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Valerie LeGrand Arendt2017 Rising Alumni

Valerie LeGrand Arendt

Valerie LeGrand Arendt has used her dual social work and public policy master’s degree to advocate for and promote the social work profession. Her leadership role in the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers involves career support for over 5,000 social workers in the state. Valerie didn’t want to forget her Humphrey School roots, so she created a network of university social work departments to share ideas about encouraging the next generation to be social justice advocates. Her direct service experience includes a focus on refugee and immigrant families, early childhood education, and affordable housing.

Employer

Associate Executive Director, National Association of Social Workers North Carolina

CEHD Degree

M.S.W., Social Work, 2007

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

As the Associate Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers North Carolina Chapter, I manage all membership professional and career support for over 5,000 social workers in North Carolina and endeavor to promote and advocate for the profession of social work.

I developed the North Carolina Social Work Policy Educators Network, bringing 30 social work university programs in North Carolina together to discuss policy, advocacy, and how to educate social work students to be social justice advocates at the state and local level.

I present often to social work and nonprofit professionals about resumes, salary negotiations, and how to ask for a raise. The gender pay gap is real and I hope to empower women to ask for their worth.

My direct social work experience includes a focus on refugee and immigrant families, early childhood education, women and youth education, affordable housing, and nonprofit management. I spent one of my graduate school internships designing program evaluation tools for a microfinance nongovernmental organization that supports female empowerment in rural India.

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

I am the current career columnist for the nationalNew Social Worker Magazine and strive to help new professionals successfully transition into their social work and nonprofit careers.

For four years, I served on the Board of Directors of the Young Nonprofit Professional Network of the Triangle NC which seeks to cultivate and support young nonprofit professionals by fostering networking, skill-building and resource-sharing.

After I completed my first social work internship placement with CommonBond Communities in Minneapolis, I remained a Study Buddy volunteer for three years with Ahmed, my favorite Seward Towers resident.

Please list any awards or honors from your collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences.

  • University of Minnesota, Walter H. Judd International Graduate and Professional Fellowship, 2006
  • Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Women in Public Policy Internship Scholarship, 2006
  • University of Minnesota College of Human Ecology Study Abroad Scholarship, 2006
  • Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Gross Family Nonprofit Leadership Award for Group Professional Paper, 2007

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

Some of my current closest friends were fellow classmates from the School of Social Work and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The comradery within my cohort was what kept us all afloat during our rigorous coursework.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

One of my first social work classes at the University of Minnesota was "Historical Origins and Contemporary Policies and Programs in Social Welfare" with Dr. Megan Morrissey. This is the class that solidified my interest in pursuing the dual degree in public policy and spend the rest of my career in social work at the macro level in social justice and advocacy.

"Macro Social Work Practice and Policy Advocacy" with Dr. Amy Hewitt introduced me to policy practice and "Advanced Community Practice and Community Organizing" with Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot introduced me to the importance of community organizing and how a movement is impossible without grassroots support. I use the skills I learned from both these courses on a daily basis in my work.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

The impact of my education at the University of Minnesota is immeasurable. I entered graduate school knowing I wanted to impact the lives of others but without a clear vision for myself or my eventual career. My instructors introduced me to concepts that gave my life direction and I am forever grateful for my education and field experiences. I fully understand how fortunate I am to have been given this educational experience and plan to spend the rest of my career advocating for others have access to similar opportunities.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

My mother. She has always been my life cheerleader and always encouraged me to go for my dreams – even when I didn’t think I had any.

Please list any awards or honors from your collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences.

  • University of Minnesota, Walter H. Judd International Graduate and Professional Fellowship, 2006
  • Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Women in Public Policy Internship Scholarship, 2006
  • University of Minnesota College of Human Ecology Study Abroad Scholarship, 2006
  • Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Gross Family Nonprofit Leadership Award for Group Professional Paper, 2007

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

Some of my current closest friends were fellow classmates from the School of Social Work and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The comradery within my cohort was what kept us all afloat during our rigorous coursework.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

One of my first social work classes at the University of Minnesota was "Historical Origins and Contemporary Policies and Programs in Social Welfare" with Dr. Megan Morrissey. This is the class that solidified my interest in pursuing the dual degree in public policy and spend the rest of my career in social work at the macro level in social justice and advocacy.

"Macro Social Work Practice and Policy Advocacy" with Dr. Amy Hewitt introduced me to policy practice and "Advanced Community Practice and Community Organizing" with Dr. Elizabeth Lightfoot introduced me to the importance of community organizing and how a movement is impossible without grassroots support. I use the skills I learned from both these courses on a daily basis in my work.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

The impact of my education at the University of Minnesota is immeasurable. I entered graduate school knowing I wanted to impact the lives of others but without a clear vision for myself or my eventual career. My instructors introduced me to concepts that gave my life direction and I am forever grateful for my education and field experiences. I fully understand how fortunate I am to have been given this educational experience and plan to spend the rest of my career advocating for others have access to similar opportunities.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

My mother. She has always been my life cheerleader and always encouraged me to go for my dreams – even when I didn’t think I had any.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

  • You must have a direction and vision for yourself and your work.
  • The ability to develop and maintain partnerships and relationships.
  • The ability to fail and successfully learn from your mistakes.
  • The willingness to change and learn something new.
  • The importance of being able to listen to other perspectives.
  • Resiliency during times of stress and uncertainty.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

I spend my “free” time exploring life with my husband and 4-year-old daughter. We love to laugh and explore.

How do others describe you?

Driven. Intelligent. Passionate. Unwavering. (Thank you to my husband for this biased description.)

How do you describe yourself?

Passionate about social justice and equality.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy by Rinku Sen, and Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Gloria Steinem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Wellstone.

What gets you excited about work?

A cliché theme for the social work profession, but helping others. My job is to help social workers succeed at their work, get paid higher salaries and be valued for the contributions they make to our society. I thrive on encouraging young professionals to learn and grow so they can also successfully advocate for others.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I don’t remember having any professional dreams as a kid. It wasn’t until I started volunteering at a domestic violence shelter in college did I feel a calling to help others and pursue social justice as a profession.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

After moving to North Carolina from Minnesota, I quickly discovered the vital importance of networking and having a strong network. I work hard to meet and learn from other professionals both in and out of the social work field. I attend and speak at conferences, participate in social work and nonprofit professional groups, and am politically active on the local and state level.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I was part of a foreign exchange program and lived with a family in Toyota City, Japan when I was 13 years old.