Distinguished Alumni

Alumni News

Mar 18, 2019
Hannah Beachler '05 returned to Wright State to talk to students about filmmaking and winning an Oscar for her work on "Black Panther."
Mar 8, 2019
2006 Wright State fine arts grad Erika b Hess interviews artists, curators, collectors and gallerists on her popular "I Like Your Work” podcast.
Mar 6, 2019
2002 Wright State film grad Scott Marshall has produced World Wrestling Entertainment shows around the United States and in Colombia, Panama and the Czech Republic.
Feb 28, 2019
Wright State students interested in criminal justice careers interacted with alumni and other professionals who have flourished in those fields.
Feb 25, 2019
Hannah Beachler, who graduated from Wright State in 2005, is the first African American to win an Oscar in the Best Production Design category.
Feb 14, 2019
The awards honor programs and educators that challenge students and promote standards of excellence.
Feb 12, 2019
Wright State alumni contribute to Dayton's arts world through the Front Street Studio Gallery.
Feb 6, 2019
Wright State School of Music grads James Edwards-Kenion and Cory Wilhite turned internships into jobs with the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance.
Feb 4, 2019
2006 Wright State graduate Reza Masoudi and his wife, Bahar, saw their dress-making business take off after the exiled empress of Iran wore one of their creations.
Jan 29, 2019
Corrie Pleska, a licensed social worker, provides support and resources to student survivors of power-based violence, including domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.




Tennille Ali (2016 Recipient)

BA, Social Work, 2004

Tennille Ali received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Wright State University in 2004. After graduation, Ali began her career with Montgomery County Children Services as a caseworker for both intake and on-going services. In her current role as child welfare supervisor she oversees alternative response workers and family support workers

Ali has provided field supervision to the University Partnership Program (UPP) since 2012. UPP is a partnership between the university and the county Public Children Services Agency (PCSA), which is designed to further enhance the training of students in the field of child welfare and partially reimburse students who become employed by a PCSA. Ali was a part of the University Partnership Program as a student, completing her internship at Clark County Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Ali is committed to WSU, UPP, and the development of young professionals entering social work, especially those called to child welfare. Ali is a member of the UPP Advisory Board and the Social Work Alumni Society. Additionally, Ali received her Master of Social Work from University of Cincinnati in 2008.

Malana Penney (2015 Recipient)

BA, Social Work

Lana Penney received her BA in Social Work with honors in 1997. In 2010 she received her MA in Social Work from The Ohio State University. While at Wright State University Penney was President of the Social Work Club. After graduation she began her career with Greene County Children Services, holding a number of positions within the agency, and she has also served in a number of statewide initiatives. In her current position Penney manages on-going services, adoption, and the Wendy’s Wonderful Kid’s grant. 

Penney has provided field supervision to both traditional social-work students and the University Partnership Program (UPP) since 2003.  UPP is a partnership between the university and the county public children services agency (PCSA). Penney’s knowledge and expertise has been significant in the on-going enrichment of the program. She is committed to Wright State University, UPP, and the development of young professionals entering social work, especially those called to child welfare. A member of the UPP Advisory Board, Penney was chosen as an Outstanding BSW Field Supervisor for the 2005-06 and 2014-15 academic years. 

Naomi Ewald-Orme (2014 Recipient)

'90 B.S.W. Social Work

Naomi Ewald-Orme, BSW graduate in 1990, is the 2015 Social Work Alumna of the Year.  After graduating from WSU, she went on to receive her MSW from University of Cincinnati in 1999.  She worked  for Montgomery County Children’s Services for three years before founding her own agency in 2000 called Adoption Link, Inc.  In fourteen years, this agency has grown to serve families throughout Ohio, including Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Cleveland.  The agency works with birthparents and adoptive families to assist in the adoption process.  Adoption Link provides birthparents with resources, supportive services, and referrals.  Agency social workers conduct required home studies, counseling, and education for adoptive parents.  Adoption Link was featured in a 2011 Yellow Springs news article, highlighting the agency’s focus on supporting the collaborative plans of the adoptive and birth parents.  The agency provides domestic adoption as an option to those seeking adoption services. 

In addition to Naomi’s social work experiences, she has also served on the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Leadership Board since 2005.  In this capacity, she provides feedback on CoLA initiatives, contributes to the annual Dean’s Leadership Board scholarship funds, and helps select the annual awardees.

Rita Mack (2013 Recipient)

'04 B.A., Social Work

Rita Mack is a 2004 graduate from the WSU undergraduate social work program and a 2011 MSW graduate from the Ohio State University College of Social Work program offered at Wright State University.  While at Wright State, Rita received the Gladys Turner Finney scholarship, a competitive endowed scholarship in the social work department.  She is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor III.  Rita is currently an emergency trauma center support social worker at Miami Valley Hospital.  Her social work experiences have centered on providing individual and group counseling for persons with substance abuse concerns and working with sexual abuse offenders.  Her social work positions were at the Chillicothe Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center, Volunteers of America New Life Inpatient Sex Offender Program, the Dayton VA Medical Center, and the Salvation Army Booth House substance abuse program. 

In 2008, Rita served as a community mentor for a WSU grant-funded program called WorkSmart.  She worked with Dr. Marjorie Baker to provide monthly contact with African American women in the social work program who were balancing raising a family and completing the requirements for the BSW program.  Rita provided an excellent role model for the students in the WorkSmart program.  In 2012, Rita Mack received the Emerging Leader   Award from the Dayton region chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.  Rita is also a leader in her church.  The social work department is proud of the contributions Rita Mack has made to the community.

Karin VanZant (2012 Recipient)

'88 B.A. Social Work, '08 M.P.A.

Karin VanZant is the co-founder of Think Tank. Think Tank's mission is to research, motivate, educate, create, consult and coach communities and organizations to solve the toughest social problems. In 2011, Think Tank became the headquarters for the National Circles® Campaign after having directed the training and capacity building for over 2 years on behalf of Move the Mountain Leadership Center and Circles® founder Scott Miller. The National Circles Campaign builds learning communities that promote individual and community economic stability, healthy relationships and diverse leadership. The Circles® Campaign is active in over 70 communities in 23 states and Canada.

Ms. VanZant is also a national certified trainer for aha!Process in "Bridges Out of Poverty", "Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin' By World", Family Development Specialist Trainer, Seven Habits for Highly Effective Teen and Technology of Participation (TOPS) Group Facilitation and Strategic Planning. In addition to leading the National Circles® Campaign and building local partnerships at Think Tank, Ms. VanZant also teaches at Antioch Midwest University in the Human Services Department.

Ms. VanZant is a member of Enon United Methodist Church, a graduate of Leadership Clark County Class 2006 and the Community Action Leadership Academy Class 2003. She has served as a Board Officer for Clark County Habitat for Humanity and is an Officer for the Clark Shawnee Touchdown Club. Other volunteer activities include being an Ally of the Clark County Circles® Campaign, Junior Achievement, SOCHE Navigating Your Career Committee and member of the Governor's Anti-poverty Taskforce in 2006.

Ms. VanZant has lived in Clark County, OH her entire life, is a two-time graduate of Wright State University – 1998 BA Social Work and 2008 Masters Public Administration. She married her high school sweetheart and has been married since 1995. She is the proud mom of a teenage son, who is by far the best credential she could ever hope for.

Monica Mickles Ascar (2010 Recipient)

'96 M.A. Social Work

Ms. Monica Mickles Ascar, 1996 BASW graduate, is the 2010 Social Work Alumna of the Year. She received her Masters of Social Work from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1999. She received the Ohio National Association of Social Workers Dayton Region MSW Student of the Year Award in 1999. Monica is currently completing her dissertation on childhood obesity in pursuit of her PhD in Social Work from The Ohio State University.

Monica’s social work practice has included working in health care and child welfare settings. She has been a social worker at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton since 2000 where she conducts psychosocial assessments, crisis intervention, emergency department services, and child abuse assessment and prevention. Destry Fallen, Director of Social Services at Children’s Medical Center speaks highly of Monica’s devotion to families who are facing enormous challenges. Ms. Ascar also worked at Miami Valley Hospital and Montgomery County Children’s Services helping families where there was risk for child abuse and neglect.

Monica Ascar is a researcher and educator of Social Work. Her research has included grants supported by the Susan G. Komen Foundation for cancer prevention and the Robert Woods Johnson grant addressing childhood obesity within the Columbus, OH Public School District. She co-presented a paper on conducting systematic reviews of evidence based practice at the annual conference for the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). She has been an adjunct professor for the Department of Social Work at Wright State University and the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University since Fall 2003, receiving high student evaluations. Ms. Ascar received the competitive Minority Fellowship Award from CSWE. Dr. Denise Bronson, former chair of the OSU doctoral program, described Monica as a role model and source of support for other doctoral students through Monica’s research and dedication to Social Work.

Deb Downing (2009 Recipient)

'81 B.A. Social Work

After receiving her BASW from WSU, Deb Downing completed her MS in Education Social Agency Counseling from the University of Dayton in 1989 and her MSW from the University of Cincinnati in 2000. Deb has over 28 years experience in social services, primarily working with children, adolescents, and their families. She has worked for Shelby County Children’s Services; Specialized Alternatives for Youth in Delphos, Ohio; Montgomery County Children’s Services; and currently for Montgomery County Jobs and Family Services.

Deb is the assistant director of Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services. In this capacity she manages the Social Services and Income Support Division which includes a staff of over 300 employees who provide the following services: Ohio Works First which is time limited cash assistance to needy families and work activities to promote self sufficiency, food assistance, Medicaid health care, senior services, and child care services.

Deb’s devotion to the WSU social work department includes serving on the professional advisory board for over six years, serving on the University Partnership Program Advisory Board, and teaching one of the required child welfare classes for six years. Deb helped found the social work alumni society with help from the WSU alumni association. She is the society’s first president. She was also an active member of the social work alumni committee and has helped coordinate alumni activities with the social work club. The social work alumni society is organizing a fund raiser for social work scholarships. The Social Work Department is indebted to the energy, time, and support Deb has given back to her alma mater.

Catherine A. Rauch (2008 Recipient)

'88 B.A. Social Work

After receiving her B.A. in Social Work from Wright State University, Catherine Rauch completed the one year Master of Science in Social Work at the University of Louisville in 1989 with a concentration in Administration, Policy, and Planning.

After graduate school, Catherine was a full-time volunteer at a women's shelter in Syracuse, New York; the coordinator of case management information services for Community Connections of Greater Dayton from 1990-1992, and the director of volunteer services for Hospice of Dayton from 1992-1995. As the director of the Miami Valley Teen Coalition from 1997-2006, Catherine coordinated seminars which provided continuing education to many individuals, helped conduct a needs assessment of child care and housing of teen parents, coordinated the administration of a youth development survey, and advocated on behalf of teens through a variety of activities.

Last year, Catherine became the program coordinator for Family and Children First in Montgomery County. She provides research and technical assistance to community leaders and members of the Montgomery County Family and Children First Council, working on issues such as supporting family stability and helping young people succeed. Catherine also provides local service providers with technical support and coordinates the selection of services to be funded by the Ohio Children's Trust Fund and the Human Services Levy Supported Services Fund. Catherine has made a big impact on service delivery for youth and families in the Miami Valley.

Jo Ellen Layne (2007 Recipient)

'95 B.A. Social Work

Jo Ellen Layne received her B.A. in Social Work with honors in 1995. While at WSU, she was active in the social work club and the honors society, Alpha Delta Mu. Jo Ellen went directly to the University of Michigan where she received her M.A. from the #1 social work program in the country. She again graduated with honors and was an invited speaker for the annual social work banquet.

Jo Ellen's social work practice has included grief work with hospice families and working in the Family Advocacy Program for the U.S. military with families stationed in Japan. She helped these families prevent their daily stress from resulting in violence and mental dysfunction. We are fortunate at Wright State University that Jo Ellen's next stop was back here in Dayton. In 2002 she became the first and only project coordinator of the Child Welfare Workforce Professional Education Program. Under Jo Ellen's guidance, over 30 students have completed this program and began work at a public child welfare agency.

Jo Ellen's individual work with students, her support for the field supervisors, and her utilization of an advisory group have become the model for other university's child welfare partnership programs. Jo Ellen's work with the child welfare program has brought the Wright State University social work program much positive media exposure, including a feature article in the Fall 2004 Community magazine. Jo Ellen continues to be active in the social work alumni committee, connecting her work with students to alumni social workers in the field.

Brenda Haney (2006 Recipient)

'98 B.S.W. Social Work

Brenda Haney graduated with honors from Wright State University in 1998, while also balancing a full-time job and parenting responsibilities. She quickly completed her M.S.W. at the University of Cincinnati in 2000.

Brenda has been a social worker at Daymont Behavioral Health Center since 2002, and she is currently the manager of adult and youth substance abuse services and the HIV/AIDS prevention program. She has consistently received high praise from her supervisors and colleagues for her caring, organizational skills, high level of determination, social work professionalism and values, commendable work ethic and, equally as important, her very pleasant and unassuming personality.

Students are benefiting from these same skills, knowledge and values as Brenda is also an adjunct professor at Wright State University teaching Social Welfare Policy and Cultural Competency in a Diverse World. She has also taught continuing education workshops for the department on topics related to mental health assessment and intervention.

Brenda was named NASW Social Worker of the Year for 2005 and is looking forward to the title of NASW Regional Director.

Barbra Teater (2005 Recipient)

'99 B.A. Social Work

The fact that Barbra Teater has been awarded the Social Work Alumna of the Year only six years after her graduation speaks volumes about her motivation, abilities, persistence, and dedication to her academic and professional career. Since graduating from WSU in 1999, Ms. Teater received her Masters of Social Work from the Jane Addams School of Social Work at the University of Illinois campus in Chicago. She received this degree in one year! In 2001, Barbra was accepted into the doctoral program in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University. She successfully completed her competency exams in 2004 and is scheduled to complete her dissertation by the summer of 2006. Barbra has been a child and family social worker for Montgomery County Children's Services, St. Joseph Children's Treatment Center, and the Children's Medical Center. She recently presented two scholarly research papers at the Council of Social Work Education's Annual Program Meeting in New York and the Social Policy conference in Charleston, South Carolina; the paper she presented is currently under review by The Social Policy Journal. Barbra has taught social work courses at OSU and is currently an adjunct professor with the Social work department at WSU. Her numerous honors include research assistantships and scholarships at WSU and OSU, Outstanding Social Work Student of the Year, BSW Student of the Year for the Dayton chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the 2005 OSU Board of Trustees Student Recognition Award.

Sandra Castle (2004 Recipient)

'83 B.A. Social Work, '96 M.A. Rehabilitation Counseling

In 1985, Sandra became a probation officer with Clark County Juvenile Court; returning to foster care working at Choice Inc. in Dayton (1987-89) to further her education. In 1998, Ms. Castle completed the Cultural Bridges Justice Institute training. Her education and training have been utilized by Sandy in her position as coordinator of mental health services and the mental health team for Community Services for the Deaf, which is funded by the Family Service Association of Dayton.

Rosezelle Boggs-Qualls (2003 Recipient)

'78 B.A. Social Work

Rosezelle has worked as a social worker for over 30 years, mainly in the field of mental health. She has been a strong advocate for the disabled, especially the deaf, and she herself has a major hearing impairment. One of Rosezell's most significant contributions is her co-authored book about Nellie Zimmerman, who was deaf and blind, and had been wrongly institutionalized in a state mental hospital until 1976, at the age of 71 years old.

The book has had numerous printings and continues to receive positive reviews.

Elizabeth Cobb Nicholson (2002 Recipient)

'78 B.A. Social Work

Libby earned a Master's of Science degree in Social Work from the University of Louisville in 1982 and was instrumental in establishing the first child advocacy center in southern Ohio. In December, 1977, she was named director of ARE House, which provides a multi-disciplinary team approach to child abuse investigation involving medical personnel, child protection works, law enforcement, prosecutors, therapists, and victim advocates. Prior to her employment at The Children's Medical Center, she worked for Montgomery County Children Services as a protective service caseworker and supervisor.