Associate Professor Kathryn Wehrmann from Illinois State University’s School of Social Work was announced and ratified as president-elect of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
The NASW is the singular professional organization for all social workers in the United States and is the largest social work membership organization in the world with over 132,000 members.
We recently interviewed Wehrmann, who is also Illinois State’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program coordinator, about this achievement.
Why did you run for NASW president?
I have been a member of NASW for over 20 years and held many offices and committee assignments over the years at the state level. I have also served as a national board member, just leaving the board in 2015, so I have had an opportunity to learn a great deal about the organization and deal with issues that come before the national board.
I stand by the value of social workers and am willing to continue to serve NASW because it is key to getting the profession the attention it deserves. NASW has a big voice for social work in legislative advocacy from the federal level to the incredible efforts of state chapters—like NASW Illinois.
Next to Illinois State’s commencement, my favorite student gathering is when social work students from all over Illinois gather in Springfield each year for Advocacy Day. NASW Illinois under the direction of Joel Rubin and Kyle Hillman does an incredible job organizing panels of legislators and advocacy group spokespeople to educate our students about critical human service issues. Illinois State and other social work students learn how to speak to legislators about their concerns and meet their legislators at the state capitol.
How has your experience at Illinois State helped you prepare?
One of the most helpful things in preparing for this new role is the high value that Illinois State places on public service and civic engagement. I would also have to say that the support that I have received from my school’s chair, Diane Zosky, and my colleagues is a major contributor to my being able to take on this new role. I am very grateful and I think I will be able to bring much back to my students as a result of my experiences.
What will the job entail?
In the first year as president-elect, I will have the honor of working closely with our president, Darrell Wheeler. It will be a transition period where I will ensure that I am well versed in the major issues that the organization is focused on. In addition to serving on the board of directors for NASW, I will also serve as a member of the NASW Foundation board of directors. I will also be learning more about all entities of the association including the 56 chapters, NASW Foundation, NASW Assurance Services Inc., Political Action for Candidate Election, Legal Defense Fund and NASW Press.
In what direction will you take the NASW?
After my year as president-elect, I will assume the role as president on July 1, 2017. My responsibilities will include policy decisions, financial resource allocation, program priority guidance, and committee oversight.
A major focus will be to support the organization’s progress towards modernization. NASW has worked very hard in recent years to set a course of the future that will increase programming services to members, intensify legislative advocacy efforts at the state and national level, and communicate the relevance of social work as a profession.
A special emphasis for me will be on engaging social work students and new social workers on the importance of NASW in promoting the social work profession and its contribution to positive outcomes in healthcare, behavioral healthcare, child welfare, and the variety of other settings where social workers practice.