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EBB Board Chair Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Karen A. Randolph, Ph.D. ’00, professor emerita at Florida State University’s College of Social Work and Charity S. Watkins, MSW ’13, Ph.D. ’19, assistant professor at North Carolina Central University’s Department of Social Work, have been selected to receive UNC School of Social Work’s 2023 Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Each year, the School recognizes alumni who have achieved distinction in the social work field, who embody social work values and who carry the School’s mission of service into the world. Alumni can be nominated by peers, faculty members, staff, fellow alumni or students and are chosen by a committee.

This year, Watkins will be the first to receive the School’s new Distinguished Recent Alumni Award, which also recognizes alums who have graduated within the past 10 years. Randolph and Watkins will both be honored during the School’s graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 13, at Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Distinguished Recent Alumni Award Charity S. Watkins, MSW ’13, Ph.D. ’19 Charity S. Watkins, Ph.D.Charity Watkins’ dedication and service to the community, the social work profession and academia shines brightly. She is a licensed mental health practitioner with 14 years of professional experience in implementing and evaluating diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in complex work environments, including higher education institutions and K–12 school settings. She helps organizations promote social equity through relationship building, teaching and advanced research methods.

Watkins received both her MSW degree and Ph.D. from UNC School of Social Work. Her doctoral research focused on academic resilience among low-income Black children and the role of parents in supporting their children’s academic success during elementary school. She was named a recipient of the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award in 2017.

Watkins is now an assistant professor (on the tenure track) in the Department of Social Work at North Carolina Central University, where her research focus is understanding the mechanisms through which institutional racism im

pacts the well-being of Black Americans, with particular attention to the effects of racial and socioeconomic inequities on the physical and mental health of Black women.

As a survivor of peri-partum cardiomyopathy, Watkins has committed her considerable skills to addressing the maternal morbidity rate for all women but most urgently, the disproportionate deaths of Black women during childbirth. Following her own diagnosis, Watkins began to examine racial disparities in maternal morbidity with particular attention to pregnancy-related cardiovascular disease and the socioemotional effects on Black women and parent-child relationships.

Last year, she was named a Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH, pronounced “birch”) Scholar at Duke University School of Medicine, where she is exploring how the experience of severe maternal morbidity influences the perceived stress, mental health and parenting behaviors of Black women and how perceived social support may serve as a buffer against these psychosocial effects.

In addition to her teaching and research, Watkins serves as the board chair of Equity Before Birth in Durham; as a WomenHeart Champion with the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease; and as the parliamentarian for the National Association of Black Social Workers, Triangle Chapter.

Watkins is a champion for strong parent-child relationships and academic resilience among socioeconomically marginalized Black children, and she continues to carry the School’s mission of service into her community and beyond.


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