National Association of Social Workers-WA Recognizes Seattle University Social Work Department

Written by Karen L. Bystrom
April 29, 2019

The Washington Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers recognized members of Seattle University’s Master of Social Work program at their annual Social Work Month Celebration on March 29. Katherine (Kat) Cole, currently in her second year in the SU MSW program, received the Outstanding Student Award. Faculty members Mary Kay Brennan, DSW, LICSW; Hye-Kyung Kang, MSW, PhD; and Riva Zeff, MSW were named Social Work Educators of the Year.

Award winners Kat Cole, Dr. Mary Kay Brennan, Dr. Hye-Kyung Kang and Riva Zeff

The nomination for Kat Cole stated, “(she) is the perfect exemplar of an outstanding social work student; she consistently demonstrates the core values of social work profession (service, social justice, dignity and worth of the individual, importance and centrality of human relationships, integrity, and competence) through her leadership and service.”

The nomination for the Social Work Educators of the Year award notes, “The most significant achievement of the trio is the success of Seattle University’s Social Work Programs. Dr. Mary Kay Brennan has, since 2006, continued to develop the BSW program, which now enables students to pursue an MSW program through the Advance Standing Program. The MSW program, under the leadership of Dr. Hye-Kyung Kang and Riza Zeff, is in its third year of the accreditation process with the council on Social Work Education. This program is and will continue to be an important resource for our region by providing competent social works to the field.” 

While maintaining a 4.0 GPA, Kat has embraced leadership and service roles in the Social Work Department and beyond. She co-founded a Student of Color peer support group for MSW and BSW students of color, advocated for and started a peer-mentorship in the MSW Program, and serves on the Seattle University Social Work Department Practicum Advisory Board where she provides a valuable perspective and insight as a current student. She has also organized a practicum panel for incoming students to help them prepare for a successful practicum.

Kat is the Co-President of the Seattle University Arts and Sciences Graduate Council, where she has been an effective and passionate advocate for equity and inclusion on campus. She has also collaborated with the University’s Career Center to develop graduate student-specific professional career support services.

She is the NASW student representative for the Seattle University MSW Program, serving as the co-coordinator (with Professor Alfred Perez, PhD) of the NASW Social Work Lobby Day. In her coordination efforts, she has advocated for more minority voices in the Lobby Day training and arranged transportation to increase access for more students to participate in the Lobby Day. She also monitors information disseminated by the WA State NASW and communicates relevant information (especially policy, training, and advocacy-related information) to MSW students.

The nomination concluded, “Kat’s commitment to social work values is evident in her practicum work. She is currently placed at You Grow Girl! where she provides mental health counseling to young women of color at schools. As a student of a social justice-focused and community-based clinical social work program Kat strives to integrate micro, mezzo, and macro contexts of social work; she builds strong relationships and works with her clients in a way that affirms their dignity and worth as a person while providing client-centered advocacy. She also studies policies that affect her clients’ lives and seeks opportunities to be part of the larger policy change.”

Mary Kay Brennan, MSW, DSW, LICSW, is a Clinical Professor and Director of the Baccalaureate Social Work program. She received her MSW (clinical concentration) from University of Michigan and her doctorate in social work from University St. Thomas and St Catherine University School of Social Work. Dr. Brennan is trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and has over 20 years of experience in direct clinical social work practice and supervision prior to her academic career. She holds professional licensure for independent clinical practice and is an approved supervisor for licensure. Dr. Brennan teaches courses in the BSW and MSW program on generalist and clinical practice with individuals, families, and groups; clinical assessment; HBSE and human development. Areas of clinical specialization include children’s mental health, play therapy, sexual abuse and trauma treatment, and crisis response within the school setting. Her research interests include the pedagogical application of social learning theory, reflective practice in clinical skill development, and the use of technology to enhance clinical proficiency.

Hye-Kyung Kang, MA, MSW, PhD, is the Chair of the Department of Social Work, Director of the Master in Social Work Program and Associate Professor at Seattle U. She received her MSW and PhD at the University of Washington School of Social Work. Dr. Kang’s research focuses on postcolonial social work practice, community organizing and mobilization in immigrant communities and communities of color, cultural citizenship, and critical pedagogy. She has over a decade of community-based social work practice experience as well as in community organizing.  In the recent years, she has been focusing on building community capacity and university-community partnership with marginalized communities through community-based participatory research. She is concerned with the interconnection between personal struggles and societal oppression and inequalities, and continues to teach clinical social work practice that integrates multiple contexts and narratives. She has authored various journal articles and book chapters as well as a book, Cultural Citizenship and Immigrant Community Identity: Constructing a Multi-ethnic Asian American Community.

Riva Zeff, MSW, is Field Director and Clinical Professor in Social Work at Seattle U. She has presented at both of the annual social work meetings of the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) and Baccalaureate Program Directors. She has two articles in a Sage encyclopedia and is a chapter co-author in Social Worker Field Directors Foundations for Excellence. Her committee involvement is with CSWE’s Committee on Field Education, Northwest Field Directors Consortium, Baccalaureate Program Directors Field Directors Committee, and statewide Seminar in Field Instruction as organizer and co-chair. Her professional associations include the Academy of Certified Social Workers, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of Clinical Social Workers, Council on Social Work Education, and Baccalaureate Program Directors.