UK College of Social Work Celebrates the 2022 Lyman T. Johnson Awards Recipients

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The University of Kentucky College of Social Work is proud to announce the recipients of the 2022 Lyman T. Johnson Torch of Excellence and Torch Bearer Awards.

Lyman T. Johnson was a pioneer who challenged the status quo in his landmark court case which opened the University of Kentucky to Black students in 1949. He dedicated his life to fighting against segregation and racial inequalities in Kentucky. Each college or unit in the university selects one alum and one student annually to receive an award honoring his legacy and their achievements. The Lyman T. Johnson African American Alumni Constituency Group and the Office for Institutional Diversity celebrated the recipients during the 31st annual awards ceremony on Friday, October 14.

Torch of Excellence Award: Devonia Love-Vaughn, UK College of Social Work alumna and dean of Inclusion Initiatives and Student Success at Louisiana Tech University

Devonia Love-Vaughn currently serves as the inaugural dean of Inclusion Initiatives and Student Success at Louisiana Tech University. She is the first African American female to be appointed to a dean position at Louisiana Tech. Previously, she served as the school’s director of Multicultural Affairs. Love-Vaughn holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the UK College of Social Work and is a doctoral student at Louisiana Tech in the Educational Leadership program with a concentration in Higher Education Administration. She is also a 2019 graduate of the second cohort of the University of Louisiana System’s Management and Leadership Institute.

“I am humbled, I am honored, and I feel somewhat that I’ve come full circle,” Love-Vaughn said. “As a student, I got to meet Lyman T. Johnson…he was a legend in his own right for our community and to be bestowed an award named after him, it’s emotional.”

She also offered advice for students looking to follow in her footsteps. “I need for them to allow my ceiling to be their floor—to discover what makes them authentic and unique,” Love-Vaughn said. “Do the internal work. Figure out what guides you and find what makes you get up every day and want to work. What brings you joy.”

The Lyman T. Johnson Torch of Excellence Award is given to a Black alum whose faith, hard work, and determination has positively affected the lives of people on the UK campus, the city, state, or nation.

Torch Bearer Award: Kendra Mulder, UK College of Social Work DSW student

Kendra Mulder is currently enrolled in the Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) program at the UK College of Social Work, where she also received her Master of Social Work degree. She received her bachelor’s degree in Family Sciences from UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Mulder began her career as a foster care specialist and worked for the Department of Community-Based Services as a family social worker. She now serves as a program manager for assessments and referrals for Fayette County School’s District Support Team. Additionally, Mulder also runs a therapeutic private practice in which she primarily serves African American and Hispanic clients who are experiencing adverse symptoms related to anxiety and depression. As a licensed clinical social worker, her passion is ensuring that people of color have access to affordable and culturally sensitive mental health services.

“It’s surreal. The work that I do every day is just who I am, it’s who I was created to be. I have never thought about having accolades for doing what I love to do,” Mulder said. “For me, receiving the Lyman T. Johnson Torch Bearer Award is an honor and a privilege, and it just reinforces how important this work is. Even on those days when that imposter syndrome kicks in, and I feel like I’m not doing enough, it shows the work must continue to be done.”

The Lyman T. Johnson Torch Bearer Award is given to a current Black student in recognition of their academic achievements at the University of Kentucky and ability to positively impact the lives of others.

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For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. 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. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.