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BLOG: During Social Work Month, Take Time to Honor These Essential Workers

Photo of Jay Miller

Jay Miller, dean of the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky, reflected on recognizing Social Work Month during the COVID-19 pandemic. His remarks are below:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 9, 2021) — Essential is an adjective meaning absolutely necessary; extremely important.

The theme for Social Work Month 2021 is, “Social Workers Are Essential.”

For well over a century, that word — essential — has characterized the work of social workers the world over. Be it protecting and serving the most vulnerable among us, educating for social change, researching for social innovation or organizing for social justice, social workers are motivated by an essential calling and united by an essential purpose: to ensure the well-being of all people.

I, like so many, have experienced the essentiality of social work. As a youth in foster care, I depended on social work practitioners to help navigate a tumultuous system. To be certain, without those social workers, I would not be in a position to write to you today.  

On behalf of the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky, I want to acknowledge the indispensable role of social work and express sincere gratitude for those performing the work. No matter your practice context, the work that you do is imperative to the well-being of individuals, groups, families and communities. Without question, the professional service you provide is essential to a safe, well-functioning society.

In closing, I issue a clarion call to everyone: take stock of the impact that social workers have on our lives. Take time to honor and celebrate social workers — not just this month, but every month. Though months change, social work's essential commitment to strengthen communities and enhance human well-being most certainly will not.

Be well, be diligent with your self-care and always remember — social work was built for this.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.