Skip to main content
Boston College School of Social Work
A Path Forward: Ayanna Pressley Ensures that a Diversity of Voices Are Heard in Boston 

Ayanna Pressley

As the first African American woman to serve in the 106-year history of the Boston City Council, Ayanna Pressley has broken down previously insurmountable walls along the road to success»


The Distinguished Alumni Awards honor BCSSW MSW or PhD alumni who have made significant contributions to the social work profession.

This year we will honor the recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards, Mitzi Peterson, MSW ’97, and Najwa Sado Safadi, PhD ’12, at the annual Diversity and Justice Lecture and Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration on Friday, January 26, 2018, from 4:00–7:30 p.m. in Gasson Hall, Room 100. 

Mitzi Peterson, MSW '97

Mitzi Peterson, MSW ’97
Mitzi Peterson, MSW ’97

Mitzi Peterson, MSW , LICSW, CCHP, is the Massachusetts Department of Correction’s Director of Behavioral Health. Overseeing the delivery of clinical services to incarcerated men and women, Mitzi works to establish level of care across the mental health continuum to include initial assessment, outpatient services, residential treatment, inpatient hospitalization and reintegration to the community. Ensuring the wellbeing of the seriously mentally ill, Mitzi has coordinated the ongoing program development and implementation of specialized mental health units to divert individuals from restricted housing to a therapeutic milieu.

A 1997 graduate of Boston College School of Social Work, Mitzi began her career as a Sex Offender Therapist at the Massachusetts Treatment Center, moving into a Mental Health Professional role at various prisons throughout the system. In 2010, Mitzi transitioned from the Assistant Clinical Director of the Sex Offender Treatment Program to the Clinical Director of Old Colony Correctional Center during a significant mission change to consolidate and improve mental health services for 700 incarcerated men.  In her current position, she guides the department’s behavioral health adherence to community standard and best practices with a focus on evidence based treatment, trauma informed correctional care, and effective suicide prevention.  In addition, Mitzi oversees the care and treatment of incarcerated persons identified as Gender Dysphoric and is the author of the Gender Non-Conforming Policy for the Department. She serves as a member of the Crisis Negotiation Team, is a certified trainer for the Municipal Police Training Committee in Police Response to persons with mental illness as well as a certified facilitator for Sequential Intercept Mapping.

In 2017, Mitzi was a recipient of the Manuel Carballo Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service and a Governor’s Citation for Outstanding Performance for her work on the Bridgewater State Hospital Transition Team. 

Najwa Sado Safadi, Ph.D. ’12

Najwa Sado Safadi, Ph.D. ’12
Najwa Sado Safadi, Ph.D. ’12

Najwa Sado Safadi, Ph.D. ’12, is currently an Assistant Professor at the Doha Institute in the School of Psychology and Social Work.  Before joining the faculty at the Doha Institute, Dr. Safadi was an Assistant Professor and head of the Department of Social Work at Al-Quds University in Palestine.  There she also served as the MSW Program Coordinator.

Her research interests are poverty and social policy with an emphasis on anti-poverty policies, international aid, government performance, civic engagement and social welfare in the Global South countries. Her research has appeared in a number of leading peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Safadi served as an abstract and manuscript reviewer for national and international conferences as well as several journals. In addition, Dr. Safadi has served as the Principle Investigator on five major research studies on topics such as social workers well-being, domestic violence, and anti-poverty policies.

Prior to her career as a social work educator and scholar, Dr. Safadi had over 15 years of direct practice experience with various vulnerable segments of Palestinian society.  She has worked with special needs schoolchildren, older adults with disabilities, and low income families.  She has also worked in hospital settings (pediatric ward), empowerment programs for women, and rehabilitation programs for adults with physical and emotional injuries, having held both clinical and macro/leadership positions in organizations in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

She earned her master’s degree in social work with a concentration in community organizing from McGill University in Canada and her bachelor’s degree in sociology and social work from Bethlehem University, Bethlehem, Palestine.