University of Texas at Austin social work professor receives national early career achievement award

AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Lori Holleran, associate professor of social work at The University of Texas at Austin, has received the first Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work and Research for innovative scholarship and research.

The national award recognizes individuals who early in their careers are making a notable influence in the profession of social work. Their accomplishments must reflect a rigorous approach to social work research, attract interest from other scholars and exhibit an emerging influence in the field. Nominees must be five to eight years post Ph.D.

Holleran will receive the $3,000 award at the society’s January conference in San Francisco.

Holleran, who specializes in drug prevention for high-risk youth, won a highly competitive five-year $622,465 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2003. Half of this award has allowed her to receive mentored training from some of the top national experts in the field of adolescent drug abuse. The other half is used for her research.

Holleran’s NIDA study engages 14-19-year-old adolescents in alternative schools and community settings. The Texas sites include four alternative high schools, a homeless youth shelter, low-income housing learning centers, a juvenile justice setting and a youth advocacy program on the Texas border.

The process involves having youth at each site adapt prevention curriculum scenarios and create new drug prevention videos.

“The youth are the true experts in what has meaning and what is real,” said Holleran. “By infusing curricula with their own words and experiences, it not only increases the program’s effectiveness with their peers, but also impacts the youth who assume the role of preventionist.”

Her preliminary findings suggest that the youth participants experienced changes in perceptions about alcohol and drugs and substance use because of their engagement in the process.

The Society for Social Work and Research, based in Fairfax, Va., is a professional members society dedicated to the advancement of social work research. Its more than 1,300 members come from around world and represent more than 200 universities and institutions.

For more information contact: Nancy Neff, School of Social Work, 512-471-6504.