Donna Leigh Bliss, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, has been involved in community outreach since her first semester at UGA when she and her students worked with families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland-College Park in 1989 and a master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland- Baltimore in 1991. I received my Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Maryland- Baltimore in 2005. I am currently an associate professor in the School of Social Work. I currently serve as the director of the Bachelor of Social Work program. Also, I am serving as the interim associate dean for administration, planning and evaluation.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came to UGA in August 2005. This was my first faculty position in higher education. I was particularly drawn to UGA’s strong emphasis on the importance of teaching, research and service.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I enjoy teaching my Clinical Practice with Addictive Disorders class because it allows me to utilize my more than 25 years of clinical and administrative experience in the addictions field in helping to prepare social work students for professional practice with this population. I also enjoy teaching my Community Assessment and Empowerment Practices class because it gives me the opportunity to utilize my practice experience in helping students who are interested in macro social work learn how to be more effective in their efforts.
What interests you about your field?
I was drawn to social work because it looks at human functioning from a holistic perspective. I think it provides a much more realistic way of understanding how people function within their social environments. I am also drawn to social work given its historical focus on supporting social and economic justice for vulnerable populations.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I was one of the five inaugural Service-Learning Fellows in 2006. This was particularly satisfying because it allowed me to build on the community outreach work my students and I did during my first semester at UGA in working with families that were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A second highlight was being selected to be in the Lilly Teaching Fellows Program in 2007. One of the reasons I came to UGA was because of its support for teaching, as exemplified by the Lilly program. Finally, I have been voted outstanding teacher by my students on two occasions. That is particularly rewarding.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching?
Given I have an extensive social work practice background in providing clinical and administrative services in the addictions field, my career in higher education has involved building on this experience to investigate ways to improve treatment outcomes for people with addictive disorders and to help influence students on how to better provide treatment services to this population. All of my passion in this area comes through in my teaching.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
My biggest hope is that my students will be inspired to see themselves as being more than capable of making a difference in the world in terms of helping others. I want my students to have confidence in their ability to critically think, engage in public discourse about social problems, and to advocate for social and economic justice for vulnerable populations.
Describe your ideal student.
Someone who is eager to learn and willing to step out of their comfort zone in terms of embracing standards of excellence relative to social work. I am blessed to have lots of students with these attributes. Being able to work with them is such an honor.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
I love walking through North Campus, as the sense of history is very moving. Also, I like driving through the campus in the evening as the sense of serenity and beauty is nice.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
I like to ride my Harley-Davidson motorcycle, go camping in my travel trailer, and play sports such as bowling and pool.
Community/civic involvement includes…
I volunteer in the community in helping others to find recovery from addictive disorders. I also engage in service-learning projects with my students to promote substance abuse recovery by developing websites such as RecoveryAthens.org and RecoveryAtlanta.org.
I am an avid Stephen King fan, especially his earlier books. I also like to read biographies as I find them very inspiring. I particularly liked the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Proudest moment at UGA?
Receiving a job offer to become an assistant professor at the School of Social Work. I was the first person in my family to get a college education and never thought I would ever end up becoming a college professor.
Other pertinent information you wish to share.
I have two rescue poodles that I love – Rudy and Shadow.