The College of Social Work is very proud to share that Erin Worwood, associate director of the Utah Criminal Justice Center (UCJC), was selected for a 2017 University of Utah Staff Excellence Award. She is one of only eight University employees to receive this special recognition of her outstanding contributions to the institution and those we serve. UCJC Director Dr. Rob Butters shared the following statement about why he believes Ms. Worwood deserves this honor.
I have worked directly with Erin for over six years and she embodies excellence in her work every day. Erin’s duties as associate director of the Utah Criminal Justice Center (UCJC) are diverse and include staff supervision, project oversight, formulation of research questions and methodologies, coordination with internal and outside agencies, grant applications, managing budgets and staffing workflow, writing, editing, and formatting reports, and ensuring that all our projects reflect excellence from the Utah Criminal Justice Center and the University of Utah. Erin is integral to the important research we do here and is instrumental in maintaining important relationships with our community. Erin is largely responsible for the growth of the Center over the last several years and the promotion of social justice through research to inform humane responses to important social problems, like mass incarceration, criminalization of addiction, and chronic homelessness. As the most senior researcher at UCJC, Erin is a tremendous asset to the University in the area of developing and transferring new knowledge
Erin is one of the longest-standing staff members in the College of Social Work with over 15 years of experience, and she is easily the most experienced member of UCJC’s research team. Her knowledge of the criminal justice system and the complex data systems they employ is unsurpassed. But her ability to understand data systems is really secondary to her incredible ability to partner with key stakeholders and community agencies to conduct rigorous evaluations and to gain access to sensitive behavioral health, homelessness, jail and arrest data, and other important social indicators like income, employment, and even healthcare data. It‘s the combination of these relational skills along with a broad understanding of the interrelatedness of the data systems that truly makes Erin invaluable to our research center and the University of Utah. As an example, nearly every time I present at national conference on our research, I am asked the same question: “How did you get access to that data? We’ve been trying to get that for years…” My response always starts out something like, “Well I’m lucky enough to have a senior researcher named Erin Worwood, and she…” We simply couldn’t do the innovative and impactful work we do without Erin’s knowledge and relationships.
UCJC is the first independent evaluator to be selected for two simultaneous Pay for Success projects in the nation. These two projects were developed and implemented under Erin’s leadership over the last two years. They represented a huge investment of time and required Erin to work and think outside of the traditional academic mindset to work with investors and private funders. As a result, over the next six years, UCJC will be evaluating two novel programs in the areas of homelessness and criminal justice. In addition to partnering with over a dozen government and non-profit agencies on these projects, she forged a partnership with the Sorensen Impact Center at the David Eccles School of Business that will surely be a longstanding and mutually beneficial collaboration for years to come in the area of social impact bonds.
The pay for success projects are only two of over a dozen research projects Erin coordinates and manages at UCJC. One of the great things about having numerous and diverse funded projects is the opportunity to provide stipends to our graduate students while giving them the opportunity to learn about and contribute to important ongoing research. Erin is the primary manager for these graduate students and she takes great pride in challenging them to work hard, take on new methodologies, and problem solve independently. She balances these challenges with a very nurturing and approachable demeanor that is sensitive to their needs and life experiences. UCJC has been able to recruit two top-notch PhD students and a post-doc research fellow over the last two years and it is largely because of Erin’s reputation as an exemplary manger and mentor.
Erin Worwood possess a unique combination of interpersonal skills, substantive expertise, broad system knowledge, inspiring leadership qualities, and excellence in managing day-to-day staffing, budget, and workflow issues that allow me to pursue my scholarly goals, our other research faculty and staff to be highly productive, and our students to thrive and build their expertise and experience in a rigorous but supportive leaning environment. Her work surely elevates the status and impact of UCJC’s work and supports the broader goals of the University.
The views and opinions expressed on the interACTION blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Utah or the College of Social Work.