NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Nazneen Sada Mayadas Photo
Nazneen Sada Mayadas*

Born in Lucknow, India, Nazneen Sada Mayadas held the degrees of Bachelor of Arts from Lucknow University, India; Master of Arts from Allahabad University, India; Master of Social Work from Case Western Reserve University; and a Doctorate in Social Work from Washington University, St Louis. Dr. Mayadas served on the faculties of The University of St Louis and The University of Texas at Arlington, where she established herself as a prolific researcher, scholar, and award winning teacher.

She also served as Visiting Professor on the faculties of Smith College, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University, St Louis, and The South Glamorgan Institute, University of Wales, Cardiff. At the time of her retirement in 2006, she had practiced social work for 50 years in India, Canada, the United States, and in her capacity as Chief of Social Services in the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr. Mayadas practiced in many countries and continents of the world working for better conditions for refugees. Her services to the profession of social work included national leadership positions such as Chair of the National Association of Social Workers Book Committee, Chair of the National Association of Social Workers Publications Committee, service on the Council on Social Work Education International Commission and Global Commission, and on the Executive Board of the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups. A productive scholar, she published six books, 25 book chapters, and more than 50 journal articles. She was Co-Editor of Social Development Issues.

She was the recipient of many awards including the Council on Social Work Education Partners in International Social Work Education Award; the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University George Warren Brown School of Social Work; Lifetime Achievement Award from Tarrant County Texas; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from National Association of Social Workers, Texas Chapter. In 2010 Dr. Mayadas was one of the 15 women whose contributions were celebrated in the book by Professor Alice Lieberman, 'Women in Social Work who changed the World ' published by Lyceum Press. She is now Professor Emerita at The University of Texas at Arlington.

The years between the beginning of her social work career in community work in Calcutta, India, her homeland, and her retirement in 2006 as Professor Emerita at the University of Texas at Arlington, were packed with contributions to the profession. Some of her innovative and groundbreaking achievements and her contributions to the improvement of practice are summarized as follows:

  • As Chief of Social Services for The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva in the mid 1980s, Dr. Mayadas was a pioneer in several ways: firstly, few social workers were employed in such roles in the United Nations. She was a constant advocate for a social work approach to better the lives and conditions of refugees in camps in troubled areas of the world. Secondly, she was tireless in visiting the camps in an effort to improve conditions and to support and empower local workers and to advocate with officials and politicians. Thirdly, when the Office of The High Commissioner for Refugees won the Nobel Prize, an internal RFP was issued for departments to compete for the prize money for their work. Her Social Services Department won with her proposal to use the funds for programs for disabled women and child refugees. Her experiences at the UN were influential in changing the direction of her work from clinical practice to international social work when she returned to academia.
  • Dr. Mayadas was recognized as a leader in the field of international social work that she served with such distinction. In 2006 she was awarded the 'Partners in Advancing Social Work Education' award by the International Commission of the CSWE. It recognized both her practice at the United Nations and also her wide ranging scholarship in international social work as Co-Editor of three major international handbooks on social work practice, social work education and social policy, and as Co-Editor of an international journal. Her scholarship on social development and social work as well as work on refugees and immigrants is widely recognized. She continued to publish in her retirement, serving as Co-Editor of a book published by Oxford University Press in 2010, titled Immigration Worldwide.
  • She practiced and taught social work across national boundaries over a period of five decades. She also crossed the professional boundaries of clinical practice and community social work, practicing as a community worker in Calcutta India, and Cleveland Ohio, as an advocate and policy maker at UNHCR, and as a clinical social worker in Vancouver, Canada and St Louis, Missouri. As a social work educator she taught at five universities, based for most of her teaching career at the University of Texas at Arlington where she taught for 34 years. When she was promoted to full professor in the 1970s, she was one of the few women who were full professors on the campus at that time. Dr. Mayadas taught at many off campus programs across Texas, so that students who otherwise would not be able to travel to the DFW Metroplex were able to obtain their qualification. This in turn improved services in rural areas.
  • Her research undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s on effectiveness in the teaching and practice of counseling skills and the use of video in clinical practice and training was groundbreaking at the time and indeed was a precursor of the evidence-based approach at a time when research in clinical practice in social work was still developing. Her graduate students were required to present to agencies, thus enabling agencies to supplement their training programs with the latest ideas. Evidence of the lasting impact of her work is that one of her training videos made in collaboration with Bert Rodriguez, Interviewing Skills: A Step-by-step Micro counseling Model, is still used and distributed nationwide in many universities and community colleges as a DVD for training.
  • Her contributions to the teaching and scholarship of social group work helped build the knowledge base for this area of practice. With Dean Paul Glasser, she Co-Chaired the second annual conference of the Association of Social work with Groups in Arlington Texas and they published a book of the proceedings. She continued to publish and teach in the area of social group work. She later served in leadership roles on the board of the Association of Social Work with Groups.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.