Holding considerable expertise in clinical social work for military service members and their families, Sonjia A. Howard earned a bachelor’s degree at Hawaii Pacific University and served in the U.S. Army from 1991 to 1998 before obtaining her master’s degree from the University of South Carolina in 2001. During her time in graduate school, she was inspired by one of her professors, who told her that the goal of social work was to help people so effectively that you “work yourself out of a job,” as well as her own desire to make a change in the world however she could. A licensed clinical social worker and a board certified diplomate in clinical social work, Ms. Howard began her career with the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice in 2001.
From there, Ms. Howard went on to work with the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services and the Lexington Richland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council and became a clinical social worker in the behavioral health program of the Warrior Transition Unit of the U.S. Army’s Medical Activity Department in 2004, spending time as lead social worker before she left in 2009. In 2009, she was commissioned as an officer with the U.S. Public Health Service, where she has contributed to a variety of volunteer efforts and has now achieved the rank of captain. While in this position, Ms. Howard has also spent time with the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina, the Fort Jackson advocacy program of the U.S. Department of Defense, the emergency room of the Womack Army Medical Center, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Ms. Howard became the senior program manager and national recruitment specialist for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2016. Between her two roles, her duties include engaging in public relations, promoting public health, and recruiting medical, law enforcement and administrative professionals. Having made a name for herself through her decades of experience, she is planning to retire come summer 2022 and her future goals include teaching human services, starting a food truck, building a house and opening a consulting business focusing on her love of sports and helping others foster their engagement with the sports they enjoy.
For her excellence, Ms. Howard was presented with a Defense Meritorious Service Medal by the Department of Defense, which she earned for her service in the Warrior Transition Unit, a time she cites as the highlight of her career, as she was the only social worker for over 100 service members and their families. She was also honored with a Public Health Service Presidential Unit Citation in 2015 for her service during the public health response to Ebola. The Public Health Service went on to honor Ms. Howard with a Crisis Response Award in 2018, a Response Award in 2019 and a COVID-19 Response Award in 2020.