On October 15, for the first time in more than two years, the NASW Foundation (NASWF) welcomed new Social Work Pioneer inductees in person to the nation’s capital for a special ceremony. 38 women and men were commemorated this year, combining 2020 and 2021 lists of honorees. The event was impressive: double the number of usual inductees, double the excitement, and double the inspiration for those of us attending in person and watching during the livestream. We hosted an inspiring keynote speaker, The Honorable Edolphus “Ed” Towns, a social worker turned congressman who talked about how critical his practitioner skills were for the job.
We heard from an energized student panel, addressing trends in the field and suggesting solutions for the challenges ahead with problem-solving models. We had a surprise honoree induction, NASW CEO Dr. Angelo McClain, who announced his retirement from NASW at the end of 2022.
In the keynote address, former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns, MSW (a Social Work Pioneer, 2012) – who represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years – stressed the need for more social workers in Congress and other legislative bodies. “We must stop spending all of our time solving problems, and begin to focus on preventing problems,” he said. “We need to realize it is time to step into the political arena.” He added: “I could not imagine what our world would be like without social workers.”
The group shared numerous stories about these newly inducted Pioneers and their lifelong achievements in wide-ranging practice settings, including: financial social work, national and international child welfare policy; social, economic, and environmental justice; advocacy for indigenous people and communities, substance abuse, and hospice services for pets.
Recognition of new NASW Pioneers® is an annual celebration and is one of the profession’s highest honors. These super achievers are role models for future generations of social workers. They are practitioners, academics, healthcare workers, and policymakers at the top of their fields and represent different regions and institutional sectors across the country. The NASW Social Work Pioneer Program honors members of the social work profession who have contributed to the evolution and enrichment of the profession, recognizing individuals whose unique dedication, commitment, and determination have improved social and human conditions.
The theme this year was: “A Time for New Lenses: Striving Toward Progress,” The 120-plus attendees included newly elected Pioneers and their families, deans and faculty of schools of social work, students, NASW leadership and community leaders.
Student panelists heralded from Fordham University (Linda Levin), San Diego State University (Elena Metz), Clark Atlanta University (Aaron Quick) and University at Buffalo (Meschelle Linjean) formed a panel to explore a wide variety of issues including: post-Covid social worker burn-out and impacts on low-income patients; Native American children’s rights when removed from families for adoption; lack of mental health intervention for police officers; and nationwide trends in social welfare program funding and sustainability. The students presented possible solutions to the problems, from calls to action to legislative recommendations, to social mobilization efforts.
The NASW Foundation thanks all of the event sponsors: NASW Assurance Services, Association of Social Work Boards, Baylor University, Columbia University, Fordham University, University of California – Berkeley, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, San Jose State University and the University of Southern California.
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16th Annual Program and Luncheon
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The NASW Foundation Wishes to Thank Event Sponsors