SSW News

Critical Convos

September 11, 2020    |  

Critical ConvosThe UMSSW Alumni Association will host four virtual “Critical Convo” events in October. The “Critical Convo” events look to create dialogue and facilitate conversations on critical topics relating to social work education, research and the role of the profession in the community and beyond. Our newly elected Alumni Association Board of Directors President, Lori James-Townes will serve as host and moderator for each event. We hope you can join us for at least one if not all, this fall.


October 6th (12:00 – 1:15 pm )

“Critical Convo” Topic: Anti-Racism in the Workplace

Speaker: Shawna Murray Browne, LCSW-C, MSW ’11 Executive Director & Founder of Kindred Wellness, LLC and Kindred Community Healing

Shawna Murray-Browne, LCSW-C is an award-winning community healer, national speaker, and Liberation-Focused, Mind-Body Medicine Practitioner. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Kindred Community Healing and the Principal Consultant at Kindred Wellness LLC. Trained as an integrative psychotherapist, Shawna has created life-changing, community-based sacred spaces, honoring culture, to equip Black women, youth, and change-makers with the tools to heal themselves. A fierce advocate for racial equity in mental health care, Shawna guides professionals and organizations in nourishing a culture of mindfulness, anti-racism and impact. Intuitive, authentic and high energy, she is committed to helping the community reclaim collective wisdom to triumph the effects of historic and present day trauma. Shawna is currently pursuing her PhD in Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore where she earned her Masters in Social Work. She gained her Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Family Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. Dedicated to continued growth, her practice in QiGong, African spiritual traditions and sitting at the feet of elders maintain.


October 13th (5:30 – 6:45 pm )

“Critical Convo” Topic: Defunding the Police and Social Work

Speaker: Lydia Watts, Esq., Executive Director, The Rebuild, Overcome, and Rise (ROAR) Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore

Lydia has spent the past 30 years working with survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence. While in her third year of law school, Lydia — along with three fellow clinical students — founded Women Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE), where she served as Executive Director from 1995-2005. WEAVE was a multi-disciplinary agency that provided teen and adult victims of domestic violence in Washington, D.C., including an innovative range of services including legal, counseling, clinical case management, economic literacy and empowerment, outreach and education. Lydia is also the founding board chair of the Network for Victim Recovery (NVRDC) in D.C., which serves survivors of all types of crime with a strong emphasis on serving survivors of rape and sexual assault. Lydia served on the board of NVRDC from March 2012 to August 2015. Other leadership positions she has held include: CEO of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN); Deputy Director of the DC Access to Justice Commission; Director of Quality and Program Enhancement of the Civil Programs of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA); Executive Director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and the Victim Rights Law Center, both based in Boston. Lydia earned her J.D. summa cum laude from American University, Washington College of Law, and her BA in English from Boston University.


October 20th (12:00 – 1:15 pm)

“Critical Convo” Topic: The Cost of Caring in Social Work

Speaker: Lee Westgate, MBA, MSW ’06, LCSW-C, Clinical Instructor, University of Maryland School of Social Work

Lee Westgate, MBA, MSW, LCSW-C is a board approved clinical supervisor in the state of Maryland. He obtained his Masters in Social Work at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work and a Masters in Business Administration with a focus on Leadership and Management at the University of Baltimore. He currently serves as a Clinical Instructor at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work. He has participated in a CSWE-sponsored National Trauma Task Force work-group that focused on the intersection of ethics and trauma-informed practice. Additionally, he was awarded an immersion fellowship through Boston University to study addiction and behavioral health. Teaching is of central importance to Lee. As a faculty member in the University of MD, School of Social Work’s graduate program he has received numerous teaching awards including the Exemplary Faculty Member of the Year Award along with the Dean’s Teaching Award for several consecutive semesters. 


October 27th (5:30 – 6:45 pm)

“Critical Convo” Topic: Technology and Social Work

Speaker: Elizabeth Warmington Garcia, MSSA, MNO, LCSW-C, Director, Behavioral Health Services, The Children’s Guild Alliance

Elizabeth Garcia is the Interim Chief of Children’s and Community Services for The Children’s Guild.  In this role, she ensures behavioral health, residential and treatment foster care programs provide the highest quality of clinical care.  She is an LCSW-C with 25 years of experience providing direct practice clinical services as well as managing behavioral health and out of home care for children and families. Garcia joined The Children’s Guild in 2011 and was promoted as Director of Behavioral Health Services.  Her leadership has overseen the growth of the Expanded School Based Mental Health Services to six counties and 90 schools.  She serves on the Board of The Behavioral Health Association of Maryland. Prior to The Children’s Guild, Garcia was Division Director for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau in Cleveland.  She received two master’s degrees, in social work and nonprofit management, from Case Western Reserve University.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.



Lori James-Townes, MSW ‘91
President & CEO of Expand-Now

Lori James-Townes is President & CEO of Expand-Now. She also serves as an Assistant Training Director for National Association of Public Defense. Lori’s passion is adding value to others. Lori has over 25 years of teaching, clinical practice, leadership, and management experience in juvenile justice, mental health, and public defender settings. Her most recent public defender position, was Director Social Work, Leadership and Program Development, with Maryland Office of Public Defender. With over more than 800 employees, she served as one of the first Directors of Leadership in a public defender setting. While in this position, she demonstrated her ability to help others grow in the areas of teamwork, leadership, and management. She also led the agency’s social work staff, consultants, and interns.

Lori is certified John Maxwell Trainer, Coach and Speaker. She has developed programs that are now national models for other agencies. In 2015, The Daily Record Newspaper named her as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women. As a speaker, she is requested both nationally and internationally.  

Lori has held various leadership positions on national organizations and Boards of Directors. Her commitment to growth has been recognized as organizations have appointed her to serve as Conference Chair for several national conferences and training programs.  Lori also serves as a faculty member for national and regional leadership development, trials skills, training and programs, including but not limited to: National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialist Gideon’s Promise, National Legal Aide and Defender Association, Administrative Offices of the Courts (Training Branch), MD Department of Human Services, and other private and non-profit entities. 

CEUs: 1 Category II

Cost: $15 for 1 Category II

If participate signs up for all four events the total cost will be $45 ($15 discount)