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Shaw named regional social worker of the year

Kerri Shaw, an associate professor in Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP), was recently named the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Ohio Chapter Region Seven “Social Worker of the Year.”

Shaw, who also works with the OHIO Alliance for Population Health as the director of the Community Health Worker Program, was recognized by NASW for her ongoing dedication to social work and the vital work she does from Athens to the Dayton area. She had spent years working as an instructional faculty member in Athens, but in the fall she relocated to the Dayton area, which is in NASW of Ohio’s seventh region. Despite the move, Shaw has been able to maintain her roles with Ohio University and the OHIO Alliance.

“This recognition underscores Kerri’s incredible commitment to the social work profession and her continued passion for helping others across Southwest Ohio and beyond,” said Interim CHSP Dean Dr. John McCarthy. “Social workers are often so busy working for others that their accomplishments can be missed. Not this time.”

Shaw has been a member of NASW for several years and has spent the last several years heavily involved working on projects like the Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE) committee. Despite her involvement, she still was surprised to be the award recipient.

“There are social workers all over that state doing amazing things. So it was really an honor to be recognized,” Shaw said. “Part of the surprise was that I was nominated for region seven, and I’ve only been living here for a few months.”

Even though she has spent many years in Southeast Ohio, Shaw was raised in the Dayton area and sees western Ohio as the place that provided her foundations as a social worker.

In 2019, Shaw's mother passed away; this year, she returned to Dayton to be closer to family. For Shaw, her mother was an incredibly powerful inspiration for the work she does today.

“When I think about being a social worker, she was absolutely my inspiration and the reason I’ve always had a feminist bent in everything I do. She was a factory worker and a groundbreaker in the area,” Shaw said.

Despite the relocation, she has not swayed from a dedication to her work, and this award is a primary example of her commitment.

Shaw acknowledges that most social workers are not in it for the recognition; however, she also noted that being recognized for their work and accomplishments is still important.

“Awards are not the reason we do the work, but it’s important we are recognized and get to be proud of our accomplishments. It gets the word out about the work we’re doing, and that’s really important,” Shaw said.

Looking back, she is proud of the work she’s done and the programs she’s helped establish; however, the fact that they aren’t attached to her and live beyond her is what’s really special.

As Shaw continues her career, she is proud to be 2021’s social worker of the year, and her primary motivations remain unchanged.

When Shaw attended Ohio University as an undergrad, Dr. Richard Greenlee was chair of the social work department, and advice he gave her as an undergraduate has stuck with her throughout her career.

“Dr. Greenlee always told us to be proud of being social workers and to use our titles as much as we can because it was so important that we get the word out about all the different ways people can practice social work,” Shaw said. “I think that’s very important context for who I am as a social worker.”

She said the aspects of social work values on the ground and the power they hold to make change keep her going. These values have led Shaw to not only be a vital social worker, but a vital community member.

Shaw received the Social Worker of the Year award for Ohio Region Seven at an award ceremony on Jan. 22.

February 7, 2022
Staff reports