Social Work Elevators Raise Profession's Visibility

By Kathryn Conley Wehrmann, PhD, LCSW

Kathryn Conley Wehrmann, PhD, LCSW

Our celebration of Social Work Month in March is fast approaching and we will once again be involved in recognizing and elevating the profession that we have committed to as practitioners, policymakers and educators.

As we prepare to move into our month of celebration, I would like to write about certain "social work elevators." These people serve to highlight our profession and its many contributions to society. I also ask that you share your social work elevator stories with me.

This past fall I had the pleasure to meet or work with a variety of individuals whose efforts I would like to applaud, starting with Mark Lusk, dean of the University of Texas, El Paso, who serves as a member of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Human Rights Commission as the representative from North America. He elevates social work through his advocacy for immigration issues. As the situation on the U.S. southern border continues, I know he will keep us informed of developments and ways we can advocate for rights of asylum-seeking families.

I would also like to commend the members of the U.S. Committee of the International Council on Social Welfare. I extend a special thank you to social work elevators Patricia Martin-O'Meally, Cudore Snell, Bernice Harper, Joyce Higashi, Lt. Col. Michele Matthews and Bob Arnold.

These individuals keep a watchful eye on social welfare in an ever-changing world and the vital role our profession has to play. Their most recent endeavor was a reception held at the South African Embassy that brought the world a little closer together through recognition of international efforts and the opportunity for fellowship.

The Annual NASW Social Work Pioneer® Luncheon event was another place where I found a high concentration of social work elevators. This year 13 new Pioneers were inducted. As a reminder, to be a Pioneer one must be nominated and voted into this accomplished group. Our new Pioneers include Georgia Anetzberger, Sandra Chaiken, Fran Danis, Teresa DeCrescenzo, Peter Delany, Doreen Elliott (posthumous), Cynthia Franklin, Nathan Linsk, David Moxley, Cynthia Stuen, Joan Upshaw (posthumous), Vicki Gardine Williams, and Charles Zastrow.

Their profiles will soon be added to the Pioneer section of the NASW Foundation's new website, where you can read about their contributions and how they have elevated our profession across many fields. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the Pioneer web pages to read about the program and the individuals who have made significant contributions to our field. You might also consider nominating someone.

We have many national committee members who also do incredible work to advance social work. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Curielle Duffy, the chair of the National Committee on Nominations and Leadership Identification (NCNLI), to let her know how much her committee's work to identify potential NASW social work candidates for national board service is appreciated. I extend another thanks for this work, as it is a "behind-the-scenes effort" that upholds our profession.

We should never forget those who step up to carry out professional service as members of NCNLI or the other committees NASW requires to run an effective association. Please review the different committees and let us know if you would like to be considered for a committee position.

Our chapter executives and chapter boards throughout the country are hard at work each and every day to highlight social work and all of its contributions to the major institutions of our country and areas of need. Our national office staff and national board members are invested in supporting chapter creativity and producing tools and opportunities to ensure we are the vital professional association we need to be in today's world.

Collectively, their efforts are critical to advancing our profession and ensuring that social work contributions are well known. When you think about it, one of the best and most effective social work elevators is our professional organization.

NASW strives to make sure we are a persistent and respected voice for social justice; we are well-represented in the media; we are able to provide excellent professional development opportunities; and we work to create an organization that is responsive to a changing world. NASW seeks to meet the needs of our seasoned practitioners, our up-and-coming new social workers, and those who are just beginning their professional education.

Every day, each of us works to honor our profession and the values it stands for — and every day your NASW, as your professional organization, works to elevate the profession for all of its members.

I would love to read your "social work elevator speech/story." What do you tell people about social work? What have you done or seen that makes you proud to be a social worker? What would you say to a young person who is considering a social work career?

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