2024 Award Winners Announcement

Alumni of the Year Award

Lee Westgate, MSW ‘06

Lee Westgate HeadshotLee Westgate, MSW, MBA, LCSW-C (he/him/his) is a transgender advocate with extensive professional experience in social work policy, practice, research, and education. He has held numerous leadership roles and serves as an educational consultant to a variety of organizational clientele. Mr. Westgate has participated in a CSWE-sponsored National Trauma Task Force workgroup that focused on the intersection of ethics and trauma-informed practice, and he was awarded an immersion fellowship through Boston University to study addiction and behavioral health. Mr. Westgate continues to serve as a faculty member at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work and his scholarship includes integrated behavioral health, clinical work with LGBTQIA+ populations, working with individuals with chronic and life-threatening illness, healthcare policy, and health equity. As a faculty member he has received numerous teaching awards, and his work has been featured in a broad array of publications.


Emeritus Award

Patricia Cronin, MSW ‘79

Patricia Cronin Headshot

With over forty years of social work practice in the private sector, Pat Cronin’s scholarship, training and service focus is on the wellbeing of families and children. Cronin is a recognized subject expert and leader in the arena of child abuse prevention and family support. She served as the Executive Director of The Family Tree, a statewide child abuse prevention organization, for 23 years. During that time, she served as a long-term Chair of Maryland’s State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, participated in County-wide Child Protection Panels, and co-led Maryland’s Essentials for Childhood. In collaboration with state and local partners, Cronin launched a state-wide training effort aimed to disseminate to the public scientific information about the biology of stress and resiliency.

Cronin has presented and trained on diverse topics at state and national arenas. Prior to coming to The Family Tree, Cronin served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Woodbourne Center in Baltimore. Pat has two adult children and is the granny to two young grandsons who reside in London.


Field Instructor of the Year Award

Holly English, MSW ‘13

Holly English HeadshotHolly English earned her MSW at UMSSW and has been practicing for over 10 years, working previously in child welfare and currently in a pediatric setting. Holly is the Mental Health Team Leader at Children First Pediatrics, providing supervision for LMSW therapists as well as mental health services for children in the community. In all professional settings, Holly has prioritized training and mentoring others, regularly working as a field instructor for graduate students through UMSSW. Holly hopes to continue expanding collaboration between medical and mental health providers, helping people increase access to cohesive services. In her free time, Holly prioritizes time with her family, particularly her young son, weight lifting, and traveling.


Innovation in Social Work Award

Ezra Buchdahl, MSW ‘88

Ezra Buchdahl HeadshotEzra Buchdahl, MSW/LCSW-C and Certified Residential Child Care Program Administrator, is a 1988 graduate from the University of Maryland School of Social Work. He has held various clinical and administrative positions in Catholic Charities’ Family Services and Senior Services divisions since 1988. He has served as the Administrator for St. Vincent’s Villa and Villa Maria School since 2011. Currently Mr. Buchdahl directs and administers all residential and school programs as well as the administrative and operations functions that support those programs. He provides direct supervision to the Residential and School Leadership Team in personnel management, program and strategic planning, and budget development. He also serves as the

primary handler for a rehabilitative facility dog, Carmen. He serves on a number of State-wide coalitions, committees and work groups to advocate for and improve the system of care for children and families.


Outstanding Recent Graduate Award

Melvis Asongwed, MSW ‘16

Melvis AsongwedMelvis Asongwed, MSW, MS, LCSW-C, Ph.D. is a distinguished clinical social worker and forensic psychology expert currently employed by the State of Maryland - Department of Juvenile Services as an Advanced Social Worker, specializing in Criminal Justice. She conducts comprehensive assessments and provides essential treatment services to youths pending placement. Additionally, Melvis holds a pivotal role as a Panel Social Worker - Criminal Justice for the State of Maryland Office of the Public Defender (MOPD), focusing on felony and post-conviction cases. She is the visionary founder of Melvis Behavioral Health & Forensic Consultancy LLC, an organization dedicated to delivering mental health treatment and forensic consulting services across Maryland.

Melvis embarked on her academic journey at Montgomery College Rockville MD, earning an AAS in Mental Health in 2013. She advanced her education with a BSW in Social Work from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2015, where she was honored with the Outstanding Student Achievement Award. Her career took a pivotal turn during her undergraduate internship at the MOPD, igniting a passion for forensics and social justice that led to her hiring as a panel social worker and subsequent full staff position. Over a decade at MOPD, Melvis has made significant contributions in juvenile, felony, post-conviction, drug court, and case management divisions.

Her academic pursuits led her to the University of Maryland School of Social Work, graduating as an advanced standing student in 2016. She further specialized in forensic psychology, earning a MS in 2019 and a Ph.D. in 2023 from Walden University, with a dissertation focused on protective factors against criminal activity. A licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-C), Forensic Psychology (Ph.D) and a fervent advocate for social justice and change, Melvis's extensive education and experience underscore her commitment to enhancing the lives of those she serves.


Student of the Year Award

Jenna Koch, MSW ‘24

Jenna Koch Headshot

Jenna Koch discovered the field of social work upon recognizing her passion for supporting social equity, as well as the mental wellbeing of others. Her desire to be a catalyst for change and advocate in the mental health space is a result of her own experiences with adversity and their consequences to her own mental wellness. Ultimately, these experiences inspired her to fuel a life of passion and service through the pursuit of social work education.

She is humbled by the opportunity to study social work at the University of Maryland and complete her field work with the nonprofit, Twist Out Cancer, where she has expanded her understanding of the breadth of the social work field. Jenna looks forward to further exploration of both the macro and clinical paths to most fully reach her potential and create lasting impact.

Ready to be a Changemaker?