This should come as no surprise to anyone who's met her, but Laura Nissen (in photo at left), who directs the Reclaiming Futures national initiative, has been named 2009 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Oregon Chapter. The award recognizes social workers who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and services provided to Oregon’s individuals, families and communities.
"We are so pleased to honor Laura Nissen with this award," said Stacey Skala Orr, executive director of the NASW Oregon Chapter. “Dr. Nissen has not only helped create and lead a national movement that is changing the way juvenile courts treat teens with drug and alcohol problems, she has also made important contributions to state public policy here in Oregon."
Reclaiming Futures was created and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help teens in trouble with drugs, alcohol and crime. Laura has led Reclaiming Futures through conceptualization, demonstration and dissemination. She's written extensively about the lessons of the initiative, and is a regular speaker at national meetings on juvenile justice reform and substance abuse treatment. She also recently completed a term on the Oregon Governor’s Council on Drug and Alcohol Programs as well as worked with state and federal agencies to encourage recognition and use of strength-based methods for young people.
Meanwhile, she's an associate professor at Portland State University's School of Social Work, where her research focuses on qualitative research methods, system reform issues, and communication tools for social change.
“It is such an honor to be recognized by my fellow social workers here in Oregon,” said Nissen. “My discovery of the profession was a great day in my life, and I continue to have tremendous pride in the work done by my colleagues all over the world for social justice and for healthy communities.”