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Janice Wood Wetzel

Dr. Janice Wood Wetzel is recognized within the social work practice and education communities both nationally and internationally for her important contributions to the social work profession.  As one of the first to advocate for women and human rights, she has made a difference for women throughout the world.

Although Dr. Wetzel reports that she wanted to be a social worker since she was three, she officially began her social work career with a MSW from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, followed three years later with a PhD from George Warren Brown. She has had academic appointments at five graduate schools of social work all across the United States, including the University of Texas in Austin, Smith College School of Social Work, University of Iowa School of Social Work, Hunter College School of Social Work, and Adelphi University School of Social Work. Dr. Wetzel has also held high level social work administrative positions as first Director at the University of Iowa and as Dean of Adelphi University School of Social Work. During her professional career, spanning more than thirty years, she has written two books and more than thirty five journal articles and book chapters.

While Dr. Wetzel's career as an academic has been outstanding, what really singles her out as an NASW Pioneer has been her continued advocacy and leadership activities on behalf of women from around the world. While enrolled as a MSW student, she was one of the first to choose a concentration on women. As an early advocate for women, she organized a major conference on Women at Risk  held in Austin, Texas in 1976 and also organized the first NASW sponsored clinical symposium on women. Because of her ground breaking leadership on women's issues, she was invited to participate as NASW representative in a large UN and US sponsored conference on the International Women Year in Houston, Texas.  In terms of other NASW activities, she has served as NYC delegate to the Delegate Assembly, co-wrote the policy on International Human Rights, and organized several NASW conferences.  Her initial involvement in women's issues also led her to work on gerontology, international work, and  mental health, as she found that all these interests were interrelated.

While a Visiting Professor at Hunter College in 1988, Dr. Wetzel began her study of  Common Characteristics of Successful Women's Development Projects.  This project involved interviewing women from fourteen countries, including Bangkok, Bombay, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Nairobi, Nicaragua, Mexico and Peru. Most of the women she interviewed did not hold high level executive or government positions, but rather came from grass roots organizations. She was impressed by their commonalities, such as their strength that came from bonding, as well as the universal need to raise consciousness about their legal rights.  She advocated for women's participation in social action research and noted that social work schools were often not in the foreground as change agents.

Dr. Wetzel has participated in two major international UN conferences on women, the first in Nairobi in 1985 and the second in Beijing in 1995. As a UN team member of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), she was a founding member of the first Women's Caucus. She has headed the IASSW UN committee for more than15 years and also serves as Vice Chair of the NGO Mental Health Committee.  Her advocacy and leadership in UN activities is outstanding.

Dr. Wetzel was one of the first social workers to recognize and advocate that women's rights were human rights and always advances this approach in her teaching, publications, and presentations locally, nationally and internationally.

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