Executive director says working for members rewarding

Miriam NisenbaumA little bit of peer pressure turned out to be a good thing for NASW-Texas Executive Director Miriam Nisenbaum.

During her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas-Austin, she chose a major in government but still felt undecided until someone suggested that she look into the social work field.

“A friend persuaded me to try a social work class,” Nisenbaum said. “She told me I’d like it, and I did. Social work ended up being my minor.”

Nisenbaum said she’s always loved studying human behavior and quickly saw social work as a good fit for herself.

“Human behavior is so wildly unpredictable, and I loved that,” she said. “Everybody is so individual and unique, with their own perspective on things. It makes life spicy.”

After receiving her MSW at the University of Texas-Arlington, Nisenbaum’s first social work job was in Dallas as a child placement worker with Child Protective Services. She stayed in the position for four years before moving on in her career.

Most recently, Nisenbaum served as vice president of Children and Family Services with Easter Seals Central Texas, in Austin; and as executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in Dallas, and Honoring of Peoples Everywhere (H.O.P.E.), also in Dallas.

Having been a member of NASW since 1976, Nisenbaum said she saw an exhilarating opportunity in leading the Texas chapter.

“I couldn’t think of anything more rewarding than working on behalf of the social work profession and NASW members,” Nisenbaum said. “I was ready to take that sort of leap.”

The chapter is currently working to expand membership, she said, with other goals including website improvements and a prize initiative for members who attract other members to join. Over the summer, the chapter will also have a mentoring initiative available online for members to either find a mentor or be a mentor.

Nisenbaum said the chapter also has an initiative that helps clinical social workers with clinical social work issues.

“Through this we help clinical social workers on all matters clinical, from reimbursement procedures to what CPT codes to use,” she said. “This service will become permanent to NASW-Texas.”

The chapter has reopened branch offices in east Texas, the Panhandle and the Gulf Coast, she said. The branch offices are run remotely by volunteers and are an effective way to reach more members across the state. Because Texas is large, Nisenbaum said, the branches allow members to access information at a location that is potentially closer to them than the main chapter office in Austin.

“The branch offices will offer a variety of networking and CE opportunities,” Nisenbaum said. “We have several members who plan on retiring to the Gulf Coast, so we’re working on getting those branch offices active.”

Despite the challenges — which she said are present no matter where you are — Nisenbaum is excited about making things better for NASW-Texas members. And deciding to work for a premier organization that serves social workers on such a diverse level was a no-brainer, she said.

“There’s an old saying in Texas that goes, ‘I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could,’” said Nisenbaum, who was born in Canada. “I really feel this position is the crown jewel of my career, and I couldn’t be happier than doing this.”