UMD social work student and May 2005 graduate, Erik Torch, was named Master of Social Work (MSW) Student of the Year by the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers at their June Annual Conference. Mr. Torch was presented this award in recognition for his record of "outstanding scholarship and service to the Duluth community."
While attending UMD, Mr. Torch served as the Social Services Program Manager of the Damiano Center in Duluth. Damiano distributes 1000-1500 pieces of clothing or household items each day and provides about 85,000 meals a year to people in need. Since he began as Social Services Manager two years ago, he has provided social services to literally thousands of individuals. Mr. Torch was recently promoted to Damiano Center Associate Director. In that role, he is responsible for providing leadership for various programs as well as furthering the advocacy and public policy efforts of the Damiano Center.
While at UMD, Mr. Torch maintained a 4.0 grade point average, and was a major social activist in Duluth. As part of his work for a Masters Research Project at UMD, he helped bring together a coalition of 10 profit and non-profit agencies to do community education, organization, and advocacy around dental care for low-income people. His efforts along with others (involved in the coalition) have resulted in the prospect of establishing a dental clinic for low income people. Mr. Torch was awarded the Will Dodge Memorial Scholarship for this work.
Mr. Torch is also currently a member of the Mayor's Citizen Action Committee to End Homelessness. According to Mike Raschick, Head, UMD Department of Social Work, "The work of Erik Torch and other committee members has raised the real possibility of virtually eradicating homelessness in Duluth."
Prior to attending UMD, Mr. Torch worked for Catholic Relief Services, managing and advising peace building programs in Southeast Asia and Kosovo. He also volunteered in Croatia and Yugoslavia for the Balkan Peace Team, an international organization working to support grassroots peace and human rights organizations in the former Yugoslavia. He is a native of Newburgh, New York.