Social Work alumna awarded “Emerging Social Work Leader” by NASW

Olypmhia O'Neale-White, DSW alumna, was awarded by NASW for her leadership in social work.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 10, 2024) — Olymphia O’Neale-White, an esteemed alumna of the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW), was recognized by the National Association of Social Work (NASW) with the 2024 Emerging Social Work Leader Award.

 “To say I’m honored and humbled would be an understatement,” Dr. O’Neale-White posted on social. “I represent a lot of firsts. Standing on that stage as a first-generation Caribbean American, receiving this prestigious award in front of my father, made this moment even more special. N’ others SEEING ME being recognized in that way solidified something; we belong. Regardless of what that “WE” means.”

Dr. O’Neale-White was presented with her award on Juneteenth during the 2024 NASW National Conference in Washington, D.C. The Emerging Social Work Leader Award honors members of the NASW who have been in practice for five years or less and demonstrated outstanding contributions as a leader who is at the beginning phase of their social work career. NASW National Awards Committee members wrote, “Dr. O is a social worker who will make a lasting mark on the communities she serves.”

And that is certainly the case.

Referred to as “Dr. O” by her clients, O’Neale-White graduated from the UK College of Social Work DSW program in 2023. Dr. O’Neale-White shared that she was diagnosed with infertility and, following IVF treatment, experienced a silent miscarriage, which fueled her interest in reproductive mental health and career exploration for social workers. During her time as a DSW student, Dr. O’Neale-White researched reproductive healthcare challenges and social work education. She also served as President of the UKY NABSW Chapter, leading initiatives such as “Brave Spaces,” where participants engaged in dialogues on discrimination and racism and were encouraged to develop innovative solutions within their communities.

Balancing the roles of a military social worker, entrepreneur, and part-time professor for varying universities nationwide, O’Neale-White is a licensed clinician passionate about education, public speaking, professional development, and advocacy. Her consulting company, Through My Lense Consulting Services LLC℠, specializes in the business aspects of social work. It provides professional development services, specialized education, and career advice aimed at fostering success in the field.

Using her personal experiences as a guide, Dr. O emphasizes the importance of leading the next generation of social workers in “professional troublemaking” by asking hard questions, engaging in unapologetic self-care, promoting self-advocacy, and nurturing natural talents to create (and enter) non-traditional or competitive roles within the profession.

O’Neale-White’s career continues to be distinguished by her innovative approaches to addressing societal challenges and diversifying her educational and clinical impact. From her roles in mental health services to her initiatives in policy reform, “Dr. O” champions equity, inclusivity, and social change.

“I believe in empowering the next generation,” O’Neale-White said. “My goal is to inspire others, just as my mentors in Social Work inspired me. Now, we’d be here all day if I listed every social worker who was a part of my journey, but powerhouses like Dean Miller, Dr. Conner, Dr. Slay, and Dr. Pittman think outside the box to make a difference. The UK College of Social Work allows students to question the status quo and, in authenticity, drive meaningful change. I’m out here trying to do exactly that!”

For over 85 years, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has been a leader in education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the CoSW works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways.

As the state’s flagship university, our mission is actualized through our deeds. Our faculty are renowned academicians dedicated to fostering the development of high-quality practitioners and researchers. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.