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50 for 50 Alumni

In honor of the GCSW's 50th Anniversary, we are recognizing 50 GCSW alumni nominated by our community who embody our social justice vision.
Join us on August 17, 2019, as we honor these alumni who embody our vision to achieve social, racial, economic, and political justice at our 50th Anniversary Celebration.
View all honorees.

Meghan Baker

Meghan Baker earned dual degrees in law and social work, graduating in 2011 with an MSW and a JD. In 2017, Meghan returned to the area of disability rights in her current role as a Facilities Attorney at Disability Law Colorado, the Protection and Advocacy agency for the state of Colorado, where she advocates on behalf of people with disabilities and addresses potential abuse and neglect in facilities, including jails, psychiatric hospitals, juvenile detention centers, and many others. Read more. 180meghanbaker.jpg

Jennifer Battle

Jennifer is currently the Director of Access at The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD in Houston, Texas. Jennifer oversees The Harris Center Access Center which includes the Access Line and the Crisis Line which serves as the crisis line for 34 Texas counties is the local provider of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Read more.

George Bement

George Bement received his Master in Social Work from the GCSW in 2000 with a concentration in mental health. He also has a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from California State University at Fullerton and a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary, St Paul, Minnesota. Read more.


Cynthia Briggs

Cynthia Clay Briggs has been with Communities In Schools of Houston since its inception in 1979. Serving as the organization’s first CIS Social Worker at M.C. Williams Middle School in the Acres Home Community, Cynthia was named CIS Executive Director in 1989, and became CEO Emeritus in January of 2019. Read more.


Ada Cheung

Dr. Cheung earned her Doctoral Degree and Master's Degree of Social Work from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Board Certified Supervisor. Read more. adacheungphoto_180.jpg

Susan Collins

Susan is a 1996 graduate of the GCSW. Her commitment to service and advocacy on behalf of the immigrant and refugee communities began in Texas, where she worked with asylum seekers and undocumented families with young children. Susan is a 17-year veteran of the U.S. Congress and former Chief of Staff to Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, for whom she served as principle policy advisor and director of his legislative agenda. She helped author the first Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill in Congress and guided the first successful effort to pass the DREAM Act in the House. Read more. 180susancollins

Deysi Crespo

Deysi Crespo, MSW is a dedicated leader serving as the Executive Director for five years at Katy Christian Ministries, a human services nonprofit organization in the Katy Houston area. Her focus is aligned with the mission of transforming lives with an emphasis on alleviating poverty, addressing food insecurity, and providing immediate and long-term crisis interventions. Read more.

Elena Delavega

Dr. Elena Delavega is an associate professor of social work at the University of Memphis. She has created a body of work consisting of a very large number of presentations, including international presentations, keynote addresses, and a TEDx Talk, 20 peer-reviewed publications, and over 75 reports, newspaper and magazine articles, book chapters, fact sheets, and translations. Read more.


Sonya Edwards


Sonya G. Edwards is a Board Approved Supervisor and has worked in the mental health eld for over 19 years. After completing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from University of Houston-Downtown, Sonya earned a Master of Social Work in 2009 from the GCSW. Read more.


Laura Evanoff

Laura Evanoff has dedicated almost 7 years of her career to ending homelessness. Her work ranged from managing local political campaigns and permanent supportive housing programs to providing direct clinical services to clients as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Read more. 180lauraevanoff.jpg

Tony Fernandez

Tony Fernandez completed his undergrad degree at Texas Tech University in 1988 and began working in social services as a job coach, vocational counselor, and case manager with brain injury clients at Transitional Learning Community in Galveston and TIRR Challenge Program. He completed his Masters in Social Work from the GCSW in 1996 after completing two internships at HIPY (Houston Institute for Protection of Youth) working with street youth and TIRR Inpatient Social Work Department. Read more.


Melanie Fisk

Melanie Fisk joined BakerRipley in February 2019 as the Senior Director of Adult Education. Since graduating from the GCSW dual MSW/MBA program in 2009, Melanie has served as the CEO of MAM Literacy Advance of Houston and the Vice President of Client Services at SEARCH Homeless Services. Read more.

Laurie Glaze

After receiving her MSW from the GCSW in 1982, Laurie worked for 17 years in direct and administrative services involving foster care and special needs adoptions. In 2000, she was hired to lead Adopt 2000, which brought together eight child-placing agencies and Harris County CPS in an effort to increase services for families and better utilize limited resources among agencies. Between 2000 and 2008, more than 5,000 children became members of permanent adoptive families. Read more.


Maranda Harris

Maranda's advocacy has always been nurtured in children, whether through foster care, education, or the community. In 2016, with the support of Dean Detlaff, GCSW faculty, staff, students, and community leaders, Maranda spearheaded the launch of Social Justice Solutions, which has become an annual event now in its fourth year.

Read more.


Ann Hilbig

As BakerRipley’s Senior Vice President of Program Planning and Evaluation, Ann Hilbig leads the department engaged in research, program design, grant development, and evaluation. In her 34-year tenure with BakerRipley, Ann has held a number of positions, beginning as an intern from the GCSW in the Agency Development department. Read more.


Robert Hilliker

Robert’s 17 years in the field of addiction and mental health encompass private practice, clinical supervision, the creation and management of clinical programming, the co-founding of The Lovett Center in 2014, and the co-founding of Ethos Behavioral Health Group in 2019. Prior to founding Ethos, Robert held long-standing leadership positions at The Daring Way, Baylor Psychiatry Clinic, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, and The Menninger Clinic. Read more.


Sarah Howell

Sarah K Howell, LCSW is the school social worker at Las Americas Newcomer School in Houston ISD, manages the social work department at Houston revision, and is the founder of STAR (Survivors of torture, asylees, and refugees) Counseling and Consultation. Sarah has built her career working with immigrants and refugees and specializes in trauma and torture survivors within those populations. Read More.

Heather Kanenberg Heather Kanenberg, LMSW, PhD is the Program Director of the University of Houston-Clear Lake BSW Program. She obtained her BSW from Murray State University and her MSW and doctorate from the GCSW. As a professional social worker, Dr. Kanenberg has worked as an advocate with a primary focus on children’s health, women’s health, and public policy. Read more. 180heatherkanenberg.jpg

Cecile Keeper

She began her social work career doing group and individual therapy at the Texas Institute of Child Psychiatry with Dr. Irvin Kraft. She went on to earn her MSW from the GCSW in her 50s. After she graduated, the Dean asked her to teach Human Sexuality, an elective, which she did for 13 semesters. Read more.


Mandi Kimball

Mandi Sheridan Kimball, CHILDREN AT RISK’s Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, has been advocating for Texas’ children since 2004. She received her MSW from the GCSW and received her BSW from St. Edwards in Austin, Texas. Read more. 180mandisheridankimball

Roberta Leal

Dr. Roberta Leal is an Assistant Professor and Director of Field Education at University of Houston-Clear Lake, where she is actively engaged in field education, student-centered mentoring, community-based participatory research, leadership, and service. Read more. 180roberta-m.-leal.jpg

Sandra Lopez

Sandra A. López, LCSW-S has thirty-nine years of social work practice experience. She holds the distinctions of Academy Certi ed Social Worker and Diplomate in Clinical Social Work through NASW. Since her graduation from the GCSW, she has worked in settings including hospital, family service agency, and private clinical practice. Read more.

Sondera Malry

Sondera Malry, LCSW-S continues to provide Approved State Supervision to other social work practitioners and trainees, who seek licensure, in her practice of Malry & Associates. Sondera is passionate about her work and seeks to empower, develop, and motivate the Black community toward action, investment, advocacy and awareness. Read more.


Dawn McCarty

Since 2006, Dawn McCarty, PhD has lived and conducted research on both sides of the US-Mexico border, studying contributing factors to and consequences of unauthorized immigration to the United States. Currently, Dr. McCarty’s work and research are focused on the conditions and experiences of new immigrants living in Houston and on the power of cooperative and collaborative work to improve opportunities for women in Rural Mexico and Central America. Read more.


Beverly Mcphail

Beverly, LMSW, PhD, graduated from the GCSW in 1989. Her areas of interest are feminist studies and gender issues. She taught women’s issues at the GCSW for over 20 years, inspiring hundreds of students to include a gendered analysis in their social work practice. Read more.


Yvonne Mendoza

Yvonne Mendoza is a bilingual licensed Latina social worker who specializes in working with children and their families and bridging mental health access in school settings. As the Mobile Unit Project Manager at The Trauma and Grief Center, Yvonne has the opportunity to work with schools and school districts to bridge the gap between mental health access and trauma-informed provider care. Read more.


Marcie Mir

Chief Executive Officer, Marcie Mir, LCSW, has been with El Centro de Corazón for 21 years and has served in numerous leadership positions since 2003. Ms. Mir joined El Centro in 1998 as the Youth Program Coordinator for El Centro’s after-school program for girls. Read more.

Misty Mouza-Lanza

Misty Mousa-Lanza has been an advocate and convener of social impact in Houston for more than 20 years. Misty takes great pride in the power of her duality: being both American and Latina. Her passion for reflecting the diversity of her community and fearless drive toward making Houston an equitable city has guided her non-traditional social work career path. Read more.


Chau Nguyen

Chau Nguyen is the Chief Public Strategies Officer for the Houston Area Women’s Center, tasked with managing and expanding key partnerships while positioning HAWC as thought leaders in order to drive broad awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault, with a goal of reducing interpersonal violence and changing cultural norms about how survivors are understood. Read more.


Lillian Ortiz

Lillian Ortiz currently serves as the Chief of Staff for The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, the state-designated Local Mental Health Authority and Local Intellectual and Developmental Authority that serves Harris County, and as an Adjunct Professor at the GCSW. She began her career as a counselor and advocate for child and adult survivors of domestic violence and/or sexual assault, a parenting educator, and a case manager for justice-involved youth. Read more.


Hope Pacheco

Hope Pacheco, Assistant Dean of Student at the University of Houston, has been a practicing social worker in Houston for over twenty years. She has spent the last 17 years in direct practice, program development and administration advocating for and supporting student success. She is the co-founder of Las Comadres College Mentoring Program at the University of Houston and a Co-Principal Investigator on a 5-year longitudinal study on Las Comadres. Read more.


Naiyolis Palomo

Naiyolis Palomo is the Houston Engagement Specialist at the ACLU of Texas. Under this role, she works closely with different coalition partners to advocate for local and statewide policy changes on issues such as Immigrants’ Rights, LGBTQ rights, Smart Justice and Reproductive freedom. Read more.

Melanie Pang

Melanie Pang currently serves as the Government Relations O cer of the Houston Food Bank. She advocates for policies that address root causes of poverty and food insecurity, leveraging relationships and resources for social change. Read more.


Paula Paust

There are hundreds of people who have been given another chance to live or another choice on how to die because of Paula Paust’s commitment to service. In 1981, when she was a student at the GCSW, Paula joined a handful of volunteer professionals who were committed to starting a hospice in Houston. Read more.


Needha Queen

Dr. Needha Boutté-Queen is a full Professor of Social Work and, effective July 1st, serves as the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS) at Texas Southern University. She has worked in higher education for nearly 20 years and has been a strong advocate for students and families from underserved communities during that time. Read more. 180needha-queen-1.jpg

Tziona Regev

Tziona Regev specializes in gerontology with experience in geriatric clinical care for over 30 years, program development for the elderly, interdisciplinary collaboration/ network development, and education on geriatric content. She also has extensive case management and consultation skills. Read more.


Cynthia Reibenstein

Cynthia F. Reibenstein is a native Houstonian, educator, presenter, and coach who taught for many years in local public schools as well as working in the healthcare industry on many levels, from hospital to home health. Currently, her focus is addressing the socioeconomic education of students and adults through financial literacy workshops. Read more.

Kay Schiller

Kay G. Schiller is a 1989 graduate of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, with thirty years of social work practice experience, and recently retired from her long-time private clinical and consulting practice. Read more.


Betsy Schwartz

Betsy Schwartz, Vice President, Public Educations and Strategic Initiatives oversees the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program at the National Council for Behavioral Health. Prior to coming to the National Council, Schwartz was CEO of the Mental Health America (MHA) of Greater Houston for 30 years. Read more.


Eusebius Small

Eusebius Small, PhD is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, School of Social Work. Dr. Small is a Fulbright scholar with an international reputation researching HIV epidemiology, prevention, and implementation that focuses on vulnerable populations. Read more.


Helen Stagg

Helen Stagg is Chief Executive Officer of Change Happens, a community-based social service organization in Houston. She is responsible for operational planning and management, program operations and oversight, addressing strategic organizational issues, human resources planning and management, financial planning and management, and community relations and advocacy. Read more.


Josephine Tittsworth

In 2009, Josephine Founded a non- pro t organization called the Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit, which teaches and supports people who are working towards a fully inclusive policy to protect transgender faculty, staff, and students in higher education and public-school systems. Read more.

Mel Taylor

Mel Taylor has been an executive in Houston for more than 30 years. He is currently President and CEO of The Council on Recovery where he has successfully transformed the organization into a top tier, “Best in class” agency. Mel is an advisor and former faculty at the GCSW. Read more.


Melissa Torres

Melissa Torres, Ph.D. is a research faculty Assistant Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine Global Mental Health Division, which is comprised of the Anti-Human Trafficking Program and Clinic for International Trauma Survivors. She received her Master’s and Doctorate at the GCSW, where she is a research faculty and assistant professor and cofounder of the college’s Latin American InitiativeRead more.


Candice Twyman

Candice Twyman has forty-two years of experience working with non-pro t organizations throughout the Houston area specializing in the areas of gerontology, program development, and management of volunteers. Read more.


Jennifer Varela

Jennifer Varela is the Director of Social Services with the Sex Crimes Division of Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO). She holds a BA in sociology (1993) and an MSW with a political social work concentration (1995), both from The University of Houston. Read more.


Chloe Walker

Chloe Walker is a graduate of the GCSW, where she also has served as an adjunct policy professor. She graduated from the MSW/JD program in 2012 and participated in the Legislative Field Placement working in the o ce of State Representative Garnet Coleman. Read more.

Ann Webb Ann E. Webb, Ph.D., J.D., LCSW is an attorney, a licensed clinical social worker, and a 2019 Ph.D. graduate from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Dr. Webb’s research focuses on the intersection of social work and the law, with a particular interest in interdisciplinary practice involving social workers and lawyers, and immigration issues affecting children and families. Read more. 180ann-webb-head-shot.jpg

Amanda Williams

Amanda Beatriz Williams is a proud daughter of an immigrant and queer Chicana with over 10 years of experience working in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements. Amanda is originally from Houston, where she planted her roots as a student and community organizer. Read more.

Lee Wunsch

After graduating from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work in 1976, Lee Wunsch launched his forty-plus year career working in community planning and development in Jewish communities in Seattle, Washington, and Houston. He retired from his life’s work in 2017. Read more.