Women of Distinction


Lori Messinger, Ph.D. (Left)

Messinger and Albin


  • Associate Professor, KU School of Social Welfare, 2004-‘11
  • Worked with Kansas Equality Coalition to establish a domestic partner registry in the City of Lawrence
  • Founding Director of the KU Lambda Council (KU LGBT faculty/staff group)
  • Received the Distinguished Contemporary Contribution to Baccalaureate Social Work Education Award from the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, 2006
  • Gene A. and Gretchen Budig Award in Social Welfare (2010)
  • Council on Social Work Education Leadership Scholarship (2010)
    • One of five social work academic administrators in the country selected to receive a scholarship to attend Harvard University Institutes for Higher Education’s Management Development Program.
  • Ron Federico Memorial Lecturer (2010)
    • Selected to deliver the Ron Federico Memorial Lecture at the 27th Annual Conference of the Association of Baccalaureate Program Directors in Atlanta, GA.
  • W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence (2008)
  • Best BSW Faculty Project (2006)
    • Influencing State Policy National Contest.

How I became interested in my field:

When I was a Masters student studying social work, I confronted several barriers in my education and work with clients as an out lesbian. I decided to focus my research on the challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in professional social work education and in the larger culture.

An honor, achievement or accomplishment that is most meaningful to me:

I am proud that I helped to secure the Domestic Partner Registry in Lawrence, KS to recognize same-sex and different-sex couples who were not married. We helped educate city council members about the issues facing unmarried couples. This registry provides a way for companies to recognize family members who are important to employees, and it is used by the local hospital to determine hospital visiting rights of partners. I hope it will be one avenue to recognize partners of university employees for the purposes of providing health insurance benefits.

Someone who has been a role model for me and why:

Playwright, feminist, and civil rights advocate Lorraine Hansberry is a role model for me. She articulated a vision of universal human rights and humanity in her work, and she used her position as a national icon as a platform to challenge the status quo of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. She used a variety of approaches to encourage people to hear her message: plays, essays, speeches, public actions, personal outreach, etc. She died far too young, but what she managed to do in her short time was amazing.

Someone who has been influential or had a significant impact on my life:

My partner, Boo Tyson, has likely been the most influential person in my life. She introduced me to the field of social work, when I was enrolled in a political science graduate program. She helped me understand the central role of social work as a force fighting for social and economic justice in society. She has also been my companion and friend for the last twenty years, seeing me through graduate school, my first academic jobs, my first administrative position, tenure and promotion, and several moves across the country.

My favorite KU memory:

My favorite memory is when I was the Ron Federico speaker at a national social work conference in spring 2010. The focus of my talk was using social change music to educate students about social movements in the United States. I got to sing as well as speak, and I had the backing of a group of social work educators who I had formed into a social justice choir. When I led the singing of the African American National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” all of those in attendance stood and sang with us. It was a profoundly moving and inspirational moment for me.

An important life lesson I have learned:

Dealing with our biases isn’t a one-time thing; it is an everyday struggle. Lean into the discomfort, because that is where you learn.

If I had a sister just entering college, I would want her to know…

Going to class is more than half the battle. Show up and be present; important things happen in the classroom.

A favorite quote or saying and why it is meaningful to me:

When do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain't through learning -- because that ain't the time at all. It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.
Lorraine Hansberry from Raisin in the Sun

I think this quote helps me in my relationships with students, colleagues, and friends and family members. We all need second (and sometimes third and fourth) chances, especially those of us who face extra challenges in our lives related to violence, financial hardship, lack of support, and other kinds of discrimination and oppression. People can and will do extraordinary things with those extra chances. I believe in taking people as they are, but also supporting them in their desire to change.