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School faculty honored with University Public Service Awards

UNC School of Social Work faculty members Allison De Marco and Tonya Van Deinse were among 10 Carolina faculty, staff, students and organizations recognized in April 2022, with University Public Service Awards for outstanding contributions to the campus and broader communities.

De Marco, an advanced research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and adjunct assistant professor in the School of Social Work, and Van Denise, a research associate professor within the School, were both honored by the Carolina Center for Public Service with the “Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award.” This award recognizes individuals and campus units for public service through engaged teaching, research and partnership.

De Marco, Van Deinse and other honorees received their awards from Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens during a public ceremony on April 12, 2022.

Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award

Allison De Marco, Ph.D.De Marco received the engaged scholarship teaching award in recognition for her partnership with the Chapel Hill and Durham-based nonprofit Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) on an undergraduate service-learning course focused on economic justice. Over the years, De Marco has collaborated in multiple ways with the CEF, which has been working since 2009 to end the racial wealth gap. These efforts have involved supporting more than 3,000 members, including persons experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity annually in reaching employment, housing and finance goals through person-centered support, financial education and asset building.

As part of De Marco’s undergraduate service-learning course, which is offered through the School of Social Work, students serve as volunteer advocates with CEF and receive training in conducting racial equity assessments. They learn to develop solutions around transit planning, historical zoning decisions, community engagement for comprehensive plan development, environmental justice issues surrounding coal ash, affordable housing and land use and property redevelopment. The students present their findings each year to local elected officials and other leaders in Orange County.

In addition to her undergraduate teaching, De Marco has served as an internship supervisor for 12 Masters of Social Work students who have been placed at CEF. Her work has received national scholarly attention, and the team of partners have been inducted into the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program, conducting applied research to advance health.

Tonya Van Denise, Ph.D.Van Deinse, who received the engaged scholarship research award, was recognized for addressing mental illness issues in the North Carolina criminal legal system.

Over the last several years, Van Deinse has worked closely with Durham County community partners, including government and mental health providers, to enhance mental health screening and identification processes in area prisons and to implement and evaluate a re-entry program for people with mental illness and substance use disorders. Most recently, Van Deinse has been working to complete a community capacity assessment of county supports for people with mental illness in the criminal legal system. She also serves on various community committees focused on programming for Durham residents with mental illness.

At the statewide level, she was selected by the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission to conduct the Victims of Crime Needs Assessment, which examined the effectiveness of support structures in addressing the needs of victims. The assessment focused on underserved groups, including tribal communities, immigrants, older adults, and LGBTQ+ individuals. The assessment was developed in partnership with state and community providers and advocacy organizations.

In addition, Van Deinse co-leads a state-wide evaluability assessment of family justice centers that address the needs of people who experience intimate partner violence. This project builds from a North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS) community engagement award, continuing relationships established four years ago.

UNC faculty, staff, students and organizatioal reps pose with their framed certificates for the University public service award ceremony.