NASW Member Services (800) 742-4089

2023 Plenary Speakers

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

9:30 am – 11:30 am | Welcome & Plenary I

Whitney Benns

Effective Negotiation Crash Course: How to achieve better negotiation outcomes for you and the communities you serve

We negotiate everyday — with colleagues, clients, collaborators, neighbors, and loved ones. The ability to effectively manage different interests as we create, work, and live together is crucial to our individual and organizational success. How do we move towards meeting our needs, while also building and maintaining relationships? How can we prepare to negotiate in a way that helps us stay aligned with our purposes and values? How can we speak up and stand up in our negotiations in a way that gets us, our clients, and our communities better, more equitable outcomes?

In our conference keynote, Whitney Benns will offer an analytical framework for understanding and preparing for negotiations in a way that can support you achieving better outcomes for you and your communities. We will cover negotiation topics such as preparation, value creation, distribution, power, and when to walk away.

Benns’s approach is guided by theories of principled or interest-based negotiation, as outlined in Getting to Yes and other texts, paired with a power analysis. This keynote will be interactive, engaging, and promote personal reflections peer discussions around the negotiations we face every day.

Whitney Benns is an educator, negotiation scholar, conflict worker, and consultant who works with individuals, organizations, and collectives to build communication and relationship capacity in conflict management, feedback, and negotiation. In her facilitation and consulting practice, she works with a range of clients: nonprofit, for profit, and government, with an emphasis on education and social justice organizations. She is committed bringing the potential of generative conflict and honest communication to relationships, teams, organizations, and communities.

Whitney serves as a Lecturer at Harvard Law School and Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she teaches negotiation with a focus on expansive strategies for those navigating, and working to shift, power structures and system inequalities. She has written articles for The Atlantic Magazine, The Guardian, and Her work is included in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, 4e (edited by Maurianne Adams, et all. 2018), and in the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal Volume 35, 2019. Most recently, she was interviewed about her work in ABA Magazine Section on Dispute Resolution’s issue Reckoning with Race and Racism.

She has a B.S. in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Utah, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She is a retired member of the Massachusetts Bar. Between college and law school, Whitney worked as an intern at Comedy Central’s satirical news show, The Colbert Report.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm | Plenary II

Rev. Prof. Dr. David P. Gushee

Program: The Struggle Against Religious-Based Harm Toward LGBTQ+ People 

Rev. Prof. Dr. David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, Chair of Christian Social Ethics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Senior Research Fellow, International Baptist Theological Study Centre. He is also the elected past-president of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics. Dr. Gushee is the author, co-author, or editor of 27 books, including the bestsellers Kingdom Ethics and Changing Our Mind. His other most notable works are After Evangelicalism, Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, Introducing Christian Ethics, and The Sacredness of Human Life. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading Christian moral thinkers. Gushee and his wife, Jeanie, live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

6:30 pm – 8:30 pm | 8th Annual Social Work Advocates’ Dinner

Dr. Chris Jones, the 2022 Democratic nominee for Governor of Arkansas, was the first African American to be nominated Governor by a major political party in Arkansas. His campaign launch video was the most viewed campaign launch video in the country for the 2022 election cycle.

With graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and urban planning, and 20 years of experience in energy, infrastructure, community development, and business, Jones has used his background to advance innovation and entrepreneurship. He has led and participated in projects in engineering, physics, and urban planning, including a study on the future of nuclear power. As a principal at BCT Partners, Jones was lead executive on numerous multimillion-dollar federal projects. He has served on several boards of directors and spent one year teaching in the Boston public school. During his time as assistant dean for graduate education at MIT, Jones led efforts that doubled minority enrollment and more than tripled minority applications to MIT graduate programs.

Prior to his run for Governor, Jones was the executive director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub where he helped dozens of entrepreneurs launch and grow businesses and created programs that trained thousands of Arkansans on various STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) topics. One program launched during his tenure, The Skills to Launch Program, provides young adults with certification and training in trades such as roofing, welding, HVAC, and carpentry. This unique initiative continues to provide workforce development and upskilling that has generated a high job placement rate for graduates. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones pivoted the organization to virtual training that addressed digital literacy and he developed the Arkansas Maker Taskforce to address the supply chain issues.

Jones holds five degrees, math and physics bachelors degrees from Morehouse College, an M.S. in nuclear engineering and an M.S. in technology and policy from MIT, and a Ph.D. in urban studies and planning from MIT. He and his wife, Dr. Jerrilyn Jones, an emergency room physician, live with their three daughters in Little Rock.

If you are not attending the conference, but wish to purchase tickets to the Social Work Advocates’ Dinner, you may do so here.

Student Poster Presentations

Join us at the 2023 NASW Arkansas Annual Conference and participate in the Student Presentations and Competition! All BSW and MSW students are welcome to participate. This is a fun way to practice your presentation and networking skills in a supportive environment. This is also a good way for the social work programs around the state to highlight student accomplishments.

There will be designated times at the conference for you to present your work. The poster sessions will be held on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

Presentation/Poster Categories

Category 1: Innovative programs or interventions from field placement (internship) experience. Innovative is defined as new ways to address old problems. Programs or interventions may include therapeutic models, funding sources, partnerships, or other cutting-edge ideas for helping social work clients or the social work profession.

Category 2: Public policy that is current or relevant to social work practice. Public policy presentation submissions must include the following: presentation defines the social policy or issue clearly; presentation states the policy as it currently is and analyzes its strengths and limitations; presentation identifies vulnerable and at-risk populations and specific ways in which these groups are impacted by the current policy; presentation incorporates the six core values of the social work profession identified in the NASW Code of Ethics into the overall policy analysis; presentation states at least five recommendations to improve current policy. These recommendations should incorporate all levels of social work practice and may include examples of how other states have addressed this same policy issue.

Category 3: Graduate research project or practice evaluation. This should be a completed project. This may be the student’s work OR something that a student worked on with a faculty member or community practitioner. (Masters students only)

Poster Presentation Proposal Requirements

Submit a poster presentation proposal by March 10, 2023.

You may submit it using the downloadable Student Poster Proposal Form or by the Google Form: Student Poster Proposal.

The proposal must include:


  • Your name and email address.
  • Whether you are a graduate or undergraduate student.
  • Presentation/Poster category (see above) and title of presentation.
  • 3 learning/educational objectives.
  • 100 word abstract of presentation.
  • You may download and use the Student Presentation Proposal Form for your submission.

Length of Presentation: Student presentations should be no more than 8-10 minutes in length and allow for 2-3 minutes of question and answer. A moderator will monitor each session and assist with questions and chats from the viewers.

Size of Poster: Poster should be no smaller than 2×3 and no larger than 3×4. Poster should be hard backed and appropriate for display on an easel. Tri-fold poster boards are acceptable but note that a tri-fold does not display as well as a flat poster on an easel.

Benefits of Presenting

  • Opportunity to show your work to peers and professional community. 
  • Opportunity to network with other social workers (students and professionals).
  • Potential recognition of high-quality work in presentation competition.


An award will be given in each of the 3 poster categories. For categories 1 and 2, there will be an award for a
BSW and MSW student or team. For category 3, there will be an award for an MSW student or team. There will
also be an award for overall best poster. The awards will be presented at the awards luncheon on Friday.

Other items of note

  • Presentations should be creative and interesting.
  • Be prepared to discuss your poster presentation.
  • Please put your name and the name of your school on the back of the poster.
  • You may submit proposals for team presentations. Please limit teams to 6 members or less.
  • Submit posters in Word format or Google form only to Holly Barron at by March 10, 2023.

2023 NASW Arkansas Annual Awards Luncheon

Friday, March 31, 2023 | 12:00 – 2:00 pm

Join us in honoring leaders in the profession and community who fully embody social work values and in celebrating Social Work Month! We are proud to honor the following outstanding leaders!

If you are not attending the conference, but wish to purchase tickets to the 2023 Annual Awards Luncheon, you may do so here.

Johanna Thomas, PhD, LCSW

Social Worker of the Year

Catrina Lucio

MSW Student of the Year

Shameka Mack

BSW Student of the Year

Canopy Northwest Arkansas

Agency of the Year

Samuel Glover

Citizen of the Year

Senator Stephanie Flowers

Elected Official of the Year

Bessie Smith-Lancelin, LCSW

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner