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Iris Carlton-LaNey receives NASW’s Lifetime Achievement Award

image of Iris Carlton-LaNey
Distinguished Professor Iris Carlton-LaNey

Berg-Beach Distinguished Professor Iris Carlton-LaNey is the recipient of the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Lifetime Achievement Award. Carlton-LaNey was selected in recognition of her decades of work in training social workers to identify and fight discrimination and institutionalized oppression.

“Dr. Carlton-LaNey has helped prepare generations of social workers on how to address deeply complicated social problems once viewed as intractable,” said NASW chief executive officer Angelo McClain. “Thanks to her pioneering research, insightful publications and inspiring classroom lessons, more and more social workers are equipped to resolve the troubling social problems that strain our society.”

The annual award recognizes the best social work values and accomplishments demonstrated in the social worker’s lifetime career. Carlton-LaNey was considered especially deserving of the honor because of her legacy of work to educate students and others on issues of racial equity and social justice, the NASW announced. During her 25+ years of teaching at the UNC School of Social Work, Carlton-LaNey helped develop one of the School’s primary courses, “Confronting Oppression and Institutionalized Discrimination.”

“Carlton-LaNey is credited with helping students recognize not only their own biases but also how oppression, racism, institutionalized racism, microaggressions and privilege marginalize large swathes of our society,” the NASW announced.

Receiving recognition for her role as a social worker and for the effect her efforts have had on the profession is a tremendous honor, said Carlton-LaNey.

“My commitment to the values of the profession have pushed me to be an advocate for justice and equity and to speak up and speak out even when it’s not a popular thing to do,” she said. “I haven’t regretted my professional actions and continue to encourage my colleagues in practice and in the academy to be the voices for those whose voices are suppressed or ignored. I really appreciate NASW for, in effect, acknowledging that I’ve had a positive impact on my profession.”

Carlton-LaNey has served on UNC’s faculty since 1994. She previously taught at UNC-Charlotte and at North Carolina A&T State University. A nationally-renowned scholar with an interest in aging issues and African American social welfare history, Carlton-LaNey has authored four books, as well as numerous articles in research journals.

She has also served on eight social work editorial boards, including the NASW Press Book Committee and the Press Publications Committee and more than 20 service boards. Most recently, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper appointed her to the N.C. Social Services Commission.

Over the course of her career, Carlton-LaNey has earned national recognition and numerous awards, including Social Worker of the Year by the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Distinguished Recent Contributions in Social Work Education Award from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the NASW’s Social Work Pioneer Award, and the Distinguished Achievement in Social Work Education Award presented by the National Association of Black Social Workers.

In 2019, CSWE selected her as the recipient of its Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Education Award. The prestigious award recognizes a social work educator’s exemplary achievements in research and scholarship, pedagogy and curriculum development, and organizational leadership over his or her entire career.

School of Social Work Dean Gary L. Bowen applauded the latest NASW award, noting that he cannot think of anyone more deserving than the distinguished professor.

“Dr. Carlton-LaNey has enjoyed a lifetime of professional achievement and success through determination and commitment to improving the science and practice of social work,” Bowen said. “She is so highly respected by both her colleagues and students. I join with others in celebrating her professional achievements and her receipt of this highly prestigious award.”