UTSA faculty member’s work recognized by the U.S. Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award


Gauri Raje, News Editor

Brenya Twumasi, a faculty member at UTSA’s College of Health, Community, and Policy in the Department of Psychology, received the U.S. Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award this year. It is awarded to individuals who have contributed more than 4,000 hours of service in their lifetime.

Twumasi explained that she was shocked to learn she was a recipient of the award this year. 

I was stunned. I was flabbergasted. I had no clue. When I was told that week, I had to meditate, [because] I was in shock,” Twumasi said. “I received [the] support of my area chair and dean right away, because right away I informed them that [I had] received this because of course, given my background in law, psychology and criminal justice, I’m very ethical and professional. So, right away I told them so that we could do due diligence.”

According to Twumasi, her work over the decades can be divided into three distinct, non-overlapping categories — law, psychology and criminal justice — and Twumasi is often invited to speak about her specializations on an international level. She also owns multiple corporations, having founded her first at the age of 11. 

“I’d be listening to my elders because they had incredible roles and positions — national and international,” Twumasi said. “So I’d be listening to them and unbeknownst to me, I absorbed everything they were saying as I served them soft drinks or water on a silver tray. I absorbed it all and so I just copied them, because that was the thing to do … so I thought, the way it operates — if you create a corporation, you have a brand, you have laws that go along with it — at age 11.” 

Twumasi further credits her family and upbringing for her perspective of the world.

“I was born into an awesome family. My family foundation was just absolutely fantastic, and I didn’t know it then — I thought everybody had the same [family foundation]. But my parents were already international before I was born. And my parents were just wonderful parents who taught us siblings, us children how to have a certain perspective of the globe and of human beings and they were fantastic at it,” Twumasi said.

In the field of law, Twumasi has worked in the attorney general’s office in Maryland. She was appointed by the governor as a child abuse neglect specialist for the state of Maryland. She also worked to train social workers in the jurisdictions of Maryland on “how to know what the policies and laws are,” which included citizen review boards. She also specializes in the law of the seas and has been vocal about the situation in Ukraine for decades. 

With respect to mental health, Twumasi is also a psychotherapist for both adults and children, and did clinical work in Maryland before moving to Texas, where she shifted her focus to teaching, covering issues like human trafficking, as well as focusing on her own agencies.

Finally, in the field of criminal justice, she has worked “with street gangs and gang investigation.” She has also worked “reluctantly … on both sides within correctional facilities,” which included working under criminal law as well as working to check on the mental health of inmates.

Along with her work in these respective fields, Twumasi further explained that she loves working with students and being in the classroom. According to Twumasi, irrespective of age group, her empathy, compassion and transparency are qualities most appreciated by her students.

“The most important thing for [a] human being to learn is that they know that the person teaching them has empathy and compassion, because, particularly in this day and age, the information that you guys have is vast … but if you have a teacher who’s guiding you and facilitating the learning for you … if they have compassion and empathy for you, you learn easier because you enjoy it more,” Twumasi said. 

Based on the subject matter and atmosphere of her classes, Twumasi also teaches her students what she refers to as the tools of the trenches. According to Twumasi, these tools can be summarized using four philosophies — “Be humble; we’re not born humble … two is active listening … three — keep it simple … and the last one [is] — do not assume.” 

Twumasi further explained that everything she has done and continues to do is intentional and always something she loves doing.

“So what I do is, I know what I like, I know what I love. I love my children — so I use that as a platform. And then I know that on Earth we have so many resources. So, what … am I able to navigate that I like and that I love … and if I don’t like and I don’t love it, then how do I navigate away from that,” Twumasi said. “So, everything I’ve done I totally and utterly only love. I don’t do things I don’t like and I don’t do things I don’t love.”

The award recognizes the work Twumasi has done and continues to do, and she will be traveling to Washington D.C. to receive it in late September.