2020 Alumni Award Winners

Alumni Award winners headshot collage

Induction into Mandel School Hall of Achievement

These Alumni Award winners are hereby inducted into the Mandel School Hall of Achievement, joining other outstanding alumni, faculty, partners and friends who have greatly impacted the school and the fields of social work and nonprofit management during the past 100+ years.

Alumni Award Winners

Briana M. Hollis, MSSA 2014

After graduating from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at CWRU, Briana Hollis started her career supporting students through college access counseling with College Now Greater Cleveland.

During her time at College Now Greater Cleveland, Hollis also worked at Frontline Service as an Online Crisis Intervention Specialist. This part-time position grew into a full-time Supervisor position with Crisis Text Line, a 24/7 crisis line via text message.

Hollis currently works full-time for Crisis Text Line, as a Crisis Counselor Coach. During her time at Crisis Text Line as a whole, she has supported over 2000 people in crisis and trained hundreds of volunteer Crisis Counselors.

She also runs her own business, Learning To Be Free LLC, a blog aimed at providing educational mental health information with a focus on self-care.

Hollis has continued her education, receiving a Master of Education degree with a concentration in Higher Education Administration from Tiffin University in 2019. She has also been certified as a Youth Mentor Coach and Youth Leadership Coach through the Youth Coaching Institute in 2019.

Louis Darnell Francois, MSSA 2007

Louis Darnell Francois is an openly gay HIV positive writer, health professional, HIV/AIDS activist, blogger, community-builder, social worker and mentor to youth of color of all sexual orientations and genders. He has worked tirelessly empowering people of color; those affected and infected with the HIV/AIDS virus, ex-offenders, commercial sex workers, the homeless, and other minorities through mentoring, advocacy, social services and public speaking. Francois attended Bowling Green State University where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in social work. He has been in the field of social services for over 25 years.

He currently works for BRC (Bowery Residents Committee), a nonprofit organization serving the homeless in New York City. He is one of three Clinical Coordinators at the Jack Ryan Center, overseeing housing assistance, substance abuse services, medical treatment, psychiatric services, family reunification, medication adherence, triage care, and other applicable needs for 200 homeless men with various mental health diagnoses. He is also the creator and lead facilitator of a support group for residents.

He was recognized in 2019 by BEQ Pride Magazine Legacy Leader Over 50, for serving the LGBT community in NYC.

Lee I. Fischer, MNO 2005

Lee Fisher is the Dean and Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University.    

Fisher’s diverse career has spanned the private, public, nonprofit, and academic sectors. In addition to serving as Dean, he is Senior Fellow, Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs; and Urban Scholar, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and the Great Cities Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago.

He was elected Ohio Attorney General in 1990. As General Counsel for the State of Ohio, he managed the largest law firm in Ohio – a team of 1200 professionals including 350 lawyers, 23 legal divisions, a $50 million budget, and an average daily caseload of 40,000 pending cases. He supervised the writing of over 300 formal legal opinions.

Fisher was the first Ohio Attorney General to personally argue cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and the Ohio Supreme Court. In addition, he has served as Ohio Lt. Governor; Director, Ohio Department of Development; Chair, Ohio Third Frontier Commission; Chair, Ohio Economic Growth Council; State Senator; and State Representative. President Bill Clinton appointed him as Chair of the National Commission on Crime Control and Prevention. 

Elizabeth Warmington Garcia, MSSA/MNO 2000

Elizabeth Warmington Garcia has dedicated her career to serving children and families. She contributes a valuable perspective, having developed skills in both the micro and the macro aspects of the social work field. Garcia began her career as a direct care worker serving adolescent females in residential treatment at Concord Assabet Family and Adolescent Services. Following graduate school, she joined Bellefaire JCB. During her tenure, Garcia was a Team Leader and was promoted to Supervisor and then Division Director of Foster Care, Adoption, and Independent Living. She oversaw the implementation of fiscal controls, productivity, and outcome measures while advocating both locally and nationally for children and families in the child welfare system.

Garcia’s advocacy took a new direction when she joined The Children’s Guild Alliance in 2011 as Director of Behavioral Health Services. Garcia likes to say that her mission became “being proactive and doing everything we can to ensure that children and families receive the services to stay out of the child welfare system.” In this role, she expanded school-based mental health services from two counties to six counties and 20 schools to 90 schools while also introducing an electronic health record, trauma-informed care, and financial sustainability. In February 2020, her proven success led to her promotion to Chief Clinical Officer. In her new role, Garcia works with the clinical leadership throughout the organization to implement consistent program models and best practice interventions that ensure the continued success of treatment outcomes for children and families.


Dontae Latson, MSSA 1998

Dontae Latson is the Chief Executive Officer of Denver-based Rocky Mountain Communities (RMC). He has more than 20 years of experience in non-profits and 15 years as an executive leader. As CEO, Latson provides organizational strategy including creating a visionary roadmap for engaging community stakeholders through relationship-building and collective impact. Rocky Mountain Communities owns more than 1,130 affordable housing units for underserved populations across Colorado and manages an additional 500 units. RMC provides programs for its residents ranging from English classes to exercise classes and after school activities for kids.

Prior to joining Rocky Mountain Communities, Latson served as the President and CEO of YWCA McLean County in Illinois for six years. Latson was also the director of behavioral healthcare services of the greater Charlotte market at Presbyterian Hospital in North Carolina, agency director at the Union County department of Social Service in North Carolina, and was the Director of Adult Services at Carolinas Medical Center, Randolph in North Carolina, to name a few past roles.

Latson earned his Bachelor of Science in social work from Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD and a Master of Science in Social Administration with a dual concentration in management and community development from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. 


John P. Zimmerman, Jr., MSSA 1974

A graduate of Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1969, and in 1974 earning his Master of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, John P. Zimmerman, Jr., joined the United Way in Cleveland as a graduate-school placement. Zimmerman dedicated 30+ years of service to several communities as a United Way professional. United Ways are locally-independent community organizations and he worked in 4 different communities: Wilmington and Dover, Delaware from 1974 to 1978; Peoria, Illinois from 1978 to 1983; Janesville, Wisconsin from 1983 to 1989; and Midland, Michigan from 1990 until his retirement in 2007.

A successful United Way leverages fundraising success to effect community change. Highlights of his United Way career include the development of a shared community services building in Janesville; a champion for affordable housing in Midland; charter director and Board chair for Michigan 2-1-1, leading the strategy for the development of a statewide 2-1-1 information and referral system; and development of an upgraded domestic violence shelter in Midland. Zimmerman's career honors the Mandel School slogan: “Change Agent.”

In fundraising, under Zimmerman's leadership, Midland was the second-highest per-capita fundraising United Way in the country. Engaging volunteers in the art of giving at United Way of Midland was a well-oiled machine under Zimmerman's watch.

Howard Fuller, MSSA 1964

Dr. Howard Fuller’s career includes many years in both public service positions and the field of education. Dr. Fuller was a Distinguished Professor of Education, and Founder/Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He retired from Marquette on June 30, 2020.

His prior positions included: Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools June 1991 - June 1995; Director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services 1988 -1991; Dean of General Education at the Milwaukee Area Technical College 1986 - 1988; Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Employment Relations 1983 - 1986; and Associate Director of the Educational Opportunity Program at Marquette University 1979 - 1983. He was also A Senior Fellow with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University 1995 - 1997.

Dr. Fuller received his BS degree in Sociology from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1962; a Master of Science in Social Administration degree from Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1964, and his PhD in Sociological Foundations of Education from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1986.

He has received numerous awards and recognition over the years, including four Honorary Doctorate Degrees. His memoir, No Struggle No Progress, was published in 2014.