NASW Foundation Helps Support and Advance the Profession


By Paul R. Pace

For those who generously donate to the NASW Foundation, the reasons vary.

Philip Hong

For Philip Hong (pictured at left), dean and professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia, supporting the Foundation’s NASW Social Work Pioneers® program is essential, as being a Social Work Pioneer is among the highest honors in the social work profession.

“It’s critical to recognize social workers at multiple levels—micro, mezzo and macro—who have done a lifetime of sacrificial work, and to recognize them as pioneers,” says Hong.

He is particularly proud of those from UGA who were recently recognized as Pioneers. He also was excited that the UGA School of Social Work was an event sponsor for the 2023 NASW Foundation’s Pioneers induction ceremony.

In fact, Hong attended the Pioneer induction ceremonies in 2022 and 2023, where UGA alumni Lawanna Barron (inducted in 2023) and Jeffrey Yarvis, along with Anna Scheyett, professor and former dean of the UGA School of Social Work (both inducted in 2022), celebrated their induction into the Pioneer program.

Supporting Pioneers is essential, because it honors social workers who tend to be the first to spearhead work in areas where the fruits of their labor are not often immediately visible and recognized, Hong explained.

He noted that supporting the NASW Foundation, in turn, supports NASW.

“NASW represents all social workers—that’s where the NASW Foundation helps advance social work as a profession,” he said. “(NASW) impacts us in all aspects, from efficacy to insurance, to being a collective voice for the profession.”

Social workers and social work organizations, from large to small, should support the NASW Foundation and NASW, he said.

“I hope NASW continues to grow in its impact, and stay inclusive of all social workers,” Hong said. “NASW should continue to take the lead and show its inclusive and collaborative spirit by bringing together all organizations in various sizes that have a social work identity in one way or another. NASW is essential in advancing the mission of social work.”

Show Your Pride with Pins

When it comes to giving back, the Department of Social Work at Tuskegee University orders NASW social work pins for its graduates each year. Social work schools can honor their graduating students at commencement with an NASW silver-plated professional social worker pin. Proceeds from pin sales support the NASW National Social Work Public Education Campaign. The pins represent professional social workers.

April Jones

April Jones, PhD, M.ED, MS, MSW (pictured at right), chair and associate professor at the Tuskegee University Department of Social Work, said the department designates funds each year to ensure each BSW graduate gets a pin at their pinning ceremony.

She said the school will start its online MSW program in the fall. Those students, although distance learners, will also get social work pins at a virtual pinning ceremony or in person if they plan to attend their graduation ceremony in person.

“When I came on board in 2018, I was asked if I could assist in buying the pins,” she said. “I said yes.”

“At the pinning ceremonies, we say this pin signifies you being a BSW student to now becoming an alumni,” Jones said.

At the pinning ceremony, students are offered the opportunity to express how they feel about their growth and development throughout their studies, and their peers and family also get a chance to speak.

Jones said most of the graduates have been accepted to graduate school or have a job lined up. “We congratulate them on knowing the next step in their path.”

“Any time we can give back to NASW or sister associations, it’s always important,” Jones explained. She encourages other schools of social work to donate the pins to their graduates.  “It’s symbolic,” she said. The graduating cohort needs that closure.”

“I want to thank NASW for having these pins for schools of social work,” Jones added. “I hope it will continue for years to come and that more schools will participate in purchasing the pins for students, which in turn supports the NASW Foundation. It’s a return on investment. You get something and we get something. It’s a great way to help both worlds.”

Paying it Forward

Betsy Schaefer Vourlekis

Betsy Schaefer Vourlekis, PhD (pictured at left), is professor emeritus of social work at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and an NASW Social Work Pioneer®.

She has donated to various Foundation projects over the years, including the NASW Legacy Project, the Knee/Wittman Health and Mental Health Awards fund, and student scholarship funds.

“I’ve given money for the different Social Work Pioneer events to honor someone or to recognize someone,” Vourlekis said. “It’s a way of expressing my appreciation, esteem and respect to a person.”

When it comes to giving back, social workers need to be mindful of who they support, she said.

“We have been fortunate, many of us, to accumulate assets” over the course of a social work career, Vourlekis said. “I appreciate what NASW has done over the years for our profession, and I think it’s important to pay it back."

To learn more about the NASW Foundation and donation opportunities, visit the NASW Foundation website.

Social Work Advocates National Association of Social Workers Spring 2024 Cover

Social Work Advocates Flipbook

NASW members, sign in to read the Spring 2024 issue as a flipbook