Dr. Diane Bessel Named 2020 Social Worker of the Year

By | November 20, 2020

Diane R. BesselDaemen College’s own Diane R. Bessel, PhD LMSW CNM, was recently named 2020’s Social Worker of the Year by the NYS Chapter for the National Association of Social Workers. This prestigious award recognizes the contributions of outstanding individuals making a difference in New York State, who have also demonstrated commitment to social work values in 2020. She will be honored at the association’s Statewide Celebration of Social Work Awards event at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4.

Bessel serves as an associate professor, MSW program director, and chair of the Sociology and Social Work Department at Daemen College. In her roles, she is responsible for establishing program vision and policy; determining curriculum content; allocating program resources; and advising, instructing, and assessing students in conjunction with faculty. She also regularly engages with community members to identify opportunities to apply program resources to address local problems.

“Dr. Bessel is truly an extraordinary person, she leads our programs in Social Work at the undergraduate and graduate levels with leadership excellence and profound interpersonal skills. She is respected and celebrated as a consummate professional inside and outside of the classroom by her students, colleagues, and administration. Her professional engagement, effort, and accomplishments within and outside of WNY is certainly well known, greatly respected, and deeply inspiring,” said Dr. Michael Brogan, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Dean of the college.

Bessel also founded the Institute for Government and Non-Profit Innovation, Training, and Evaluation (IGNITE) where she and other faculty members and students work to provide applied research and capacity building support to health and human service organizations, foundations, government, and community coalitions – locally, nationally, and internationally. Bessel specializes in program design and evaluation, grant writing, board development, and strategic planning and her academic research focuses on the use of collaborative problem-solving to address complex social problems. She has led and/or supported efforts to address a wide range of social issues, including homelessness, poverty, financial stability, family violence, human trafficking, elder abuse, school readiness, and access to quality care.

“I am very proud to count myself among the many thousands of social work professionals working to effect positive change within individuals, organizations, communities, and systems across New York State, our country, and the world. I am very humbled to be recognized in this way,” said Bessel.

Prior to joining Daemen, Bessel served as the director of research, investments, and advocacy at the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County where she regularly assessed community trends to coordinate plans and decisions related to the annual expenditure of over $5 million in local funds. Bessel evaluated the performance of 80 plus programs and initiatives and provided capacity building training and technical assistance. She was also responsible for developing and implementing the organization’s legislative advocacy agenda.

Bessel was awarded a Master of Arts and Doctorate in Sociology from the University at Buffalo. She also holds a Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA) from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and is certified in Nonprofit Management from the Mandel Center.