The 2017 Department of Social Work Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Kate Kenna, MSW, at the department’s Annual Homecoming Event in October. Kate has distinguished herself professionally and personally over her career, and is well-respected in the community and by her peers.
At the presentation, Kate was introduced UND by Social Work alumnus Don Schmid, who paid tribute to Kate, highlighting her years of dedication and excellence.
“It is my honor and pleasure to introduce my friend Kate Kenna, as this year’s UND Social Work department Distinguished Alumni. In addition to the highlights of her career, which are in the brochure you have all received, there is so much more! Kate received both her BSW in 1974 and her MSW in 1996 from UND.
I first began to work with Kate in 1985 when she was a regional supervisor of County Child Welfare Services at Northeast Human Service Center; and I was the State Director of Children and Family Services. Her job was to provide leadership and program supervision and also to encourage, prompt and at times persuade the four counties in the region to provide quality and innovative services to children and families. Many of the child welfare service programs the counties implemented were optional and they did so because of their trust in Kate. She did this with style, passion, intelligence & commitment. She was and is a star!
Kate was an active leader in the development and creation of many of the child welfare services that still exist today - nearly 30 years later. Although these programs have been modified to reflect evolving best practice, they include strength based child protection services; family focused casework; parent aides; treatment foster care; wrap around services of flexible funding to keep families together; and Crossroads which provides day care to keep teen mothers in high school.
After 20 years as a regional supervisor, Kate spent the next 11 years as the Director of the North East Human Service Center. A year later she also became the Director of the Lake Region Human Service Center. She had overall responsibility for the operation of all the programs, budgeting & administration of the two human service centers. She was a community organizer and the chief negotiator for public social services in one fourth of the state. An awesome responsibility. Only four people had this responsibility in the entire state of North Dakota.
Kate’s influence goes far beyond North Dakota. She was a national consultant & trainer for Hunter College in New York (The National Resource Center for Permanency). She was a federal reviewer of child welfare programs for 10 years and served as a consultant to California for its child welfare reform initiative.
Since her retirement in 2016, Kate has worked part-time for Path of North Dakota in recruiting and licensing therapeutic foster homes. Kate, who is active in her church, and as a community volunteer, has received many professional and personal awards. Among her accomplishments are: (1) the detox center in Grand Forks and (2) the transitional facility in Devils Lake for individuals with mental illness.
Wow! What a record! I give you Kate Kenna - our friend, colleague, accomplished social worker, graduate of this great university and recipient of this year’s Social Work Department Distinguished Alumni Award.”