Most social workers do not start their professions looking for fame and accolades. Yet some social workers become such prominent advocates for their communities that they find themselves in positions of great power and influence – helping shape public policy and decisions that affect people across the nation and the world.
With so many diverse social worker career opportunities, the five people listed below come from an array of social work backgrounds, but all have become great forces of change in their respective fields.
1. Suzanne Heurtin-Roberts MA, Ph.D, MSW
Calling Dr. Heurtin-Roberts a health scientist seems to undercut the depth of her influence in improving public health. She is also a medical anthropologist and social worker at the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Heurtin-Roberts rose to the position of advisor for the acting director and deputy director of NIH by providing guidance on implementing changes to the community health research infrastructure. She is also a co-chair for a research group affiliated with the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and has served on the faculty of the National School of Social Services at Catholic University of America.
2. Hubert Jones, MSW
Jones is a dean emeritus at the Boston University School of Social Work and an award-winning civil rights leader. He has dedicated his career to creating opportunities for minority children and low-income residents across the nation. Jones’ interest in civil rights can be traced back to the historic decision ofBrown vs the Board of Education, a defining moment in his life. Jones served as special assistant to the chancellor for urban affairs at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and was honored at BU with the establishment of the Hubie Jones Lecture in Urban Health.
3. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, MSW
The first Democratic woman to serve in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, Sen. Mikulski was in Congress for 30 years. She started her career in Baltimore after receiving a bachelor’s in sociology and then her master’s degree in social work. Quickly engrossing herself in campaign fundraising reform, she rose through the ranks of local politics and then broke onto the national political scene in the late 1980s. She was also the first woman to chair the influential Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Mikulski is now a professor of public policy and an adviser at Johns Hopkins University.
4. Angelo McClain, MSW, Ph.D, LICSW
As the Chief Executive Officer of National Association of Social Workers, McClain has held a number of political positions and won numerous awards, including the Betsey R. Rosenbaum Award for Excellence in Public Child Welfare from the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators.McClain started life as a troubled youth and turned things around by becoming a college football player. He studied social work in college and ultimately went on to obtain a doctorate. As the Commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, he has focused his work on social justice and health care equality. McClain also served as vice president of Network Management and Regional Operations for the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership, a state-run mental health service linking patients to providers.
Many social workers start with humble beginnings only to launch a successful career in social work later in life. Through drive and determination (and a degree in social work), these four game-changers all reached positions that allow them to impact our world for the better.
Learn more about the three major levels of social work practice in our careers section.