Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State professor named Central Indiana's Black Social Worker of the Year

July 30, 2015

Portia Adams, associate professor of social work at Indiana State University, was honored by the Central Indiana Association of Black Social Workers as their Social Worker of the Year at their 30th anniversary gala in June.

"I was really humbled," Adams said about being given this award. "There were just so many people I want to thank that I couldn't have done it without, I just wanted to stand up there and talk about how great they all are," she continued.

Although Adams admitted to missing direct practice working with clients in the field, she believes that developing leadership in students is a great way to enhance their experience here. Through taking advantage of the opportunities that the program offers, students can get a glimpse into what the world of a social worker really looks like and can gain experience for their career.

"Student organizations are really a part of your education," Adams said about why these groups are so important to her, "they complement what we do in classes."

In September, Adams started a group for social work students, which added to the list of other organizations she helped restart such as Indiana State's chapter of the Phi Alpha National Honor Society for social work students and a Faith and Social Action group. She even went classroom to classroom introducing herself to make some opportunities known to all the students in the program.

Through these groups, students had the chance to attend the Midwestern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning, Ally Conference as well as a diversity leadership conference at Indiana University. The Center for Community Engagement and Dean Jack Turman helped fund student attendance to these programs and with help from The Office of Student Affairs seven students were able to attend the National Association of Black Social Workers conference that was held in Chicago.

"I have to say that the students have done a lot of the work," Adams says and attributes a lot of the success of the organizations to the students regular and continued dedication. Two recent Indiana State graduates, Nichelle Campbell and Abril Sims, were also honored at the gala.

For Adams, helping others had always been a family affair.

"My parents cared for people who didn't have anything, that was always part of my life," Adams said. This tradition carried over into her siblings adult lives as well as Adams says that most of them also do something to help others.

A graduate of Brandeis University, Adams served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. Upon graduating from Columbia University School of Social Work with a master's degree in 1986, she practiced social work in New York City for 13 years before returning to school for a doctorate from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. Adams is now the director of the Bachelors of Social Work program at Indiana State.

"I'm very thankful for all the help we have had, it's pretty cool to have so much support," said Adams.

Photo: Indiana State University instructor Portia Adams holds the Black Pearl Award as the Central Indiana chapter of the Association of Black Social Workers' Social Worker of the Year during the chapter's 30th anniversary gala June 26, 2015 at the Marten House in Indianapolis.

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