Happy New Year From CSWE's President & CEO

Published on : January 9, 2024

Aloha, CSWE Members, Families, and Friends!

HappyNewYear2024.jpgHappy New Year! First, I want to thank all of you for being my sustaining force this past year. Almost exactly a year ago, I entered this position with the question, “Where are we future-ing social work education?” What kind of future do we want for social work education and how do we get there? This past year I’ve learned a lot from all of you in social work and our sister disciplines with some common themes of the importance of returning to the backbone of our roots, embracing that Sankofa moment, and leveraging the extraordinary hope and strength of the human spirit leaning into the future.  

Second, we are privileged to be in the social work education lane as contributors to the advancement of social work as a profession. We continue to uphold social work’s core values of service; social justice; the dignity and worth of the person; and the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. These core values—the acknowledgement of the ancestral lands of Indigenous Peoples, the vision of a well-educated social work profession, and the mission to advance excellence and innovation in social work education and research—underpins the preparation of social work educators, researchers, practitioners, and leaders to promote health, well-being, and justice for all. 

Let us be reminded that CSWE is the national organization for social work education consisting of nearly 900 accredited social work education programs from Guam and Hawai’i, across the Continental U.S. to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Our membership includes faculty, staff, and students in various social work programs within the BSW, MSW, DSW, and PhD levels. Social work education provides a multi-dimensional curriculum comprised of theory, research, policy, practice, and practicum that offers technical and complex skills in working with person-in-environment, systems thinking, community engagement, and social work science. The versatility of the social work degree is seen in its diverse and extensive workforce. As social workers, our preparation is exceptional and our responsibility to society is extraordinary!

As CSWE, in these challenging times, we express sympathy, compassion, and empathy for the significant suffering and loss experienced around the world and for those who are affected including our students, faculty, and staff. As a social work education entity, we are engaging in the opportunity to give voice to peace and further enhance our educational resources to benefit our educational programs and membership. We encourage the use of our values and competencies in navigating these difficult times and as teaching moments for all of us. For example, the 2022 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards contains nine competencies of which Competency 1 states, “Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior” and represents where it all begins: with me, you, and us in terms of professional conduct. We are one CSWE. The remaining competencies speak to servicing society, not as a solo act nor an expectation of perfection, but one of effort to serve with respect and civility.  

So, where do we go from here? What does the future of social work education look like? In the social work education lane, we must protect the privilege to learn by making space for all students, faculty, and staff, and creating a sense of belonging. Let us extend grace to one another as we try to navigate post-pandemic challenges that deeply affected our relationships and contributed to intense fragility during these challenging times. Let us nurture our relationships so that we can engage in the difficult conversations, to be able to listen to each other, to understand our human journeys and histories. There are divisions on our campuses, but we can still create a sense of community and a space for belonging. We can come together to work on a future together. Universities offer the beauty of diversity and spaces where we can come together to debate ideas, hear differing views and contrarian perspectives, and have hard conversations with civility and respect and a sense of community. Whether it feels insufficient or an over-estimation, if we start by trying our best to understand each other before we form our opinions or draw conclusions, we can move forward. I have faith that we can shape our collective future as we continue to lean into our social work values and remember the critical work we do for and with each other. 

To an extraordinary 2024, cheers!

Halaevalu F. Ofahengaue Vakalahi, MSW, PhD
CSWE President & CEO
Hartford Faculty Scholar
Fulbright Senior Scholar
CSWE Minority Fellowship Program Fellow