Before coming to UK, Benner worked in child welfare as a licensed clinical social worker before earning her doctorate. She continued that interest in public service while at UK in her work with the Public Child Welfare Certification Program, a partnership between the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and 11 public and private universities, to provide a curriculum to prepare competent and efficacious workers.
In her UK-based research, Benner has trained students and health professionals to identify drug and alcohol abuse using SBIRT (screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment). The evidence-based practice has been used at the UK Department of Family and Community Medicine Clinic in Lexington and by social workers across the Commonwealth.
Research has been integral to her role in the classroom. “When I became a social work educator, that was one thing I wanted to help my students do: gain confidence in asking those tough questions,” Benner said. “That’s the only way to truly create change, by starting with acknowledging what the issues are.”
In her new position at the College of Social Work, Benner looks to the future of the college with plans to continue as a mentor to students while focusing on program oversight, faculty development, and collaboration between programs. “The college is uniquely poised to manifest UK’s land grant mission. I look forward to continuing our role in meeting the needs of the Commonwealth and beyond.”