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NMSU professor named president-elect for NASW's New Mexico chapter

Wanda Whittlesey-Jerome, a New Mexico State University assistant professor in the School of Social Work, is the new president-elect for the National Association of Social Workers' New Mexico chapter (NASW/NM).



New Mexico State University assistant professor Wanda Whittlesey-Jerome has been named president-elect for the National Association of Social Worker's New Mexico chapter. (Courtesy photo)

Whittlesey-Jerome began service on July 1. For one year, she will shadow the current president, assisting with planning and problem solving. Beginning July 1, 2011, she will assume the presidency of NASW/NM for two years.

"As president I want to continue to promote a positive image for social workers. It is still true that people don't know what social workers do," Whittlesey-Jerome said. "I want to try to strengthen the image and educate the public about what it is we really do, while lifting up the professionals that serve society in this very important way."

Whittlesey-Jerome has been involved with NASW since 1986, when she joined as a baccalaureate social work student at the University of North Texas. She was an active member of the Dallas unit of NASW/TX prior to coming to New Mexico.

"I recognized that the organization was important and saw the connection as being vital to my success as a professional," Whittlesey-Jerome said. "I encourage my social work students to get involved from the beginning as a strategy for professional success."

Since moving to New Mexico in 2001, Whittlesey-Jerome immediately became involved with NASW's New Mexico chapter as a volunteer, resulting in her service on the executive committee for the past four years during which time she was elected as secretary for one two-year term and then another as vice president.

During her time with the organization Whittlesey-Jerome's primary focus has been on developing a deeper understanding of the issues impacting the New Mexico Chapter constituency and their professional needs. In addition, she is interested in practice evaluation, collecting and analyzing social workers' effectiveness data.

"Part of my mission as research instructor for the university is to emphasize and highlight the real world application of program and practice evaluation. Without numbers it's hard to prove the need for social workers," Whittlesey-Jerome said.

Whittlesey-Jerome also works closely with the New Mexico Social Work Summit, an idea she originally proposed to NASW/NM's executive director, Patrick Tyrrell. The Social Work Summit is an advocacy group consisting of leaders in social work from across the state, spear-headed by New Mexico's two legislators with master of social work degrees, N.M. Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and N.M. Rep. Antonio Lujan.

As president, Whittlesey-Jerome will take on a number of duties, including the planning of NASW/NM's annual conference held every February. The conference is open to all licensed professional social workers (both members and non-members of NASW/NM), counselors, and marriage and family therapists across and beyond the state. The conference saw more than 800 people in attendance in 2009.

During her time as president, Whittlesey-Jerome hopes to help the organization become savvier with using new technology, increase recruitment and retention of members and work with other professionals to develop plans for evaluating the effectiveness of social work, including the organization at the state level, in ways that are cost and time-effective.

NASW is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with more than 150,000 members. NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies.