New goals, challenges ahead

Darrell Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSWThe opportunity to serve as president of our national association is a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility. Working with the board of directors and the national staff, and representing the association to multiple constituencies are clearly roles of the office.

It is my sincere hope that I will execute these duties responsibly and consistently, thereby contributing to the position of the association and its members nationally and globally.

For those who know me, you likely have experienced my great enthusiasm and passion for the social work profession. For those newer to my presence and style, let me say I am a social worker through and through and hold a passionate perspective about the value of what the profession does, why it does it and what difference it makes across systems of service provision.

It is my personal commitment to bring that passion and voice to my role and duties as association president. Clearly, our association is a large and complex entity and my voice alone is not sufficient to embody or convey all we know and do.

Therefore, being a reasonably capable social worker, I will strive to listen intently to our members, chapter leaders and social workers who are yet to join the ranks of our association to learn about the issues that impact them and the clients we work with and serve.

As president-elect, I identified three key areas in my platform statement:

  • Increase the visibility and validation of the comparative worth of social work practices;
  • align the association with the needs of our members and create products of value and significance for them; and
  • continue to maintain fiscal responsibility over our association’s investments and expenditures.

I continue to view these as important areas of focus during my tenure. I also look forward to building on the legacy and significant accomplishments of past presidents, like Jeane Anastas, James Kelly, Elvira Craig de Silva and Gary Bailey. I will seek opportunities to use the presidency to represent our association, its members and the profession in public forums to enhance the visibility and prominence of what we do and how we contribute to issues of national and international significance.

The discrete areas in which social work and social workers make impactful contributions are vast, and it is not my intent to enumerate every one of these. Rather, I will use the resources afforded me to bring greater attention to the profession and the many women and men who have and are doing extraordinary things to produce a more socially responsive and just outcome for our client systems.

It will be extremely important to be an astute and well-informed political observer as we face many challenging political, economic and social issues. Meeting with association members, social workers not fully engaged with the association and external stakeholders to strengthen our professional presence must be a priority for me.

During my time as part of NASW, I have been privileged to serve in many roles at the national and local levels — from my very early work with the Pennsylvania Chapter to my time in North Carolina, New York/Connecticut and now Illinois. I have been honored to meet and develop relationships with members who are visionaries and leaders, passionate about our profession and committed to the values of social work and a socially just society. In this, my third time on the national board, I have developed a clearer view of the strengths and challenges facing professional associations today.

Our past CEO and executive director, Betsy Clark, was instrumental in informing my perspectives in this area. In the past year as president-elect, I have had the profound pleasure to work with outgoing President Jeane Anastas and I thank her for the vision and leadership she has brought to the association. During this time, I also met and have the pleasure of working with our new CEO, Angelo McClain.

It is because of these and countless other leaders and association members that I believe our profession is on a pathway to new heights of growth and strength. I look forward to hearing from you to inform the process as we work together to meet challenges and set new goals.

Contact Darrell Wheeler at