NASW President James J. Kelly presented Valli Kalei Kanuha with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Social Work Research at a Feb. 19 ceremony in Honolulu.
Declaring her among the “brightest and best” social workers, Kelly said Kanuha received the award because her body of research has informed, shaped and advanced the social work profession. In addition, “her work has influenced policy, practice and services provided to the diverse constituencies with whom she has worked over her career,” Kelly said.
Kanuha, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Hawaii Manoa, said she is an “activist-researcher,” with a primary mission to conduct research rooted in community needs and improve the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable communities — people of color, survivors of gender violence, lesbians and transgender people of color and indigenous nations.
“This is what I have dedicated my life’s work to every single day, and being a social worker and a researcher have only enhanced my ability to do so,” Kanuha told the NASW News.
She has served as principal investigator for numerous state and federal grant-funded projects, including a six-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded project to develop, implement and evaluate a domestic abuse intervention program using Native Hawaiian cultural practices and traditions.
In 2002, Kanuha was awarded the W.E.B. DuBois Research Fellowship from the National Institute of Justice. The fellowship allowed Kanuha to expand her research on the use of indigenous methods to address family and intimate violence in pre- and post-contact Native Hawaiian and other native communities.
Currently, as a Harry Frank Guggenheim Research Fellow, Kanuha is completing a study of violence against women of color and other minority-status women in the U.S. since 1975.
In addition to the presidential award, Kanuha was the NASW Hawaii Chapter’s 2005 Social Worker of the Year in Professional Education and Training. She’s also received the Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Hawaii.
“President Kelly honors all of the communities I work with by this award,” Kanuha added.