With gratitude

Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPHMy tenure at NASW has covered almost 12 full and fulfilling years. I leave my role as chief executive officer with renewed pride in our profession, and with appreciation to all of you members who work every day to make our world better.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to both the national and chapter staff and volunteer leadership. I have had the opportunity to co-lead NASW with six different presidents — Ruth Mayden, Terry Mizrahi, Gary Bailey, Elvira Craig de Silva, Jim Kelly and Jeane Anastas.

There have also been 12 different national board configurations. Each president and each board put their own, unique stamp on our association. It is rewarding to see that in the past decade NASW has moved forward with bold ideas, bold actions and visionary thinking. My thanks to the more than 100 board members I have been fortunate enough to call colleagues and friends.

To those of you in newly elected or appointed leadership roles, let me assure you that NASW is in capable hands and that this is an excellent time for a transition. We have had several years of stability and success. Our internal operations have been updated, upgraded and fine-tuned. Our external relations have been strengthened, and social work is at the table nationally. We have a dedicated board of directors, and our very capable president, Dr. Jeane Anastas, has another year left to serve.

The CEO search committee, led by past-president Jim Kelly, has selected Dr. Angelo McClain as NASW’s new CEO. Dr. McClain is a social work leader who will take NASW forward in new and exciting ways.

Since announcing that I was stepping down, many people have asked me what I believe to be the significant achievements of NASW during the past decade. Others have asked me what accomplishments I especially found rewarding.

Several things come immediately to mind: the two Social Work Congresses that set both internal and external imperatives for the profession; the first national workforce study; our multiyear public education campaign to help people understand the breadth and depth of social work practice; the social work reinvestment initiative with its signature legislation — the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act; and the Restoring Hope national conference last summer. However, the initiative that I personally believe has had the greatest impact is the Social Workers Across Nations, or SWAN, program.

We began SWAN with the goal of providing a mechanism for social workers to offer their expertise and skills to serve humanitarian needs within the international community and to develop collaborative linkages with social workers from other countries. Since then, we have engaged in many projects around the world that have helped social workers to better meet the needs of their constituents.

For example, SWAN established a scholarship endowment for social workers in South Africa to receive training in palliative and end of life care. We provided funding for a social worker in Chernobyl to be trained in pediatric oncology so she could then train her colleagues in providing this much needed service.

We collaborated with social workers in Budapest to help establish a health social work curriculum and provided seed grants for community health projects. We stocked a library for social work students in Cambodia who were lacking social work textbooks, and we have provided consultation and technical assistance to social work colleagues in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda.

SWAN also donated goods and funds to assist a children’s hospice that was started by a social worker to provide care for abandoned babies in Durban.

Using contributions to SWAN’s disaster assistance fund, we supported social workers affected by the Indonesian tsunami in 2006, and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011. We also provided donations for prostheses for children who were injured as a result of the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

This is only a partial list of SWAN accomplishments, but it emphasizes that social work is a global profession and that human needs cross geographic and national boundaries. I firmly believe that NASW-USA has an obligation to strengthen the profession of social work and to support social workers around the world. SWAN is one mechanism to do that.

I have been proud to oversee such an initiative and I invite and encourage each of you to support future SWAN activities.

The day I started my position at NASW, Steve Karp, executive director of our Connecticut chapter, gave me a button with a quote by President Warren Harding. It read, “My God, this is one hell of a job.” I couldn’t agree more. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve as your chief executive officer.

Contributions to the SWAN project are welcomed at