ATLANTA — Georgia State alumna Delores A. Varner (B.S.W. '96, M.S.W.'01) and friends of Mindy Wertheimer recently endowed two new scholarships that will support students pursuing degrees in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies’ School of Social Work (SSW). As the first two funded endowments dedicated to supporting social work students, they double the number of scholarships available in the SSW.
“These two scholarships established to honor two remarkable women who were also remarkable social workers will have an enduring impact on students coming into the School of Social Work and ultimately on the social work profession,” said Professor Peter Lyons, interim director of the School of Social Work. “I have had the honor of knowing Dee Varner since she was a graduate student in the early days of the school and have also been honored to work alongside Mindy since 1998. It is fitting these scholarships honor their commitment and contribution to the School of Social Work, the social work profession and the children and families with whom we all work.”
The Delores A. Varner Social Work Scholarship will provide financial support to students in the undergraduate and graduate levels who declare a social work major, maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average and demonstrate financial need. Preference will be given to students with a lived experience in foster care, and those awarded the scholarship may receive it multiple years if they remain in good standing.
The Mindy R. Wertheimer Scholarship was endowed by the gifts and pledges of Andrew Young School faculty, staff and friends upon her recent retirement as a clinical professor of social work. The scholarship will provide financial assistance to promising Andrew Young School graduate students who demonstrate talent in social work and maintain good academic standing in the M.S.W. program.
Applications for the Wertheimer scholarship will open in 2023 and the Varner scholarship will be made available once it is fully endowed.
Varner’s service to children and families began early in her almost 30-year career with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, where she served 13 years as a Federal Head Start Project Officer and 16 years as a Child and Family Program Specialist for the Children’s Bureau. She says her life journey growing up in rural Miccosukee, Fla., her experiences in improving outcomes for at-risk children and the opportunities afforded to states by the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 (FFPSA) inspired her to establish the scholarship.
“I am one of 12 children and my parents divorced when I was 12 years of age,” she said. “But for the grace of God and strong off-the-grid, nontraditional kinship care, my 11 siblings and I would have experienced the foster care system.
“The FFPSA will provide an opportunity to change the way we structure and implement our child welfare system, moving the focus to prevention and supporting child and family well-being. It offers a wiser use of the over $30 billion now spent predominantly on investigating reports of child maltreatment and maintaining out-of-home placements. Any student sharing the excitement and enthusiasm about FFPSA should benefit from this new scholarship.”
Clinical professor and alumna Mindy Wertheimer, who holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration and leadership, recently retired from the School of Social Work after more than 40 years at Georgia State. She was the school’s first director of field education, directed the M.S.W. program and was an associate faculty member in the Andrew Young School’s Nonprofit Studies program. She is an expert in nonprofit board governance and social work pedagogy.
Upon news of her retirement, faculty in the School of Social Work decided to establish an endowed scholarship in her name to honor Wertheimer and her record of service to the field, and to leave a legacy that would benefit students of the program. Its original goal of $25,000 – matched by the Georgia State Foundation – quickly rose to total gifts and pledges of nearly $57,000.
“The financial support offered by the scholarships will make the difference between successful degree completion and an inability to finish based on financial hardship,” said Lyons. “Some of the best social workers are those who have overcome significant obstacles to gain entrance to the professional world. These scholarships will increase access for students with the potential to shine who may otherwise have gone by the wayside.”
“These two scholarships are the first endowed awards supporting students in the School of Social Work,” said Amanda Puche, director of Development for the Andrew Young School. “We are all grateful to celebrate this huge milestone and all social work students who will be able to move forward in their chosen field thanks to the investments of Delores Varner and the friends of Mindy Wertheimer.”