SSA Alumni Awards

The School of Social Service Administration and SSA’s Alumni Association 
are pleased to announce the recipients of the

2019 SSA ALUMNI AWARDS

The Edith Abbott Award

The Edith Abbott Award recognizes SSA alumni for distinguished service to society and for outstanding professional contributions at the local, national, or international levels. Honoring lifetime achievement, exceptional leadership in an agency or within a community; meaningful contributions through research or publications; or demonstrated creativity in traditional, non-traditional, or innovative approaches to practice, award recipients reflect the mission of SSA and a demonstrated, ongoing relationship with the School and a commitment to its growth.

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MITCHELL KAHN

Mitch Kahn 2019 Abbott Award RecipientMitchell “Mitch” Kahn, AM '71, was selected for the 2019 Edith Abbott Award as he has had a long and varied career in many aspects of community organization, social policy development, agency administration, labor organizing, and social work education. He is currently an active faculty emeritus at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

He has served as the Vice President and Director of Organizing for the New Jersey Tenants Organization (NJTO) from 1977 to the present. He has been directly involved in the organization of more than 700 local tenant associations that affiliated with the NJTO. (By the early 1980s, the NJTO had become the largest and most influential statewide tenants’ organization in the country.) He was collectively involved in the drafting and advocacy of the strongest landlord-tenant law code in the nation and was instrumental in organizing many municipal rent control campaigns.

Today, New Jersey has over 100 municipalities with rent control laws, and these constitute more than half of all rent-controlled jurisdictions in the United States. An additional area of his housing work was with the Bergen County (NJ) Housing Coalition (BCHC) where he was the first Board President in 1979 and later served as its Executive Director from 1980-2013. The agency provided counseling in matters of landlord-tenant law and homelessness prevention services to more than 60,000 low- and moderate-income households during his tenure.

Kahn was one of the founders of New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), which today is the largest and most influential citizens’ advocacy organization in the state. NJCA has been instrumental in the legislative passage of scores of social welfare, consumer, and civil rights initiatives. He currently chairs the organization’s Political Action Committee (NJCA-PAC). His most recent organizing project has been the establishment of City Green, Inc. in Clifton, N.J. where he currently serves as the President of the Board. City Green is dedicated to growing healthy cities through urban farms and markets, school and community gardens, educational programs in the schools, and increasing low-income communities’ access to affordable, local farm fresh food.

Kahn was one of the founders of Ramapo College of New Jersey’s BSW Program in 1975, and he served as its Program Director until his retirement in 2013. He also provided leadership in statewide social work education when he served as President of the New Jersey Baccalaureate Social Work Educators Association and in other executive capacities over a forty-year time period.

On the labor front, Kahn was one of the early organizers of the State College Council of the AFT in 1972 and served as the President and long-term executive board member of AFT Local 2274 (Ramapo College). He continues to serve as a delegate to Central Trades and Labor Council of Bergen County.

He received lifetime achievement awards from both state and national NASW and serves as Chair of NASW-NJ’s PACE Committee.

Jack Riehl, AM ’71, acknowledged many of Kahn’s contributions to the field of social work, to SSA, and to the community. He wrote, “…Mitch is known for his boundless energy and work ethic … Mitch was generally working two to three full-time jobs simultaneously.” And Kenneth Reardon, PhD, Professor and Director at the University of Massachusetts Boston says, “Mitch follows in the steps of Florence Kelly and Jane Addams! Mitch is the embodiment of the empowerment tradition in social work practice, someone who has devoted his entire professional life to bending the ‘arc of the moral order towards justice.’”

Kahn received his BA cum laude in history from the University of Bridgeport in 1969 and his AM from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in 1971.

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LYNN VIDEKA

Lynn Videka 2019 Abbott Award recipientLynn Videka, AM '76, PhD '81, was selected for the 2019 Edith Abbott Award as she has a distinguished career in academic social work research and research leadership. Her research and teaching focuses on effective prevention services for families in the child welfare system and recovery oriented approaches for people with mental health disabilities.  She has been the dean and Carol T. Mowbray Collegiate Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan School of Social Work since August 2016. Since arriving at Michigan, she has engaged the faculty, staff, alumni, students, and community partners in a strategic planning process that has resulted in an ambitious strategic vision for the school to lead the entire social work field into the next generation of research, educational innovation, and service.

Her scholarship contributes to advancing evidence-based social work practice and to defining social work’s role in integrated health care. Her funded research totals over $11 million from agencies such as the Health Resources and Services Administration, the U.S. Children's Bureau, and the National Institutes of Mental Health.

Videka is respected as an effective university leader. At the University at Albany-SUNY, where she was named a Distinguished Service Professor in 2006, she served as dean and vice president for research. As vice president for research, she was the university’s chief research officer and facilitated the founding of an RNA Institute, provided oversight for eight university- level research centers and institutes in atmospheric sciences, social sciences, life sciences, and information technology.

At New York University she was dean of the Silver School of Social Work from 2009-2016 where she and the faculty transformed the school with a rededication to social justice, strengthened research and PhD education, launched a DSW program, created the Global MSW program, and increased the school's engagement with New York's high needs communities.

Videka is a leader who works to advance the field of social work as a member of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. She has served in many leadership roles including: President of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work; Board President of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research; Vice President and Conference Chair for the Society for Social Work and Research; and as an Executive Committee member of the Saint Louis Group, an association of research-intensive social work schools. She has also received international recognition with a Fulbright Fellowship, Social Worker of the Year Award from the New York State Northeastern Division chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and distinguished visiting faculty appointments at universities in the U.S., China, and Korea.

Both current and former SSA deans, Deborah Gorman-Smith, PhD, and Jeanne C. Marsh, PhD, acknowledged Videka’s many contributions to the field of social work, to SSA, and to the community. They wrote, “for her many contributions to the social work profession, scholars, faculty, students, and administrators hold Videka in the highest esteem as a thoughtful mentor, creative role model for women, and innovative leader – making her an extremely worthy recipient of the 2019 Edith Abbott Award.”

Videka earned a BS in nursing with honors from the University of Illinois. She earned her AM in 1976, and a PhD in 1981, from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. She considers her highly interdisciplinary education at SSA and the behavioral sciences at the University of Chicago to be the transformative experience that prepared her for a career of strong leadership and service. 

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The 2019 Social Impact Award

The Social Impact Award honors mid-career alumni who have excelled beyond the norm early in their career and have demonstrated a strong commitment to social change; leadership; creativity in non-traditional or innovative approaches to social problems; and commitment to furthering the social work field through volunteerism, teaching, or mentorship.

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ANDREA DURBIN, AM '93

Andrea Durbin, 2019 Social Impact Award RecipientAndrea Durbin, AM '93, was selected to receive the 2019 Social Impact Award for her many contributions to the field of social work, to SSA, and to the community.

Durbin has been the Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Collaboration on Youth (IOCY) since 2012. A passionate and lifelong advocate for young people, she leads ICOY’s work to improve the lives of children, youth, and their families. Durbin oversaw the merger of the Youth Network Council and Illinois Collaboration on Youth in 2012 and then a second merger in 2017 of the Youth Network Council (dba Illinois Collaboration on Youth) with the Child Care Association of Illinois to create the single largest provider and advocacy voice for children and youth services in Illinois. IOCY now represents more than 85 organizations across the state.

She also founded Illinois’ first Medicaid Technical Assistance Center to support community-based human services providers in the transition to Medicaid managed care for behavioral health care services.

As the Chairperson of the Pay Now Illinois Coalition, Durbin was a vocal advocate for vulnerable children, youth, and families. She, with the IOCY, led a coalition of nearly 100 human service organizations in a lawsuit against the former Governor of Illinois and eight state agency heads for more than $130 million in unpaid bills during the Illinois state budget impasse, demanding that the State fulfill its contractual agreement to pay for services rendered.

In a letter of support from Illinois House Majority Leader Gregory Harris, he stated, “…had it not been for the efforts of Ms. Durbin and the Pay Now Illinois coalition, the social safety net in Illinois as we know it today would have suffered grievous and perhaps irreversible harm. During the budget impasse, there were a handful of unsung heroes. Ms. Durbin was one of them...”

Raul Garza, President and Chief Executive Officer, Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness, wrote another of the several letters of recommendation describing Durbin’s passion and commitment to SSA’s mission of working toward a more just and humane society. “At a time when so many social service organizations struggled to survive, Andi made bold decisions and served as a catalyst for change,” Garza said.

Andrea serves on several high-level committees and workgroups, representing the needs of at-risk children and youth and the agencies that serve them, including as an invited member of Governor Pritzker’s Healthy Families and Communities Transition Team. She represents providers through the Social Services Advisory Council, the Child Welfare Advisory Committee, and the Mental Health Opportunities for Youth Diversion Task Force, among many others. She is the Chair of the ACT Now afterschool coalition; in that role, she has led a comprehensive restructuring and overhaul of the coalition’s governance and operations.

Durbin has also worked in a variety of communications and media relations positions and has volunteered for many organizations throughout her career. She recently joined DePaul University’s School of Public Service as an adjunct faculty member.

Durbin received a BSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1989 and her AM from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in 1993.