Nominate A Pioneer

The NASW Social Work Pioneers® welcome nominations. Completed nominations are accepted on an on-going basis, but are only reviewed on an annual basis by the Pioneer Steering Committee in June.  Newly-elected Pioneers, and their nominators, are notified in June and formally inducted during the Annual Pioneer Program & Luncheon, held annually in the Fall 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.

What is the NASW Pioneer Program? The unique mission of the Social Work Pioneer Program is to foster the historical continuity of the profession through the pursuit of three goals:

  1. the collection, protection, and promotion of the history of the profession;
  2. the identification and systematic recognition of those social workers who have made significant trailblazing contributions to that history, and preservation of the historical record of these individuals and their achievements through a dedicated web page of “Pioneer Profiles”; and,
  3. the provision of assistance to the professional community to further the purposes of social work as a profession as the knowledge, experiences, capacity, and interests of Social Work Pioneers individually and collectively permits.

Nomination Guidelines Introduction

SPECIAL MESSAGE – Writing a Successful Pioneer Nomination 

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.


Who can be nominated as a NASW Social Work Pioneer? 


Nomination of an individual as a NASW Pioneer can be made in one of the following two categories:


  • Historic Pioneer:  This is a person whose pioneering contributions in the social work/social welfare field took place prior to the establishment of NASW in 1955 when specific criteria for designation as a professional social worker were implemented.
  • NASW Pioneer:  This is a social worker (living or deceased) whose pioneering contributions occurred after the establishment of NASW in 1955. The nominee must have a professional career of at least 25 years, not necessarily consecutive, and must have been a member of NASW at some point, if not currently.

**Current NASW Chapter and National Staff are NOT eligible.  

Who may make a nomination and what to include?  


Anyone, other than direct family members, with familiarity and personal knowledge of the potential nominee’s pioneering contributions may submit a nomination (family members cannot nominate or provide the support letter). Self-nominations are not accepted.  The following materials are required:

  • cover page with nominator information;
  • nomination narrative (see specific outline and guidance below);
  • one additional letter of support; and,
  • picture of the nominee.


How should the nomination narrative be written? 


The narrative should be no more than four pages and must be submitted in a specific format containing five sections. Narratives not conforming to the format will be returned. A curriculum vita may accompany the narrative but will not be accepted in lieu of the narrative. Guidelines for the five sections are provided below.

I. Specific Pioneering Contributions

II. Career Highlights

III. Biographical Data

IV.  Significant Recognition and Awards

V. Significant Publications (if any)


What information should each of the five narrative sections contain?


See expanded nomination explanation below.


When is the deadline for submission of a nomination?
Completed nominations are accepted on an on-going basis, but are only reviewed on an annual basis by the Pioneer Steering Committee in June. Please refer to the checklist at the end of the instructions to be sure your nomination material is complete.  Only complete nomination packages will be considered. 




Expanded Nomination Narrative Explanation

I.  Specific Pioneering Contributions

This section must make the case for why the individual’s career and contribution merit being considered as an NASW Pioneer.  This is the key section of the nomination. It must provide a clear and detailed picture of the nominee’s pioneering actions and their results:

  1. describe the person’s significant/trailblazing (e.g. “pioneering”) specific contributions - providing detailed substantive information about the innovative or ground-breaking features to social work, social welfare, human services; and,
  2. summarize, with specifics, the difference the contribution(s) has made to the practice or policies of social work/human services and to the people served - that is, the nature of the impact made by the pioneering achievement.

II.  Career Highlights

Provide evidence of a career trajectory over at least 25 years, not necessarily consecutive. It should include an overview description of the nominee’s positions held and other accomplishments not mentioned in Section One. Include information about the auspice [i.e. public, voluntary, for-profit, etc.], work setting, field of practice [i.e. child welfare, public assistance, community organization, etc.], and scope [ i.e. local, state, national, international, etc.] of the positions held.  

III.  Biographical Information

Provide information (to the extent 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.

IV. Significant Recognition and Awards

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

V. 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.

Required Supporting Materials

  • Picture: Please provide a high-resolution photograph (formal or informal) of the nominee. If selected, the picture is used for the Pioneer’s biographical profile page.  
  • 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. This letter should be specific to the Pioneer nomination (and not previously provided for a different award).
  • Interest in Pioneer Activities: We would like to know of nominees who are interested in becoming more involved in our Legacy program and the Annual Pioneer Luncheon and Program that takes place in the District of Columbia. 

Nomination Package Checklist

Complete all steps in the Nomination Package Checklist prior to submitting a nomination. Only complete nomination packages submitted by March 31 will be considered at the June 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 high-resolution 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

Nomination Deadline

Nominate a new member of the NASW Social Work Pioneers®! 

The annual Pioneers nomination submission deadline is March 31. The Pioneer Steering Committee will consider completed packages received by March 31 at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting.  Follow this link to the Pioneer Nomination Application Form >>

special message

How to write a successful Social Work Pioneer Nomination, by Pioneer, Betsy Vourlekis.

Pioneer Event 

The NASW Social Work Pioneers® 17th Annual Program and Luncheon will be held Saturday, October 14, 2023 at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C.

View photos from the 2022 event here

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!   

Pioneer Event

the nasw social work pioneers® 25th anniversary celebration and 15th annual program and luncheon was held november 1-2, 2019 at the cosmos club in washington, d.c.  follow this link to view an event video