NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one 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 NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Richard (Rick) Hoefer, PhD
Richard (Rick) Hoefer

Pioneering Contributions

Richard (Rick) Hoefer, PhD, MSW, 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. He believed that advocacy was a process in line with the generalist social work model. 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 actions all social workers could do, and indeed were expected to perform as part of their professional identity. 

Along with Hoefer’s other work on human services interest groups, his books on social policy and founding two journals about policy practice, The Journal of Policy Practice (Routledge) and The Journal of Policy Practice and Research (Springer), Hoefer has spread the vital message that social policy and policy practice are essential to achieving lasting social justice goals. 

 In summarizing the impact of these achievements, we can first point out that Hoefer’s textbook, Advocacy Practice for Social Justice (2006), now in its 4th edition with plans in the works for a 5th. This indicates that the field of social work education across the country finds it a valuable tool for educating social work students.
Career Highlights 

Hoefer’s official social work career began with earning his BSW (1979) and MSW (1981) from the University of Kansas. His concentration in the MSW program turned to the macro side of social work: administration, management, and evaluation. 

Traveling to Sweden he saw the impact of a cradle-to-grave social welfare state that had eliminated the huge income disparities seen in the United States. Returning to study at the University of Michigan’s Joint Program in Social Work and Political Science, Hoefer was exposed to effective social work academic role models as well as the rigorous theoretical expectations of leading political scientists of the time. Starting his post-doctoral career at the Division of Public Administration at Northern Illinois University exposed Hoefer to the clear differences in approaches to management practice. 

Hoefer then moved to the University of Texas at Arlington in 1992 where he became essential in the curriculum content areas of social policy and community and administrative practice. In the nearly 30 years since his arrival there, he has become a well-respected leader and scholar in social policy education and social work administration. Before COVID Hoefer was asked to be a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, to discuss evidence-based macro practice.

Back in Texas, Hoefer became involved in the political realm, joining T-PACE (the NASW political action committee) first as a member and then as chair (1993-1997). Donations tripled during his time in leadership. A few years later (2013-2014) he was called back to be Secretary and then to chair TPACE again. He has worked with NASW Texas in many various ways since 1992. He was elected a Delegate to the Delegate Assembly from 2000-2003 and an Alternate Delegate from 2003-2006. 

Hoefer’s prominence in the field of social policy led to him being named the founding editor of The Social Policy Journal, by Haworth Press. Later this was renamed as The Journal of Policy Practice. Although that journal was discontinued in 2018 by Routledge, a new journal was started by Springer Nature called The Journal of Policy Practice and Research in 2019. Hoefer was named the Founding Editor of this journal as well, bringing his connections and proven ability to edit an academic journal with him. It recently published the first issue of its second volume. 

Biographic Information 

Hoefer was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1956 and grew up across the state line in Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a BSW in 1979 and a MSW in 1981. He moved to Sweden for a year in both 1976-77 and 1981-1982, before entering the joint PhD program in Social Work and Political Science where he graduated in 1989. He lived in Sweden yet again to collect the data for his dissertation on the effectiveness of human services interest groups in social welfare policy-making. 

Significant Recognition and Awards

In addition to recognition and awards mentioned already, Hoeffer was named Tarrant County Social Worker of the year in 1999. From 2014-2018, Hoefer was appointed as “Esteemed Faculty Mentor” by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to mentor Dr. Marcela Mellinger, School of Social Work. He was voted by graduating MSW students at the University of Texas at Arlington as the “best instructor” in both 1999 and 2018. Formally named the Fernando G. Torgerson Award, it is presented for “Dedicated Service to Students and Teaching Excellence,” at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Significant Publications

Hoeffer has authored, co-authored, or edited ten books and over 75 journal articles and conference presentations. Among the many books and scores of articles and presentations, these three books stand out as most significant, and show evidence of a life-time of work that continues to unfold:

  • Hoefer, R. (2019). Advocacy practice for social justice (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 
  • McNutt, J. & Hoefer, R. (2020, October). Introduction to social welfare policy in an information age. (2nd ed.)New York, Oxford University Press. 
  • Hoefer, R., & Watson, L. (2020, March). Essentials of social work management and leadership: A competency-based approach. San Diego: CA: Cognella.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.