The Temple University Gallery of Success, which honors esteemed alumni, has named College of Public Health and School of Social Work graduates Alyse D. Wilbanks and Beth A. Pfeiffer to its 2023 list of honorees. Now in its 25th year, the Gallery of Success celebrates outstanding professional achievement by graduates of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges.
Alyse D. Wilbanks, who earned her BSW from the School of Social Work in 2008, is a child advocate at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, which represents dependent youth in Philadelphia Family Court.
Wilbanks had begun her studies in elementary education and interned as a preschool teacher while at Temple, then switched to social work in hopes of making a broader impact on children’s lives.
“I realized I cared more about what was affecting the kid outside of the school, why the kid was coming to school looking disheveled, why kids were sleeping during class, kids that didn't seem to have clean clothing,” she explains.
As a child advocate social worker, Wilbanks works alongside attorneys who are assigned as child advocates for youth in the dependency system. Her goal is to help ensure that young clients are viewed as people rather than case files. Her team works with community organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that youth are in safe environments and their voices are heard.
"My role is to work with the attorney so that we can advocate for our client in court,” she explains. "It’s my job to go out to see the kids, see what their living situation is like, talk to the school, talk to the therapist. Do they need glasses? Do they need braces? Is there enough food at home? We don't want them missing out on any services that they should be getting."
During her time in the Child Advocacy Unit, Wilbanks created the Philadelphia Parent-Child Coalition to strengthen the collaboration between professionals working with families. She hopes the coalition can share resources and bridge gaps in communities so families can remain together.
Beth Pfeiffer has gained international prominence for her work in occupational therapy for people with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). An associate professor of health and rehabilitation sciences at the College of Public Health, Pfeiffer earned her master’s degree in occupational therapy at CPH in 1997.
In 2008, she co-founded an outpatient pediatric clinic in the Lehigh Valley area that continues to serve families. As a professor she has conducted research fueled by more than $15 million in funding, with approximately $5 million channeled directly to her Research, Engagement and Advocacy for Community and Health (REACH) lab. In 2022, she presented her research at the World Federation of Occupational Therapists in Paris and was awarded the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health Intellectual Disability Services Community Leadership Award of Excellence.
Pfeiffer’s clinical and research work focuses on helping individuals with IDD, including adolescents and young adults, engage more fully in their communities, feel productive, and become participating stakeholders in research and practice that concerns them.
“Working with kids in the school system and seeing them transition into adult roles and life has always been really rewarding,” she says. “I just love what I do. It means so much to me, the opportunity to make changes that are meaningful in people's lives.”