Professor Rick Hoefer earns Social Work’s highest honor

Friday, Oct 14, 2022

By Valerie Fields Hill
School of Social Work

Rick Hoefer Book Cover 3rd Edition               Dr. Rick Hoefer NASW Pioneer  

The distinguished Social Work educator and best-selling author Richard Alan Hoefer will be recognized this week for his three decades of national and international contributions to the profession.

Dr. Hoefer, author of the shift-changing best-seller Advocacy Practice for Social Justice, which is in its fourth edition, will be invested, or formally established, as a “Pioneer” Saturday by the National Association of Social Workers.

The investiture is part of NASW Foundation’s 16th Annual Social Work Pioneer Program and Luncheon. The event will be held Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve been nominated for a lot of awards and haven’t gotten it,” Dr. Hoefer said recently, adding that this nomination was different “and it was accepted.”

Dr. Hoefer is the latest UTA School of Social Work researcher to be named a Pioneer. Most recently, Dr. Catheleen Jordan, who created and refined a range of assessment tools for clinical Social Workers to evaluate clients and who also is a decorated author, was named an NASW Pioneer in 2017.

Other former UTA professors who are NASW Pioneers are: Dr. Fran Danis, Dr. Doreen Elliott, Dr. James Callicutt, Dr. Donald Granvold and Dr. Ira Colby.

This year is the first time since 2020 that NASW and its subsidiary, NASW Foundation, will host the Pioneer Awards in person. The Foundation delayed hosting the awards for two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“COVID made things more complicated,” Dr. Hoefer said. “I was notified in 2021, but they couldn’t have the ceremony.”

NASW is the largest membership organization of professional Social Workers across the world. The organization’s members work to grow the profession and to create and maintain professional standards for Social Workers.

NASW honors members as Pioneers “who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers.”

Each Pioneer “has made an important contribution to the Social Work profession and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration or legislation,” the organization said of its honorees.

Dr. Hoefer is author of four books.

His recent titles, Advocacy Practice for Social Justice and Social Welfare Policy: Responding to a Changing World, are used in college classrooms throughout the United States.

In Advocacy Practice for Social Justice, Dr. Hoefer details his “Unified Model of Advocacy.”  The widely accepted Unified Model is a tool many college students now use to advocate for social justice causes.

Under the Model, students learn advocacy in the same way they learn to clinically assess clients.

For example, in a clinical setting, students are taught to (1) engage, (2) assess, (3) implement, (4) evaluate, (5) terminate and (6) follow up with their clients.

They should do the same while advocating for social justice causes, Dr. Hoefer said, explaining his reasoning for developing the Unified Model.

Under his Unified Model for Advocacy, students (1) get involved, (2) understand the issue, (3) plan, (4) advocate, (5) evaluate, and (6) conduct ongoing monitoring.

Dr. Hoefer said before he developed the model, Social Work students were being taught to clinically assess individual clients, but not to approach legislators in nearly the same way. Too many students feared the latter, he said.

“In generalist Social Work practice, it says ‘You meet the person. You assess them. You make a plan. You implement the plan. Then, you evaluate’,” he said.

“I looked at that approach and I said, ‘Well, that’s what you do if you want to advocate’,” Dr. Hoefer said.

“That’s my blinding flash of insight,” he said, laughing.

“So, we explain ‘advocacy’ as ‘Don’t fear a legislator. Just go talk to him’,” Dr. Hoefer said of his Unified Model. “No one was really teaching them how to do it.”

In 2009, Dr. Hoefer was named the prestigious endowed chair of the Roy E. Dulak Professor for Community Practice Research in the UTA School of Social Work.

 He conducted research in the role for nearly a decade.

Prior to coming into the endowed chair role, he was named Tarrant County Social Worker of the year in 1999.

He also served from 2014 to 2018 as “Esteemed Faculty Mentor” for Dr. Marcela Mellinger at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Dr. Hoefer was voted “Best Instructor” by graduating Master of Social Work students twice – in 1999 and again in 2018.

He earned the Fernando G. Torgerson Award numerous times for “Dedicated Service to Students and Teaching Excellence” in the School of Social Work.

Richard Hoefer is worthy of NASW Pioneer recognition due to his work advancing the study and better understanding of Social Work policy and policy practice to the field, including the vital topic of advocacy for social justice,” Dr. Jordan wrote in a letter nominating Dr. Hoefer for the Pioneer Award.

“He believed that advocacy was a process in line with the generalist Social Work model,” she wrote.

Dr. Hoefer’s research, teaching and consulting interests intersect in addressing the question “What makes for a more effective human service agency?” particularly in the contexts of program evaluation, administration, advocacy, and budgeting.

He also seeks to improve knowledge about the policy process so that social workers can make the world a better place. 

“While Hoefer did not invent policy practice, he added important insights, research, and structural supports for showing the vital necessity of advocacy and advocacy organizations within Social Work practice. This approach also opened up students’ ability to understand what advocacy could be like in their own social work practice. Advocacy moved from the realm of social activists leading protest marches to the everyday activity Social Workers could do, and indeed were expected to perform as part of their professional identity,” Dr. Jordan stated in the nominating letter.