Social-Work-Class HERO

Barbara Crumpacker Niedner


Barbara Crumpacker Niedner Director of BSW Field Education, Clinical Associate Professor of Social Work – Emeritus 219.464.5328 Wesemann Hall 274


I came in to social work in a roundabout way. My grandparents and both of my parents shared life’s extras with all of those whom we came in contact. My mother was the kind of person who spent the extra hours in the summer dispensing our abundant garden produce to the older people that were neighbors or friends of my grandparents. I would wrap chard in layers of newspaper, load up giant sized zucchini and package (gently) red ripe tomatoes so that we could then deliver them. I never really knew what to say when I got to their door but I always enjoyed the expressions on their faces and the gratitude that they shared.

Or then there were the times that we would make huge “get well” signs or “May Day” baskets and then travel around delivering them to people whom my mother thought seemed lonely or in need. Or the times we would collect used, clean clothing, and discarded books to pack and send to the Appalachian mountains. We would gather and give to others what they needed and what others were not using.

Probably most vividly for me though are the times when I was a youth in scouting. We spent one Tuesday afternoon a month playing bingo with the residents at the Porter County home. It was a little scary because as a 7 or 8 year old it was the first time I interacted with people with their dentures not in who didn’t speak in sentences that I could understand. They mumbled, wheeled themselves by their feet around in their wheelchairs and wanted to hug us. It took me a little time to get used to the idea that I didn’t need to be afraid. I remember having genuine compassion for these older people. Events like these shaped my concept of what it meant to serve. At an impressionable age I was doing for others and being for them a person who cared.

My father’s passion for “correctness” and “justice” in the world coupled with his willingness to write or call his congressman spawned an interest for me in the bigger picture. We would forever “talk” politics and religion around our dining room table, solving the problems of the world, making discoveries, sharing our ideas, the far-fetched and the practical, until it was time to clean up the dishes and head on to the next activity. No idea was too foolish…there was an ear for all, (sometimes you had to talk with more passion to get your word in!) but in the end there was a space and place for young and old to have open exchange. These “table talks” were for me the start of a lifelong love affair with philosophizing, analyzing, and solving whatever was up for me and often times the individual with whom I would be talking.

So, was social work a conscious choice? Yes and no. Yes because I knew that I wanted to be in service and contribution to others. No because social work was for me a way of life…a way of being and not necessarily something that I sat down and made a “choice” to do after looking at the alternatives.

Am I “happy” with my professional choice? Absolutely! There is a sense for me that I can make a difference in EACH life I contact, whether that contribution is big or little. A quote of Margaret Mead’s that contains the core for me is this… “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. They are in fact the only ones that ever have!” It is ALL of us reaching out, pulling together, being in the present moment, affecting our “corners” of the world that truly matters!


It is my honor and privilege to teach and work with each and everyone with whom I connect! I love coming to work to engage us all in the common enterprise of social work…inclusion, service, and dreaming big about individual and community. I join the honorable Senator Cory Booker in declaring this… I am HOPE UNHINGED!

  • Certified Parent Educator, Parents As Teachers of Porter County, May 2002
  • Certified Clinical Social Worker, State of Indiana, 1992 (CCSW), (currently LCSW)
  • Academy of Certified Social Workers, 1987 (ACSW)
  • Master of Social Work, May 1985, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN (MSW)
  • Bachelor of Social Work, May 1983, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN (BSW)

Department Responsibilities: past and present:

  • Introduction to Social Work
  • Communication & Counseling Skills
  • Generalist Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups & Communities
  • Integrative Seminar& Field Placements for both Junior ans Seniors
  • Director of BSW Field Education

Field of Expertise:

  • Mental Health/Family Therapy
  • Parent Involvement/Early Childhood Intervention
  • Experiential Learning
  • Resiliency Planning and Well-Being Management

Time at VU:

  • Since 1988

Involvement: past and present:

  • Infusing the Council on Social Work Education Competency Curriculum expectations into the VUSWD curriculum; developing our department’s explicit and implicit curriculum overarching structure
  • ValPLAYso: The Next Generation, Steering Committee
  • Equity and Inclusion Diversity Facilitator
  • National Association of Social Workers, member