the Distinguished Recent Contributions in Social Work Education Award from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the Social Work Pioneer Award from the National Association of Social Workers, the Feminist Scholar Honoree recognition from the Council on the Role and Status of Women, the Sisters of the Academy Legacy Award, and the Distinguished Achievement in Social Work Education Award presented by the National Association of Black Social Workers.

“Dr. Carlton-LaNey stands out in my history as a professional for how approachable she was and continues to be as a professor, especially when dealing with the challenging topics of diversity, which can be scary or discomforting for some,” said Bost, executive director and owner of a mental health clinic in Greensboro. “She didn’t promise these conversations would be painless, but she knew they were necessary. She also knew how to talk about them in a way that would bring people together who are interested in contributing to the lives of individuals who are more vulnerable.”

As a mentor to social work scholars across the country, Carlton-LaNey has helped to inspire the next generation of social work practitioners, teachers and researchers, added Bost, who attributes his former mentor’s influence for leading him into teaching and private practice. Bost is a former adjunct professor at the University of Chicago (where Carlton-LaNey earned her MA in social work) and faculty member with the UNC-Greensboro Department of Social Work.

Bost said he hopes the new UNC scholarship will help to attract students to the School of Social Work who are eager to be a voice for marginalized populations as Carlton-LaNey has been throughout her life.

“When I think about who were the key players who really contributed to what I’m doing now and in working in the lives of other people, I think of Dr. Carlton-LaNey,” he said. “And in a very actively supported way, I feel like I’m making sure that people who are doing this kind of work are also supported and that we’re also bringing in and attracting people who want to be a part of the solution in helping us to bridge our nation’s racial and cultural divisions.”

Carlton-LaNey, who was named the Berg-Beach Distinguished Professor in Community Social Work last year, said she is “incredibly humbled and honored” to have a scholarship endowed in her name.

“It’s a recognition that I could never have imagined,” she said. “This generous scholarship will provide innumerable opportunities and is particularly salient and timely given the racial hostility and social injustices that permeate our social system today. Students’ and professionals’ commitment to social and racial justice is critical and essential to competent social work practice. Dr. Bost’s gift will help more students to prepare for this challenge, which will ultimately influence the quality of social work practice in perpetuity.”