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NASW Foundation National Programs

NASW Social Work Pioneer Program


Prior to beginning a nomination for the NASW Social Work Pioneer Program, please send a brief description of the nominee's pioneering accomplishments -100 words or less - with your contact information to naswfoundation@naswdc.org.  Once this information is received, you will be contacted by a member of the Pioneer Steering Committee to discuss specific information related to the nominee.

Nomination Guidelines (for example, see Betsy S. Vourlekis and/or Jesse Harris)

In narrative form, 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 guideline 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 following format.

Specific Pioneering Contributions

The introductory paragraphs must demonstrate why the individual's career and contributions merit being considered as an NASW Pioneer. The narrative should do the following: 1) describe the person's most significant/unique (e.g. "pioneering") specific contributions to social work, social welfare, human services, providing detailed substantive information about the contribution(s); 2), summarize the difference the contribution has made to "the betterment of human condition," making the case for innovative or ground-breaking 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 use 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
  • 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”.


Career Highlights

This section of the narrative should provide evidence of a sustained record of achievement over a period of at least twenty-five years, not necessarily consecutive. It should include an overview  description of the nominee's career, positions held, other major accomplishments, 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 inner city slums to Indian reservations to military hospitals to universities, in state legislatures, 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/country of residence where the nominee is most identified during the period of significant contributions.


Biographical Data

In this section please provide information (if known) such as birth date and place, family, formal education, religion (if relevant), military service (if relevant) other pertinent information, including human interest details if known that round out a picture of the nominee.

Significant Achievements and Awards

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

Significant Publications (if any)

Mention publications here only if seminal for the profession/field, key to the nominee's pioneering contributions, or a true "classic." This is not meant to be a bibliography.

Additional Supporting Material

Picture- Required

Please supply a photograph (formal or informal) of the nominee if possible. If selected, a Pioneer is added to the Pioneer website with a picture and brief biographic profile.

Additional letter of support

Please 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.

Interest in Pioneer Activities

We would hope that nominees who are elected to the Pioneers would become interested in our Legacy program and the annual Pioneer conference that takes place in the District of Columbia.

Submission Deadlines

Completed nominations must be received by November 1 to be considered at the December Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting or by May 1 to be considered at the June meeting.

Only complete nomination packages will be considered.  Please refer to the following checklist prior to submitting your nomination. 

  • Contact naswfoundaton@naswdc.org and include your contact information with a brief description of the nominee's pioneering accomplishment- 100 words or less. You will be contacted by a member of the Pioneer Steering Committee to discuss specific information related to the nominee
  • Narrative with information specific to the guidelines
  • Additional Letter of support
  • Photograph of Pioneer (to be used on the Foundation's website)


Pioneer Nomination Form

Complete application packages should be mailed to:
NASW Foundation
Executive Office
750 First Street, NE, Suite 700
Washington, DC  20002-4241

Questions should be directed to Faye Henderson:
fhenderson@naswdc.org or 202.336.8298

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