How getting involved with NASW/Texas has turned new professionals into Emerging Leaders.
For the last year MSW Student Cynthia Riley and BSW Student James Jones have served on the Texas Political Action for Candidate Election (TPACE) Board of Trustees as student representatives.
James, like many of our emerging leaders, was encouraged to join the association by one of his professors who then nominated him for service on TPACE. Meanwhile Cynthia sought out membership on her own via www.naswtx.org, noting that, as a nontraditional student with significant work experience she has learned to “look for and value the resources of professional organizations.”
Student Representatives are full voting members of the TPACE Board of Trustees and carry out duties such as assisting staff with get out the vote efforts, attending the NASW/Texas Annual State Conference, and participating in monthly meeting to make decisions on endorsements, contributions, and campaign plans.
For both Cynthia and James, participation with TPACE has broadened their professional network. Through his role with TPACE, James met with state representatives or their staff and was able to “network with professionals outside of my socio-economic status and develop personal relationships with them.” Cynthia reports that she learned from the other TPACE members and Government Relations Director Sue Milam and enjoyed the opportunity to “meet social workers from all over the state, working in every sector” while at the State Conference in Austin last September.
Cynthia and James both encourage other new professionals to join and get involved with the association.
“Becoming involved with NASW/Texas is a way to impact policy, make a difference, and connect to others,” Cynthia explains. James adds that NASW is “concerned with promoting what is in their best interest” and advocates for thousands of individual members and their clients across the nation.
TPACE is now accepting applications for Student Representatives for the 2014 term. For more information or to apply, contact Sue Milam, Government Relations Director, at email@example.com.
Serving as a student volunteer at an NASW/Texas Conference sounds innocent enough, but for some it’s a gateway, a slippery slope to participation in their local NASW branch, to service on their branch steering committee, and – in extreme cases – to statewide leadership on the NASW/Texas Board of Directors. So be careful, or you may end up like Melissa Saldivar, LCSW, ACSW, C-SWHC, current Board Secretary and Branch Chair of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Branch.
Melissa first got involved with NASW/Texas as a BSW Student at University of Texas Pan American (UTPA). Like so many other members, a professor, Norma Villanueva, encouraged her and her fellow students to join and get involved with their professional organization. “I volunteered as a student during the NASW/Texas conference in Houston,” Melissa recalls. “I remember feeling so empowered to meet and be around so many social workers from Texas. We had a blast during the conference, getting to network with other students from other universities and attending sessions.”
In 2009 Melissa got involved with her local steering committee and in 2010 ran for and was elected as Branch Chair of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. She was hooked, in a good way. “I really enjoyed this experience so I decided to run again for a second term in 2013. I also decided to challenge myself by running for NASW/Texas Board Secretary. I currently serve in both capacities and appreciate the privilege of being a representative locally and throughout Texas.”
Through her service, Melissa has supported other social work professionals. “I have the opportunity to advocate for my colleagues and help them connect with services for their clients. I feel content to know that I help to provide my fellow social workers with CEU opportunities, at an affordable cost, in order to be in compliance with licensure requirements.”
She has also benefited from new and strengthened skills through her service. “[Being a leader] has challenged me to become more comfortable with public speaking and event organizing,” Melissa explains. “I have been able to fine tune my skills in time management. I’ve mastered organizing events and delegating tasks to get this done. I have learned to lobby for Social Work by meeting with local legislators, networking with community agencies, and arranging volunteer opportunities for NASW members… I have also learned the importance of self-care and multi-tasking while keeping ‘my sanity’”
“This has provided me the opportunity to become a leader for our profession and my colleagues in the Rio Grande Valley,” Melissa continues. “I also appreciate the strong bonds I have made with so many other social workers and those on my steering committee, many of whom I encourage to participate and run for elected office. I also appreciate the support and encouragement from Vicki Hansen and her positive influence on me and so many others.”
“Throughout my service, I have empowered others to join NASW and participate on our local steering committee,” she explains noting that being a member of the association is the best way to advocate for social workers: “NASW gives you a voice for your profession.”
Moreover, “Being part of NASW is also an extension of your work resources.” From consultation for ethical concerns and dilemmas to licensing information, NASW is a great resource. “NASW has also provided me the opportunity to obtain credentials such as the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) and Certified Social Worker in Health Care (C-SWHC) for my many years of social work experience.” (Click here for information on these and other credentials you can earn as an NASW member.)
“NASW offers so many resources,” Melissa continues, “I highly encourage all social workers to join.”
For members thinking about getting involved beyond their membership dues, Melissa suggests, “Think about what you are good at and how this can help your local branch. Get involved, attend the meetings, reach out to your local branch.” For some this may be help with social media or planning a party or event. For others it may be donating time as a volunteer at a local meeting.
Melissa encourages, “Be proud to be a Social worker and the impact that this has on the lives of so many.”
You can connect with Melissa and other Social Work Emerging Leaders on Facebook.
Being a social work student is no easy task, between classes, homework, internships, field placements, work, family, friends, volunteering… well, you know. You’ve been through it or are in the throws of it! The commitments and expectations are high and success is fueled by a passion to help others and to make the world a better place.
Each year, a few dedicated social work students take on an additional responsibility of representing their peers on the NASW/Texas and NASW Boards of Directors. Teresa Smith of the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work and Nikki Vogel of the University of Houston-Clear Lake are the NASW/Texas MSW and BSW Student Representatives for 2013-2014, respectively. This spring, Jordan Holley of the University of North Texas was elected to represent Bachelor’s level students across the nation as the BSW Student Representative to the NASW Board of Directors through 2015.
The Texas Chapter is incredibly proud of our student leadership and the important work they do for the association. “My role is to be the liaison between the BSW students and their professional organization,” Nikki explains. “I can report information about NASW happenings to the students, as well as bring up any issues expressed by students to the board for consideration.” Teresa adds that she is seeking “to educate and encourage the growth of the NASW as a part of the graduate student’s experience” during her tenure.
All three agree that educating students on the immense benefits of NASW membership is an important goal of their position. “Student Membership will let you access local branch meetings, professionals around the community, e journals, online discussion boards and numerous NASW publications online for just $48 a year!” Jordan explains, which Nikki adds is about the same price as dinner for two at a 3-star restaurant. “Also, once you graduate, you still get a discount on your membership rate for the first three years. There really is no end to the opportunities if you look for them!”
Teresa observes that these great resources are currently under-utilized by most students. Jordan agrees and plans to create a series of YouTube videos that will educate the BSW students on what NASW can offer, “as well as social work current events, trends and other educational information.”
Nikki adds, “One of the best things about being a student member of NASW/Texas is that membership connects you to a professional community even before you have that degree or license in your hand.” Jordan and Teresa agree that the opportunity for students to network with professionals is incredibly beneficial for students. After all, it was a professional mentor – whether a faculty member or someone from their local branch – who encouraged each of these three emerging leaders to run for their current position.
“I choose to run after receiving support and encouragement from faculty members at UT,” explains Teresa who was also selected as the Capital Area Social Work Student of the Year in 2013. Jordan was encouraged by his professor, Dr. Lynn Jackson, and Nikki consulted with several professors and mentors after Josephine Tittsworth “kept mentioning it to me every time we would see each other… I eventually decided to run for the position, and I am so glad that I did!”
She goes on to say, “I am learning a great deal about how a professional organization works from the inside. I’ve been able to view the organization’s activities from an entirely different perspective, and really see how those activities impact the membership of NASW/Texas.” Plus, “I really believe that advocating on behalf of our professional organization is important and I see this leadership opportunity as a way for me to give back to the social work profession.”
Teresa says she’s learned that “there are a lot of very passionate social workers across the state who are all working towards continuing the maturation and growth of our profession as the scope of our practice continues to evolve in the future.”
While being the National BSW Representative is what Jordan expected -- “hard work”-- Jordan is focused on using this opportunity “to train my professional identity so that when I step into the ‘real world’ I will be prepared for anything that comes my way. Trying to ‘keep up with the professionals’ [on the Board] is hard work, but I did not want to scare myself from hard work. I wanted to challenge myself.”
He adds, “If I can send a message to my fellow BSW students it would be: do not fear hard work, just do it and it will become easier and easier. Personally, stepping into this role has sharpened my mind to the fact that you can accomplish anything in your professional career and your personal life if you put in some effort and hard work. My professional identity is growing daily, with emails, discussion boards, conference calls, virtual meetings and networking with professionals all over America.”
Nikki and Teresa concur that the networking opportunities are phenomenal and have met and talked to social workers from across the state in their positions. Teresa has been able to participate in statewide committees and took time at the State Conference to mentor some BSW students “about graduate school and explaining to them the benefits and options available.”Nikki has been able to use the social work skills she’s learning about as a BSW student and is learning more about “what we do as social workers on both a macro and micro level.” While she notes that her position is much more than a great item to add to her resume, Nikki hopes the experience and what she is learning from it “will stand out to my potential employers in the future.”
If you’re interested in learning more about serving in a leadership role with NASW/Texas, get in touch with your local NLIC Representative or local Branch Chair for more information. And be sure to encourage your colleagues and those whom you mentor to get involved as well. In Nikki’s words: “We can’t continue this generation of Emerging Leaders without your leadership.”
You can connect with Teresa, Nikki, Jordan and other Social Work Emerging Leaders on Facebook.
Seth Mobilio, LMSW admits that he first volunteered with NASW/Texas at the urging of a mentor, Dr. Lynn Jackson, PhD, LCSW, ACSW, while a BSW student at The University of North Texas. But there was more. “I was always looking for that special connection to other social workers,” Seth explains. “NASW/Texas helped me to achieve this. Through my service with NASW/Texas, I have learned how to advocate for the profession. I have a better understanding of how the organization functions on a day to day basis… I found that it’s through all of us that the organization functions.”
Since joining in 2008, Seth has served as BSW Student Representative to the Board of Directors, MSW Student Representative to the TPACE Board of Trustees, and was elected this spring as the Region 3 Member of the Board of Directors. As a board member, Seth serves on the Chapter Executive Committee, the Leadership and Organizational Development Committee, and was appointed by President Watson as Member-At-Large to TPACE. “Like many aspiring leaders, and social workers, “no” is not in my vocabulary,” Seth jokes.
On a serious note, he adds, “I cannot stress the importance of volunteering enough. It is the foundation of our profession and our professional organization. I've learned that I CAN make a difference.”
From reviewing conference abstracts or helping at a local event to serving on your branch steering committee or running for an elected position, Seth notes that volunteering with Nasw/Texas lets you contribute your individual talents in a meaningful way.
“It’s really a win-win opportunity. NASW/Texas advocates for you, and you’re able to give back to the professional organization in so many ways.”
Plus, Seth has gained many valuable skills through his service that benefit him in a competitive workforce. As a Board Member, he has honed his skills as a member of a working team, which has enhanced his professional work with his team at the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as leadership skills such as time management, creativity and establishing goals. “My current supervisor is extremely supportive and understands the importance of advocating for the profession.”
Seth adds, “Through my position on the TPACE Board of Trustees, I have had the opportunity to learn more about SWRI, meet with legislators and become more informed of the legislative process in Texas.”
Moreover, Seth says that being an active part of NASW/Texas gives him a sense of belonging to something bigger.
Always an advocate, Seth charges his fellow members with a call to action:
“Inspire others to join NASW. If you know anyone who has let their membership lapse, encourage them to reconnect and renew. Share your Bootstrap story with others. Know who your elected officials are and where they stand on social work initiatives. Always remember the importance of licensing for social workers in Texas. Lastly, don’t forget to pass the torch and mentor another.”
For more information on getting involved with NASW/Texas, contact your local branch chair or board representative.
You can connect with Seth Mobilio and other NASW/Texas Emerging Leaders on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/swel.naswtx/.
“It just seemed like the natural thing to do!”
That’s April Young, MSW’s response when asked why she first joined NASW as an undergraduate student at The University of Texas at Austin.
Naturally, April quickly got involved with the Texas Chapter once she joined. “I was first a member of the Social Work Day at the Legislature (now Social Work Advocacy Day) committee for the 81st legislative session,” April said. For the 82nd session, and while an MSW Student, she served as chair of the Social Work Advocacy Day committee. April reports, “Both opportunities provided unique experience exercising social work skills in leadership roles.”
“I gained practical knowledge in event planning, and setting and executing deadlines to ensure progress was being made. I learned best practices for communication techniques, whether that was one-on-one, during committee conference calls, or communicating through e-mail.
“Delegation was central to the committee’s success. It didn’t feel natural at first, but our group would not have accomplished all that we did without everyone pitching in!”
Additionally, April said that her role as committee chair gave her the opportunity to gain experience in public speaking and learn “the power of prioritizing.”
As of July 1st, April is the newly elected Branch Chair for the Capital Area. “I could not be more excited!”
“I consider my involvement with NASW a form of self-care,” April went on to say. “Volunteering with other NASW members is refreshing and inspiring. It renews my interest in the profession and keeps me engaged with others who enjoy working toward social justice. Hearing about their interests reminds me how vast the profession really is and how our profession has the unique ability to help individuals of all ages and abilities through different systems.”
When asked why other new professionals should get involved with NASW/Texas, April quickly replied, “Don’t you mean why SHOULDN’T young professionals get involved with NASW/Texas?”
“The Chapter offers a plethora of opportunities for leadership experience, networking, and obtaining continuing education credits,” she explained. “There’s nothing quite like the Annual NASW/Texas State Conference, and I encourage all young social work professionals to attend. Engage in stimulating workshops. Network and make new connections. Check out what vendors have to offer. This year, conference will be held in Austin. You already know one person who will be there (ahem), so y’all come on out!”
“I would not be where I am today were it not for NASW Texas,” notes the Government Relations Specialist for the Department of Aging and Disability Services. She adds that there are lots of ways for other new professionals to get involved and benefit from their service. “Attend branch meetings, join a committee, get involved with TPACE, e-mail your Branch Chair for more information on your specific branch, visit the NASW/Texas website (naswtx.org), sign up for a CEU course. Any way you slice it, NASW/Texas is available and accessible to young professionals. I encourage all young social work professionals to take advantage of an organization that advocates for social work and its professionals!”
You can connect with April Young and other NASW/Texas Emerging Leaders on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/swel.naswtx/.
Januari Leo, MSW
“Though my service with the association, I have learned just how much NASW/Texas cares about not only its members, but the whole social work profession,” explained Houston Branch Chair Januari Leo, MSW.
“This is YOUR professional organization,” she continued. “NASW/Texas exists to advocate for YOU. From licensing issues to legislative policy, NASW/Texas has social workers’ best interests at heart. It’s also a great way to give back to the profession through volunteer service. Whether it’s sitting on the board, or completing an action alert, there is something for everyone.”
Januari is passionate about inviting others to get involved with NASW/Texas because that is how it all started for her. She joined the association as soon as she was accepted into her graduate program because “I recognized the benefits of contributing to my professional organization.”
“I was then invited to attend a Houston steering committee meeting by my best friend, Shubhra Endley, who was the Branch Chair at the time.” After getting involved with the branch steering committee, Sandra Lopez submitted Januari’s name to be a member of the conference planning committee, which she served on for three years. But she didn’t stop there. “I’ve served two years as Houston Branch Chair, and I start a second term in July!”
Januari has benefited greatly from her volunteer service. “I have met some amazing social workers who are working very hard on all levels to ensure that we are organized and effective. I gained experience in event planning, working with a team towards a common goal, and general leadership.”
She added, “Being involved with NASW has allowed me to hone certain skills that can be translated into the professional arena: conflict management, organizing, facilitating meetings, and accountability. I’m also a big believer in networking, and NASW has been the BEST networking tool. I’ve met colleagues and friends not only in Houston, but across Texas, that I might not have met otherwise.”
Januari encouraged all social workers to become members, and all members to get involved. “Reach out to your local steering committee and find out when they meet. Many branches have monthly member meetings that you can attend also. Come to a mixer, attend a CEU event, go to conference and introduce yourself to someone with a leadersh+-ip ribbon, just MAKE THE EFFORT!”
“There are many NASW/Texas members in a leadership position who are willing to act as mentors for those who are entering the profession, and who are eager to get involved. Shubhra and Sandra saw something in me and nurtured that leadership potential, and I now have the desire and responsibility to pay it forward.”
You can connect with Januari Leo and other NASW/Texas Emerging Leaders on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/swel.naswtx/.
Jillian Bissar, LCSW
“Practicing leadership in a variety of settings makes one a valuable asset in the work place,” observes Jillian Bissar, LCSW, NASW/Texas Conference Committee Special Events and Arrangements Coordinator and Secretary & Social Coordinator for the Houston Branch Steering Committee. “NASW volunteer leadership is a great way to practice those skills and to make the connections you need to advance your career and our profession.”
Jillian says that her boss, “loves that I am an active part of NASW because she knows I am learning things that I will be able to bring back to my practice and our group… Because I am linked into the network of Social Workers in Houston and beyond, I have ready access to information on the latest things that affect our profession as a whole and also my specific area of practice.”
As a leader at the branch and chapter levels, Jillian has found opportunities for networking, mentoring/menteeing and professional development, and has learned about marketing, event planning, fund raising, volunteer management and the art of negotiation. She says she has also learned a lot about advocacy.
“As a Clinical Social Worker the things I often get most frustrated about in my job are the system issues. Being an active part of NASW has helped me to be able to work on the systems level to advocate for changes that will directly affect my daily work.”
“I feel strongly that we also have to advocate and work for ourselves to promote our profession.” Jillian quotes Margaret Mead to emphasize her point: “I must admit that I personally measure success in terms of the contributions an individual makes to her or his fellow human beings.” Jillian says she recognizes that social workers are “on the front lines” everyday for our clients, but explains the importance of supporting the profession.
“To me there is little point in being a Social Worker unless you are also working to help promote the profession. To stand with the group and be able to say this is who we are, what do and how we do it, is important… Social Workers are still often misunderstood and misrepresented and it is up to each of us to do our part to ensure that people understand who we are and what we do. When we each contribute to promoting the profession it helps us all and that is success.”
“I view being a part of my Professional Organization as part of my self care,” she adds. “So many Social Workers work alone or are the only Social Worker in a multidisciplinary team. Being a part of NASW keeps me grounded in Social Work and helps me to keep balanced.”
While Jillian has been an NASW member since she was a student, she didn’t become active until she moved to Houston after graduation. She started attending branch meetings in order to network with other social workers and get CEUs. “I fell out for a while due to work commitments but then I was asked by my former student intern to be on the Houston Branch Steering Committee.”
Jillian also served on the Conference Committee in 2012 as the Local Branch Liaison and will serve in 2014 and 2015 as the Conference Committee Chair. “I wish I had become more active in NASW sooner; it has been such a wonderful experience being able to meet and work with other Social Workers and advocate for our profession together.”
Jillian says NETWORKING is a great reason to get involved with NASW. Why?
Support! “We all need support in the work we do and who better to understand than fellow Social Workers.”
Connections! “Networking is about making connections to make your job easier because now you have a direct contact at an agency you can refer to.”
Advance your Career! “You are able to promote who you are and what you do or hope to do.”
To get started, Jillian suggests attending a meeting, social or event held by your local branch, and encourages everyone to “attend conference…meet people, [and] make connections with other Social Workers.”
One last tip: “The Houston Branch encourages everyone, even our student members, to get business cards with their information on it so that they can effectively network.”
Connect with new professionals across the state through our Facebook group: Social Work Emerging Leaders.
Brandi Felderhoff, LMSW
It’s no secret that when you help others you often help yourself, as each experience provides an opportunity to learn about yourself, strengthen your skills and broaden your horizons. This is certainly true for new professionals who get involved with NASW/Texas. Take the Texoma Branch Chair, Brandi Felderhoff, LMSW, for example.
Like many members, Brandi joined NASW as an undergraduate after a professor “strongly encouraged” her and her classmates to attend an NASW meeting while in her course.
“I very much enjoyed the program and the opportunity to network with ‘real’ professionals,” Brandi said. “I joined not long after that and have maintained membership ever since.” In 2010, Brandi joined the Social Work Advocacy Day (SWAD) Planning Committee and was elected as the Texoma Branch Chair in 2012. She is also the current Student Volunteer Coordinator for the Conference Planning Committee.
The doctoral student at University of Texas at Arlington says she has learned a lot from her service. “On the SWAD committee I learned a LOT about legislative advocacy and the lengths NASW/Texas and National go to, to advocate for our profession, as well as the importance of our advocacy efforts as professionals.”
As Branch Chair, Brandi says she is “learning more every day.” She has built up her skills in fundraising, member recruitment and retention, public speaking and organization. Some skills have been difficult to learn but critical for success, such as “the importance of a strong supportive team (in this case, my wonderful steering committee) and the art of delegation.”
Being an NASW member and leader has helped Brandi grow professionally. “From the start NASW has provided me with networking opportunities that I would not have experienced otherwise,” from introducing Brandi to the variety of settings available for social work practice to gaining exposure to the community as a “competent, knowledgeable, engaged social worker.”
Brandi cites professional connections, resume building opportunities and a better understanding of NASW’s efforts to support practitioners as reasons other new professionals should get involved with the association. “The very least that I can do is support the profession that supports me every single day, through my membership, time and service contributions.”
Brandi explains, “I am a social worker because I LOVE what I do. I LOVE working with patients. I LOVE empowering people and watching them take their lives in their hands and improve their circumstances. And I want to know that I will be able to do this for the rest of my career. NASW works hard every day to represent our professional goals, values and ethics, and to advocate for the needs of the clients and vulnerable populations that we serve. Your membership dues help to ensure these efforts, but your service, either at the local, regional, state or national levels help to spread these messages of our profession to one another, and to world.
“For me there is nothing more rewarding than sharing my profession with others, whether it’s people who don’t understand what social workers do, or students and emerging leaders trying to find their way. NASW provides me the opportunities to educate others about our profession and help guide new social workers every single day.”
Ready to get involved? Brandi suggests contacting your local leadership – Branch Chair, NLIC Rep, Steering Committee members – to “offer your assistance and support and see what doors open for you.”