Crystal Smith Receives 2016 B. Lenora Benson Award for Excellence from Mandel School

—by Paul M. Kubek

Crystal Smith is one of those people who does not seek credit for a job well done even when credit is long overdue. She will accept a complement with a smile and a polite "Thank you" then shrug it off with one of those casual nods that communicates a genuine, matter-of-fact humility.

When Smith gathered with many of her colleagues for the annual MSASSy Staff Awards ceremony at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University on Friday, January 20, 2017 she had no idea the final crescendo-award of the afternoon—the 2016 B. Lenora Benson Award for Excellence—would be hers. For good reason. No one told her she had been nominated."I am totally shocked," Smith said after the ceremony. "The award is an honor."

The annual award includes a monetary gift that is made possible by an endowment which honors Mrs. B. Lenora Benson, who worked at Case Western Reserve for more than 30 years and managed the Mandel School’s finance department for a decade. She retired in 1997 as director of budgets and administration. As in the past, Mrs. Benson and Grover "Cleve" Gilmore, PhD, dean of the Mandel School, presented this year's award, which is the 19th Annual Benson Award.

Enhancing mental health & addiction services

Smith is office manager of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University, which helps community-based behavioral healthcare organizations and hospitals enhance mental health and addiction services for people with severe mental illness, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders. The Center began in 1999 and has provided technical assistance (consulting, training, and evaluation) to organizations throughout Ohio, in 24 states, the Netherlands, and Australia. The Center is a partnership between the Mandel School and the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine.
Smith joined the Center in 2003. As office manager, she is responsible for all administrative activities of the Center and its staff of consultants, trainers, and evaluators, which has nearly doubled since her arrival. She provides support for consulting and evaluation services and fidelity-review processes, including travel, and coordinates all of the Center's training events (approximately 50 per year), which includes collaborating with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and other continuing-education accreditation boards. Over the years, Smith has also managed 11 of the Center's Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) Conferences, which feature over 40 workshops and attract an average of 300 participants nationally and internationally.

Efficiency & collaboration

Smith was nominated for the B. Lenora Benson Award for Excellence by Patrick E. Boyle, PhD, LISW-S, LICDC-CS, director of implementation services at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices, and by Lenore Kola, PhD, co-director of the Center and professor emerita of social work at the Mandel School. Smith was chosen for the Benson Award by a committee of faculty and staff at the Mandel School which reviews all nominations for staff awards.

Boyle explains that Smith's strong work ethic, thoroughness, kindness, and collaborative spirit bolster the mission and reputation of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices, the Mandel School, and Case Western Reserve University in ways that cannot be measured.
"Our staff members and our customers have frequently and consistently commented on Crystal's professional, timely, and considerate attention to the work at hand," Boyle says. "It is clear to all of us that she takes great pride in her work. She has been extremely important to our success."

Kola adds that Smith is often the first contact that people in communities throughout Ohio and in other states have with the Center and, thus, the Mandel School and University. With outstanding professionalism, she is an important ambassador for the institution on many levels.

"Her role is so vital to the operation of the Center that it is impossible to conceive of the Center without her," Kola says. "She goes above and beyond her job description, and she always does it with such grace."