St. Olaf professor named Minnesota Social Worker of the Year
Mary Carlsen ’79, the Oscar and Gertrude Boe Overby Distinguished Professor in the Department of Social Work and Family Studies at St. Olaf College, was named the Social Worker of the Year by the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Social Work (NASW).
“I can think of no profession that could have served me better through my life, and I’m glad to have served it as well,” Carlsen said in accepting her award at a March 8 ceremony.
After majoring in social work at St. Olaf, Carlsen earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Washington, Seattle, with specializations in health care and aging. She has worked in health care social work in hospital, nursing home, hospice, and home care settings for nearly four decades, and her primary research areas are end-of-life decision-making/advanced care planning, social work practice in end of life care, and global social work.
Carlsen has served on the ethics committees of the Minnesota chapter of the NASW and the Northfield Hospital, and she continues to consult with local agencies, particularly Northfield Hospice, HOPE Center, and the Northfield Community Action Center. Her professional experience includes helping to develop Clinic 42 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, where she worked with people with HIV disease, their partners, and family members.
I can think of no profession that could have served me better through my life, and I’m glad to have served it as well.Mary Carlsen ’79
A faculty member at St. Olaf for 34 years, Carlsen has taught a variety of social work courses, including Human Behavior in the Social Environment and Social Work as a Professional. “Seeing students’ eyes opened about the realities of living together in a society that all of us have to understand brings me so much joy,” Carlsen says.
She has kept in touch with nearly all the social work graduates of St. Olaf from the past three decades, and she loves to see the work they are now doing. “Our St. Olaf social work graduates are out doing wonderful, hard, not always recognized work as people who have integrity, ethics, and hope,” Carlsen says.
Our St. Olaf social work graduates are out doing wonderful, hard, not always recognized work as people who have integrity, ethics, and hope.Mary Carlsen ’79
In addition to teaching in the Social Work and Family Studies Department, Carlsen has been very involved in the community at St. Olaf. She led the To Include is To Excel initiative, a four-year initiative funded by an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that aimed to examine and improve course offerings and modes of teaching for a new generation of students.
Carlsen will conclude her St. Olaf career this spring, when she retires.