To see leadership and service hand-in-hand, look no further than Dr. Susan Vallem ‘66.
Her career as the Tomson Distinguished Professor of Social Work at her alma mater included roles as field education director and department chair. Vallem helped develop the Slife Institute for Social Work Consultation, Research & Training at Wartburg. As human services needs changed, she developed a course that utilized service dogs in training for veterans as well as for children with autism.
“She’s been so innovative and creative in her approach,” said nominator Ro Foege ‘60. “When she sees new and changing needs, she’s brought that to the students in the social work department.” Vallem retired in 2013 after 26 years of teaching full time and was granted emeriti status in recognition of her influence in the department.
Vallem has been active in the Waverly community as the chair of the Waverly Health Center board of trustees and was the director of social services at Bartels Lutheran Home. She is a clinical licensure supervisor for Lutheran Services in Iowa, a member of the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, and chair of the Advocacy and Outreach Committee of that organization.
As a longtime member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Waverly, Vallem has combined leadership and faith. She has served as president of the congregation and currently is a member of St. Paul’s Christian School Board.
Her faith has led her across the country to assist people who are suffering. As an American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteer and trainer, Vallem could be found serving people in New York City following the 9/11 attack, helping victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and working with those impacted by floods in Texas and Iowa.
Susan’s work in social justice advocacy and human services has been honored by the Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 and its Social Worker of the Year in 1996.
Dr. Tammy Faux, professor of social work at Wartburg, sums up Vallem’s impact: “Her contributions to social work on every level and her life-long embodiment of the spirit and values of the college are impressive and inspirational.”
For her creativity and innovation in teaching, her service and advocacy for vulnerable people, and her desire to serve and lead as an expression of her faith, the Wartburg College Alumni Board presents this Alumni Citation Award to Susan Vallem.