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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Mary Jo Monahan, MSW, LCSW
Mary Jo Monahan

Pioneering Contributions

Mary Jo Monahan, MSW, LCSW, has made significant contributions to social work throughout her 45-plus year career, spanning multiple facets of the profession. She likes to say that she has built five careers on her MSW degree: clinical social worker, social work adjunct educator, macro practitioner in administration and leadership, professional volunteer on nonprofit boards, and regulator.
One of Monahan’s significant pioneering contributions throughout her career has been her lifelong commitment to advocating for regulation of the profession. Her belief is that, from a social justice perspective, professional regulation protects the profession and public by establishing minimum standards of competence for social work professionals and offering legal recourse if harm occurs. 

Monahan’s work on behalf of regulation goes beyond advocacy. She has lived the social work values of service, integrity, competence, and social justice by becoming licensed as a clinical social worker in Florida, where she provided individual, family, couples, and group therapy for more than 20 years and conducted individual and group clinical supervision with mental health professionals.
She taught as an adjunct professor for 23-plus years, promoting social work as a licensed profession and helping them understand their mandate to follow both the NASW Code of Ethics and legal regulation’s Code of Conduct in their careers. 

She served five years on the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling, including two years as board chair and co-chaired the 1996–1997 task force responsible for developing the ASWB Model Social Work Practice Act, designed to provide guidance to legislatures and regulatory boards about best practices in social work regulation. She led the Association of Social Work Boards, the membership organization comprising the regulatory boards of the United States and Canada, as CEO for seven years.

As CEO of ASWB (2013 – 2020), Monahan developed multiple initiatives bringing the value of regulation and practice mobility to the forefront and building bridges between what she called the “three pillars of the profession”: NASW (practitioners), CSWE (educators), and ASWB (regulators). Her “road trip to Culpeper” invitations to the CEOs of NASW and CSWE in 2013 were critical to building working relationships among the three organizations by allowing ASWB, CSWE, and NASW staff members to get to know and work with their counterparts. 

Monahan developed ASWB’s signature Path to Licensure program in 2013 to help schools of social work teach students the purpose and value of licensure. In 2018, ASWB collaborated with CSWE and the NASW Risk Retention Group to develop the Curricular Guide for Licensing and Regulation.  This guide provides resources for infusing information about licensing and regulation throughout the curriculum, outlined against the nine education competencies that educators must meet when teaching aspiring social workers. Under her leadership, the ASWB International Technology Task Force, chaired by Frederic Reamer, Ph.D., was formed in 2013 to develop Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice. The regulatory standards were published in 2014, followed by practice standards published in 2017 by NASW and developed by a task force collaborative of representatives from ASWB, NASW, CSWE, and the Clinical Social Work Association.

Monahan retired from ASWB in 2020, but she continues to live her social work values as a 47-year member of NASW. 

Career Highlights

After earning her MSSW from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1975, Monahan began clinical practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Chicago area. From 1980 to 1983, she lived in Bogota, Colombia, and gained an international perspective on the importance of the social work profession. From 1983 to 1996, she continued her clinical work in community mental health and became the managing partner of successful private individual and group clinical practices. She did significant work with victims of violence, especially sexual violence. 

Between 1990 and 2012, Monahan used her knowledge and experience to teach graduate and undergraduate courses in social work practice and policy as an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida School of Social Work in Tampa. 
From 1996 to 2009, Monahan was promoted to increasingly responsible executive leadership positions at Family Service Centers, Inc., in Pinellas County, Florida, becoming the president and CEO in 2003. FSC was a $5.4 million social services agency that served more than 24,000 children and families annually. 

Monahan became the president and CEO of ICON Institute of Florida in 2009 and served in this role until 2012. Concurrently, she was vice president of operations for Matthews Benefit Group, a for-profit third-party administrator of retirement plans. 
As a member of NASW, Monahan was appointed by NASW President Barbara White to chair the Competence Certification Committee that developed the NASW Diplomate in Clinical Social Work. She served on the national NASW Board of Directors for two years and before that as president of the NASW-Florida Chapter. Monahan was honored as the Florida Chapter Social Worker of the Year in 1992. She also presented at countless chapter and national conferences and co-taught the Florida She was the chair in 1996 of ASWB’s Disciplinary Action Reporting System Committee and co-chair of ASWB’s Model Law Task Force in 1996 and 1997.

Biographic Data

Mary Jo Monahan was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1950. She is the middle daughter in a family of six children born to Kathleen and Joseph T. Monahan Sr. Her parents taught their children the values of hard work, service to others, faith, family, and social justice. Monahan’s commitment to social justice began early and contributed to a deep awareness of and passion for politics. By the age of 18, she was working for Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign and volunteered at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. She canvassed for Barack Obama in Florida during his two presidential campaigns, and her political activities continue today in support of the Culpeper Persisters and the Culpeper County Democratic Committee.

In 1975, Monahan received her MSSW with a specialization in clinical social work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, School of Social Work. 

Significant Recognition and Awards

  • 2018 | Guest lecturer, Social work licensing: A foundation for competence, social justice, and client advocacy. Greenstone Lecture Series, Loyola University
  • 2014 – 2015 | Secretary/Treasurer, Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards
  • 2012 – 2014 | Board Chair, Florida Council Against Sexual Violence
  • 2011 | President, Blue Ridge Institute for Community Service Executives
  • 2009 | Alliance for Children and Families Non-Profit Agency of the Year award, Family Service Centers, Inc., Mary Jo Monahan, CEO
  • 1999 |  Certificate of Excellence in Non-Profit Management, Eckerd Leadership Institute
  • 1998 – 2001 | Regional representative, NASW National Board of Directors 
  • 1995 – 2013 | Professional Advisory Committee, University of South Florida School of Social Work
  • 1992  | Social Worker of the Year, NASW-Florida Chapter
  • 1988 – 1990 | President, NASW-Florida Chapter

Significant Publications

  • ASWB, CSWE, & NASW Risk Retention Group. (2018). Curricular guide for licensing and regulation. CSWE.
  • ASWB International Technology Task Force. (2015). Model regulatory standards for technology and social work practice. ASWB. 
  • Monahan, M. J. (2018, May/June). Get licensed, live licensed — next steps for new social work graduates. Social Work Today, 18(3), 18.
  • Monahan, M. J. (2018). Mobility [Presentation]. 2018 Joint World Social Work, Education, and Social Development Conference. International Federation of Social Workers, the International Association of Schools of Social Work, and the International Council on Social Welfare.
  • Monahan, M. J. (2019). Global mobility and entry to practice [Presentation]. 2019 International Congress on Professional and Occupational Regulation. Council on Licensure, Education, and Regulation.
  • Monahan, M. J. (2019). Licensure by endorsement: The key to social work mobility [Presentation]. 2019 NASCLA Annual Conference. National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.
  • Monahan, M. J., & DeAngelis, D. (2008). Professional credentials and professional regulation: Social work professional development. In White, B. (Ed.) The comprehensive handbook of social work and social welfare: The profession of social work. Somerset, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Monahan, M. J., et al. (1997). ASWB model law for the legal regulation of social work practice. ASWB.
  • Monahan, M. J., Reamer, F. G., Regan, & J. A. (2015, October 23). Code of ethics: Evolution and emerging issues [Panel presentation]. NASW 60th Anniversary Forum. Washington, D.C. 
  • NASW, ASWB, CSWE, & CSWA. (2017). Standards for technology in social work practice. NASW. 

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.