Nominate A Pioneer

The NASW Social Work Pioneers® welcome nominations. The annual nomination deadline is November 1.  Completed nominations are accepted on an on-going basis, but are only reviewed on an annual basis by the Pioneer Steering Committee in December.  Newly-elected Pioneers, and their nominators, are notified in January and formally inducted during the Annual Pioneer Program & Luncheon, held in October in Washington, D.C.  The Pioneers encourage nominees who are elected to become interested and involved in The NASW Legacy Project and the Annual Pioneer Program and Luncheon.  Please fill out the online Pioneer Nomination Application Form, and submit the form with all required document attachments electronically.  The "Nomination Package Checklist" below can be used as a guide for the submission process.

Nomination Guidelines Introduction

In narrative form, one document limited to two-to-four-pages, describe the significant and innovative contributions made by the nominee and provide relevant biographical information for the candidate using the guidelines below. The narrative should provide detailed substantive information recounting the contribution and its impact, providing a clear picture of the actions and result. A curriculum vita may accompany the nomination, but will not be accepted in lieu of the written narrative. The nomination narrative must conform to the format and instructions outlined below.  For narrative examples, please refer to Pioneer biographies for Dr. Betsy S. Vourlekis and Dr. Jesse Harris.

I.  Specific Pioneering Contributions

The introductory paragraphs of the narrative must demonstrate why the individual's career and contributions merit being considered as a NASW Pioneer. The narrative should achieve the following:
  • describe the person's most significant/unique (e.g. "pioneering") specific contributions to social work, social welfare, and human services, providing detailed substantive information about the contribution(s); and,
  • summarize the difference the contribution has made to "the betterment of human condition," making the case for innovative or groundbreaking features.
These paragraphs must provide a clear picture of the nominee's pioneering actions and their results. The basic criterion, or standard of measurement for considering a social worker as a "Pioneer,” is determining how his or her efforts have made a difference to the practice or policies of social work or human services and to the people served. Some of the metaphors that have been used to describe “making a difference” are as follows:
  • explored new fields;
  • created and/or developed human services;
  • rendered exemplary service that became known as a model for others to emulate;
  • enhanced relationships among individuals, families, communities, organizations or nations;
  • served as a teacher, mentor, or role model to others who continued the tradition of developing and providing superior service;
  • showed courage, knowledge, foresight, stamina, and humor in the face of adversity; and,
  • generated significant knowledge for practice/social problem amelioration through research or writing.
Nominees whose practice was after 1955 should now be, or should have been, members of NASW. Those whose social work/social welfare contributions were made before the NASW was founded in 1955 may come under the category of “Historic Pioneers.”

II.  Career Highlights

The Career Highlights section of the narrative should provide evidence of a sustained record of achievement over a period of at least 25 years, not necessarily consecutive. It should include an overview description of the nominee's career, positions held, other major accomplishments, and innovative practices, etc. that have not been mentioned in the first section. Please be sure to include information about the following categories in the description:
  • Auspice:  Specify, such as public agency or program, voluntary agency, university, independent advocate or community leader, chapter leadership, etc.
  • Work Setting:  Specify, such as levels of society and all parts of the United States – from the inner city to Indian reservations, military hospitals, universities, state legislatures, U.S. Congress, and the White House. These are only a few of the settings where pioneering work has been done.
  • Field:  This could be health, mental health, long term care, child welfare, family service, public assistance, counseling, community organization, administration, international aid, group work, criminal justice, etc.
  • Scope:  Local, state, regional, national or international. Indicate the geographic region in which the pioneering work was done, as well as the state and country of residence where the nominee is most identified during the period of significant contributions.

III.  Biographical Information, Achievements and Publications

The Biographical Information, Achievements and Publications section of the narrative should include the following data (if known) such as:

  • birth date and place;
  • family;
  • formal education;
  • religion (if relevant);
  • military service (if relevant); and,
  • other pertinent information including human interest details (if known) that round out a picture of the nominee. 

Include significant achievements / awards: 

  • describe any public/professional recognition and awards the nominee has received.

Include significant publications:

  • provide significant publications only if seminal for the profession/field, key to the nominee's pioneering contributions, or a true "classic" (this section is not meant to be a bibliography).

IV.  Nomination Application Form & Additional Supporting Materials

The "online" Pioneer Nomination Application Form:

The Additional Supporting Materials  should include the following materials:

  • photograph (required) - supply a formal or informal photograph (Jpeg) of the nominee if possible (if selected, a nominee is added to the Pioneer website with a picture and brief biographic profile); and,
  • additional letter of support (required) - provide one letter of support from an individual familiar with the work and accomplishments of the nominee that clearly addresses and substantiates the specific pioneering contributions for which the person is to be considered.

Nomination Package Checklist

Complete all steps in the Nomination Package Checklist prior to submitting a nomination. Only complete nomination packages submitted by November 1 will be considered at the December Pioneer Steering Committee meeting. All required nomination package documents should be submitted electronically.

  1. Fill out the required online "Pioneer Nomination Application Form" and submit electronically with all required attachments.
  2. Attach the required narrative with information specific to the guidelines outlined above, limited to two-to-four-pages.
  3. Attach the "required" additional letter of support.
  4. Attach the "required" photograph (Jpeg) of the nominated Pioneer to to be used on the NASW Foundation's website and related publicity materials.
If electronic submission is not possible, hard copy nomination packages can be mailed to:
NASW Foundation
Executive Office
750 First Street, N.E., Suite 800
Washington, DC 20002

Questions should be directed to
Kerri Criswell  //  202-336-8276

Dr. Betsy Vourlekis, Dr. Wilma Peebles-Wilkins, Suzanne Dworak-Peck, MSW, At NASW 60th Anniversary Event, 2015

NASW Social Work Pioneers, Dr. Betsy S. Vourlekis, Dr. Wilma Peebles-Wilkins, and Suzanne Dworak-Peck, MSW, at the NASW 60th Anniversary Celebration held in 2015 in Washington, D.C.


NASW Social Work Pioneers following a ceremony to honor new NASW Pioneer nominees at the NASW 60th Anniversary Celebration held October 15, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Fall Nomination Deadline

The 2018 NASW Social Work Pioneers® nomination submission deadline is approaching. The Pioneer Steering Committee will consider completed packages received by November 1 at the December 2018 Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting.  Follow this link to the Pioneer Nomination Application Form