Campus News

UGA School of Social Work awards inaugural Pauline M. Berger Assistantship

Athens, Ga. – First-year MSW student Joanna Mitchell has been awarded the inaugural Pauline M. Berger assistantship in the School of Social Work, which will allow her to conduct research and outreach under Michael Holosko, the Pauline M. Berger Professor of Family and Child Welfare.

“This is a great opportunity not only for my career but for me personally,” Mitchell said. “It’s an honor to have [this assistantship]. It’s very exciting, because it is exactly what I want to do with my life. I want to work to advocate for families and children.”

Mitchell, a Columbus, Ohio native, was selected for the assistantship based on her interest in working in child welfare, her academic merit and her demonstrated leadership. The assistantship will cover Mitchell’s tuition, and she will receive a stipend.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I graduated,” said Mitchell, who majored in psychology at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father had been diagnosed with lung cancer that spring and her family asked her to move back home to help care for him.

“That’s when I was really introduced to social work in general,” she said. “Meeting people in the hospital, therapy settings and people telling me about social work-that’s when I started looking into it-it kind of fit perfectly with my ideals.”

Mitchell’s first task this semester was to create a website for child welfare resources. Holosko and Mitchell also plan to create a Facebook page honoring Berger and the research that has been supported by the generosity of her husband, Dr. Israel Berger, who provided the financial resources for the assistantship and Holosko’s endowed research chair.

Mitchell would like to one day work with military families. “A lot of people see only the military personnel and don’t recognize the impact the families go through. I want to work with those families and their readjustment with the war.” She will be working 13 hours a week under Holosko while also pursuing a certificate in marriage and family therapy.

The Pauline M. Berger assistantship was established to provide two graduate assistantships in the School of Social Work in honor of Berger, who taught at the university from 1956 to 1976. As professor of human behavior and director of admissions in the School of Social Work, Berger had an exceptionally warm demeanor and was a direct practitioner who taught counseling with individuals, small groups and families, according to Holosko. After her death in 2006, her husband bequeathed an endowed research chair in her name, the largest donation the school has ever received, and later, the two assistantships.

Holosko accepted the Pauline M. Berger Memorial Professorship in Family and Child Welfare in 2006. “It’s a really privileged position. It honors her and the area of child and family welfare,” he said.

“We hope to keep alive the well-being of the fellowship,” Holosko said. “Dr. Berger has been a very generous donor to this school and we will do anything to keep Pauline’s legacy alive.”

For more information about UGA’s School of Social Work, see