March 27, 2023

Edwina (Eddie) Uehara, dean of the University of Washington School of Social Work, has been selected to receive the lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Social Workers Washington chapter, recognizing her lifetime of contributions to the social work profession in Washington state and across the country.

A virtual event to celebrate Uehara and other NASW Washington chapter award winners will be held Friday, March 31, at 6 p.m.

A faculty member at the School of Social Work since 1990, Uehara’s tenure included many firsts. She was the School’s first dean of color, the first Asian American female dean at the University of Washington, and the first Ballmer Endowed Deanship in Social Work – the first deanship in social work at a public university in the nation.

On June 30, 2023, Uehara will step down as dean after 17 years of leadership and service, becoming the longest-serving dean in the School’s history. She will rejoin the faculty to pursue her research, teaching and leadership in the field of behavioral health. On July 1, Michael S. Spencer will succeed Uehara as Ballmer Endowed Dean of the School of Social Work, subject to approval by the UW Board of Regents.

Citing her transformative leadership, the nomination letter spotlights how Uehara’s “scholarship has impacted and touched the lives of so many Washingtonians. Dean Uehara's work transcends our state, and includes improving lives through providing decades of committed leadership, scholarship and service. Dean Uehara was instrumental in social work initiatives including the Grand Challenges for Social Work, the Washington State Behavioral Health Workforce Development Initiative, the Alliance for Child Welfare Excellence, and so much more. Dean Uehara is such a positive champion for the social work profession and her contributions are lasting and immensely appreciated."

A third-generation Japanese American, Uehara’s career reflects a lifelong commitment to antiracism, civil rights and the development of culturally grounded mental health services. During her tenure, the School of Social Work became widely recognized as an innovative leader in advancing social and economic justice and enhancing quality of life through education, research and community engagement.

The School has risen steadily in national and global rankings to become the No. 1 social work program in the world, according to the Center for World University Rankings, and No. 2 among graduate social work programs in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 Best Graduate Schools report—the highest ranking the School has ever obtained under this ranking system.

To be eligible for NASW’s lifetime achievement award, the recipient must demonstrate repeated outstanding achievements both within and beyond the social work profession, making contributions of lasting impact and demonstrating outstanding creativity. Under Uehara’s leadership, the School is leading the Washington State Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative, which awards scholarships to 415 graduate students in social work, mental health counseling, and marriage and family therapy.

In 2011, Uehara partnered with Washington’s Assistant Secretary for the Department of Children, Youth and Families to create the Washington State Alliance for Child Welfare Excellence. She introduced the historic proposal to create a Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative in 2012, and as president of the Society for Social Work and Social Welfare, she led the introduction of the Grand Challenges initiative to the national social work community at the organization’s 2016 annual conference. Read more about Dean Uehara's work here.