Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State sweeps state Social Worker Student of the Year awards

October 8, 2015

Annually the Indiana chapter of the National Association of Social Workers names two indivuiduals as Students of the Year. This year both students are from Indiana State University.

Katherine Lugar of Terre Haute was selected as the Bachelor of Social Work Student of the Year and Tionna Harris of Mattoon, Ill. as the Master of Social Work ‘Student of the Year.'

Requirements for the awards include showing outstanding activity in social justice, strong academic pursuit, exceptional community service, initiative and professional performance in field education and demonstration of social work values and ethics.

Lugar is a 2015 graduate of Indiana State's Bachelor of Social Work program and a current graduate student in the master's degree program. As an undergrad, she was a senator with the Student Government Association and was the international student delegate for cities in South Korea and Guatemala.

The daughter of Joseph and Robyn Lugar, she is an intern at VNA and Hospice of the Wabash Valley and is working with individuals and families in preparing for the end of life.

Dianna Cooper-Bolinskey, assistant professor and chair of the department of social work,  described Lugar as "eager, enthusiastic, confident and professional. She is strong willed and wants to help others and make a difference in the world...literally."

"I was really mostly happy because all of the people that have taken the time to invest in me. It's not really about how I did as a student but it really reflects on how well my professors, internship supervisors, family and friends have encouraged me along the way," Lugar said of her award.

Harris graduated Summa Cum Laude from Indiana State with a psychology degree in 2014 and is in her last clinical year of Indiana State's master's degree program.

"I have taught (Tionna) in class and have seen her investment in her community and those around her. She has a huge heart and gives freely," said Cooper-Bolinskey.

Throughout Harris' undergraduate career she was heavily involved on campus. The President's Scholar served as the president of Student African American Sisterhood and founder and president of Divine Praise. Harris thanks Indiana State for preparing her for life after college and for preparing her for her future career.

"I really love the social justice and advocacy part of social work. We advocate for people who tend to be over looked or underrepresented in society and we try to help meet their needs," said Tionna.

Harris, the daughter of Thomas and Vanessa Harris, is an intern at Hamilton Center in Terre Haute working with children and adolescents.

"At Indiana State, the bachelor's program has grown significantly and has a rigorous curriculum that will prepare students to work in social service agencies that meet the needs of oppressed and marginalized populations," Cooper-Bolinskey said. "The master's program is very new and growing; the program was granted accreditation in July 2015. The master's program focuses on serving rural populations with concentrations in health and mental health and addictions."

"I'm so proud of both young ladies. They are exceptional and quite deserving of the honors for which they were given," she said.

Both award recipients plan to graduate with their master's degree in May.

Photo: -Tionna Harris poses for a picture in Pinon, Ariz. in 2013 during a President's Scholars service learning trip to the Navajo Nation. (Indiana State University Photo Services)

Photo: - Katherine Lugar (Indiana State University Photo Services)

Contact: Dianna Cooper-Bolinskey, assistant professor and chairperson, department of social work, Indiana State University, 812-237-3428 or

Writer: Mallory Eherenman, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or