Professor’s Guidance, Support Recognized With University Sparks Award

Dr. Daniel Whitaker, a professor in the School of Public Health, is being honored by Georgia State University with the George M. Sparks award. Whitaker, who is Director of the National SafeCare Training and Research Center (NSTRC), was nominated by his colleagues there for creating a positive and supportive work environment.

“His invention of the ‘caught being good’ box demonstrates how he encourages staff to acknowledge each other’s hard work,” said Erin McFry, an NSTRC research coordinator. “Dan eagerly starts our staff meetings by reading aloud these notes of gratitude.”

The award, named for former Georgia State president Dr. George McIntosh Sparks, is designed to recognize students, faculty and staff who are the “unsung heroes” of Georgia State. Sparks, who served from 1928 to 1957, was known as someone “who exemplify a willingness to go the extra mile with good humor and perseverance,” according to the award’s website.

Dan Whitaker

Dr. Daniel Whitaker

Dr. Whitaker, one of four recipients of the award this year, will be recognized at the university’s Service Recognition Ceremony on April 17.

Dr. Whitaker, who is a Professor of Health Promotion & Behavior, oversees researchers and staff who implement SafeCare®, one of the few programs for preventing child abuse and neglect that is scientifically proven to be effective. NSTRC regularly trains public and private child services workers to conduct home visits with families which are designed to teach parenting skills and reduce the risks of child maltreatment.

Though the work is serious, Dr. Whitaker’s staff says he always finds the time to be kind and supportive and sets a respectful tone that inspires others.

“I will say that no matter what, he always takes a personal interest in my life,” said Elizabeth Meister McAdam, a training specialist in the center. “Once, he asked me how things were going at the watercooler, and I started to go into work-related stuff. He laughed and said, ‘No, no, not with boring work stuff. Just how are things going with you in general, in your life?’”

Want to Attend the Awards Ceremony?

Date: Monday, April 17
Time: 3 pm
Place: Student Center East Ballroom

Dr. Whitaker said that his training as a social psychologist leads him to see the importance of a person’s social environment. And he attributed his recognition to his team at NSTRC.

“I am humbled to receive this award,” Dr. Whitaker said. “I am fortunate to work with an amazing group of colleagues, and to be recognized by them is truly an honor.”

Jessica Rogers Brown, a PhD student in public health, said Dr. Whitaker has been her mentor for 3 years, starting when she was in the Master of Public Health program at Georgia State.

Brown said she values Dr. Whitaker’s self-deprecating humor, and his depth of knowledge about child maltreatment issues.

“Dan is both my biggest cheerleader and constructive critic,” Brown said. “He is always willing to provide a useful analogy or hand-drawn description to illustrate difficult concepts regarding statistics or study design.”