Valerie N. Chang


President's Award for Teaching (2000)
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
School of Social Work


Empowerment–Valerie Nash Chang's students regularly find it in the classroom. As an associate professor of social work, first at IU East and now at IUPUI, Chang has consistently created classroom environments that encourage students to take the risks required to increase their competence and confidence as social work professionals. Drawing from the philosophies of Paolo Freire, feminist educators and various advocates of problem-based learning, Chang puts the idea that the outcome of education should be empowerment into practice. She does so by connecting theory to personal practice and everyday activities, by devising curricula focused both on the intellect and the emotions, and by establishing an atmosphere of experimentation, collaboration and mutual respect. Her approach works remarkably well, especially with the adult learners who make up the majority of her students.

Chang is co-author of the textbook, Basic Interviewing Skills: A Workbook for Practitioners (1999, Nelson-Hall). One former student says that she often visualizes the checklist of skills from the workbook, including active listening, seeking clarification and expressing core values, as she works with her clients.

Chang takes her position as a role model for professional women to heart. Along with colleagues, she urged the chancellor to create IU East's Commission on the Status of Women and subsequently served as the commis-sion's first chair. She now serves as a member of the IUPUI Task Force on the Status of Women.

Chang also spearheaded the development of the bachelor of social work program at IU East, initiating reports for the Indiana Commission on Higher Education and the Council on Social Work Education that led to the approval of the new degree. The social work program became one of the most desirable majors on campus, according to David Fulton, chancellor at IU East.

"Valerie could take the most difficult concept and make sense of it for us," said Holly Woodruff, a former student who is now the program coordinator and field study director for human development at Earlham College. "She never just 'taught' us; she told us why the knowledge and skills were important to us as future social workers, and she linked everything together through her real-world experiences. Valerie gave us knowledge and skills, but she also helped us build the self-confidence we needed to use those tools in the field."