Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Professor’s 36 years of recovery, lifetime of achievements

Kennedy Weatherby
Professor Lori Holleran Steiker stands in the stairway of the main building on Oct. 6, 2023.

Sitting in the car with her husband, professor Lori Holleran Steiker suddenly felt moved to tears. On Aug. 30, Holleran Steiker casually checked her phone to find an email from RecoveryPeople awarding her their 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award for people in recovery who go on to become changemakers. With tears in her eyes, Holleran Steiker thought about how this particular award felt so different from any honors she’s previously received. 

“It recognizes the part I’ve played in a larger community of people who band together to essentially love each other back to health,” Holleran Steiker said.

RecoveryPeople, a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit run by leaders in long-term recovery from substance use, supports people working through recovery. Every September, their staff members nominate individuals for four awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Their board selects recipients from nominees for Recovery Month.

“One of the purposes (of the award) is elevating positive stories around recovery,” RecoveryPeople executive director Jason Howell said. “The media tends to focus on the doom, gloom and drama of trauma — that’s not healthy.”

Since receiving her masters in social work from University of Pennsylvania in 1989,  Holleran Steiker, professor of addiction, recovery and substance abuse services at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and associate director of education and training in Undergraduate College, diligently works to help those in recovery and help educate people about recovery. Holleran Steiker said some of her favorite successes include helping found the first high school in Central Texas for students in recovery and helping create Operation Naloxone, a program that brought a $3 million grant for Texas Targeted Opioid Response. Her position in the world of opioid response stands especially unique, as her work has been at the forefront of connecting struggling students and community members with help before the issue was being publicly acknowledged as “the opioid epidemic.”

“If I had to name my biggest contribution, it would be being a matchmaker and connecting people that can do very complex work with smarts, passion, energy, commitment and vision,” Holleran Steiker said. “We’re really lucky at UT. We have amazing people who want to enhance student experience but also want the world to be a better place to live in, and I feel part of all of that.”

Holleran Steiker’s own experience seeing substance abuse in her family and dealing with similar struggles as a young adult allows her to be more connected with recovery causes. Shortly after earning her bachelor’s degree in honors English from Duke University, Holleran Steiker started seeking help to recover from her addiction. She celebrated her 36th recovery anniversary a week before receiving RecoveryPeople’s award. 

“From that point on, I felt a strong sense of purpose around healing and helping others heal in the realms of addiction,” Holleran Steiker said. 

This sense of purpose led her to receive her master’s and PhD in social work and to take on leadership roles in recovery initiatives that did not waver when she took on a professor position at UT in 2000.

Katie McCormick, a doctoral candidate at UT’s School of Social Work, said she began working with Holleran Steiker nearly four years ago when they paired up for a mentorship program. McCormick said Holleran Steiker cheers her on, connects her with new professional opportunities and inspires her and other students. McCormick said she wasn’t shocked Holleran Steiker received RecoveryPeople’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“(Holleran Steiker) is a pioneer in a lot of ways in her research, teaching, practice and service,” McCormick said. “I’m encouraged by the work she does and excited her work has been honored this way.” 

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story had the incorrect position of Holleran Steiker. The Texas regrets this error. 

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