Lavina Harless ’98, MSW ’00


“Being at Radford was the best time of my life.”

Lavina Harless ’98, MSW ’00 knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a licensed social worker. That’s because she is in charge of developing the social work licensing examinations used across the United States as well as two Canadian provinces.

Harless is Director of Examination Development at the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), the organization of social work licensing boards in all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces. In her role, she oversees the creation of test questions and the extensive process involved in creating and scoring examinations, all while managing a volunteer program that involves more than 100 social workers from diverse backgrounds across North America.

Harless sees a direct link between her role at the ASWB and her love for her profession – a love that’s anchored in Radford University’s social work program.

“Helping others and creating systems around doing that is what I feel I have been called to do,” Harless says. “Radford equipped me with the skills and confidence to follow that calling.

“My degree prepared me for many of the professional roles I have had throughout my career,” she continues. “I believe it is transferable to positions that require clear, thoughtful leadership as well as positions that examine a system and how decisions and changes impact each part of that system.”

Harless cites Dr. Diane Hodge as a particularly inspirational mentor. “She has a one-of-a-kind sense of humor and really helped students to understand the many ways that social workers can positively impact society,” she notes.

Harless was also a part of Alpha Sigma Tau while at Radford University, which she says gave her many opportunities to improve and give back to the community. “Greek Life was an important piece outside of the classrooms,” Harless says. “Alpha Sigma Tau’s appreciation of diversity was especially influential during my time at Radford and beyond.” Harless' love for Radford University and Alpha Sigma Tau has been passsed down to her step-daughter, who was also a member of the sorority and graduated in 2016.

“The quality of education at Radford is excellent because instructors are interested in teaching and inspiring students,” Harless adds. “The social work program at Radford is outstanding, but it’s also a great-sized school in an amazingly beautiful setting that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Harless hopes that current and future students approach their time at Radford University open-minded when it comes to opportunities after graduation.

“My advice would be to soak it all in and be open to all possibilities,” Harless says. “Always be open to the idea that your education isn't preparing you for just one kind of career – your time at Radford is making you a better critical thinker with distinct underlying skills that you can bring to the surface at any point in your life.”