As far back as she can remember, Karleigh Conway has always loved hearing people’s stories. Whether they were about dreams, passions, hurts or recovery, she drank them all in. She hadn’t realized it yet, but her compassion and curiosity were already preparing her for a life in social work.
When it comes to education and choosing a career path, the road looks different for everyone. Some people already know what they want to do and set out to achieve it, while others are not so sure. Both journeys are unique and valid ways to approach deciding how to live your life. For our 2023 MSW Outstanding Student Gabby White, it was the latter.
As a student who prides herself in promoting diversity and inclusion, it is no surprise that Josie Pooler’s life has been incredibly diverse and unique as well. Growing up in Waco all her life, Josie said she truly considers it her home.
Learn more about the 2023 BSW Intern of the Year: Lauren Daniels! "My calling is to serve and support the people around me. Because of the strong emphasis to look at more than what seems to be at the surface, I know social work is the avenue for me to support, advocate for, and serve others."
"A lot of my professional interest lies in the intersection of social justice and faith communities. I have seen the influence that religious organizations have on mental health, neighborhoods poverty, abuse, politics, and so many other things. But, I see how social work brings a unique systems-oriented, justice-driven perspective to these issues."
Learn more about our MSW Intern of the Year, Community Practice: Kyla Wilson!
Learn more about our MSW Intern of the Year in Clinical Practice: Mercy Babo! Mercy has a passion for helping children, adolescents, and young adults overcome addictions by supporting them through their recovery process, in an effort to help them on their path to thriving.
Learn more about our 2023 Field Instructor of the Year: Heather Eller-Gilman! Heather is a Readjustment Counselor at the Lincoln Vet Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, and has worked with Veterans for more than a decade, in positions that advocate, engage in case management, and provide evidence-based therapies.
Learn more about our Task Supervisor of the Year: Sarah Pedrotti!
What is the spirit of social work? By our definition, it is Anais Tello, the 2022 Alicia Martinez BSW Spirit of Social Work Award recipient.
Anais, who recently graduated from the Garland School of Social Work with her BSW, is someone you would call a true advocate for others who has used her own story to develop a passion for social work and a deep desire to see prison reforms and improve recidivism. As a child, Anais was introduced to social work through her school social worker who would pray daily for Anais’ safety…it was in this space she developed her calling to help others just as this social worker had helped her.
Why did you choose social work? Would you say social work is your “calling”? If so, why?
After adopting my sister in 2017, I gained a love for counseling and an admiration for what social workers did for families and clients. I knew that I wanted to do for others what was done for me: comfort, aid, acknowledgment, and so much more. Every day through my classes here at the GSSW I felt affirmed in my choice of major. Not only was the content exciting but has encouraged me to find social work in all aspects of my life. The professors and peers that I have come alongside these four years have also added to my love of Social Work and my experience in growing through education. All have shown what social work is in every facet of living, whether it be through advocation, support of each other, new ideas or perspectives, and so much more. Social work has been such a blessing and constant within my time here at Baylor and I am excited for what is to come through obtaining my MSW.
Briana Fowler is a first-generation college student from Austin, Texas, who, in her words, is a work in progress just trying to be a better version of herself every day…so much so that she has a tattoo that says it. And she is the 2022 Alicia Martinez MSW Spirit of Social Work Award winner.
The Spirit of Social Work award is intended for students who embody the spirit of social work through engagement in and beyond the classroom, and who demonstrate a commitment to the values of the profession, and last year it was renamed to honor MSW student Alicia Martinez who lost her battle with COVID-19. Alicia was such a shining example of the spirit of social work both in and out of the classroom, and it only seemed fitting to honor her legacy in the profession through this award and judging by the words of one of Briana Fowler’s recommenders, Briana could not have been a better choice for of this award.
Meet Geneece Goertzen, the 2022 MSW Community Practice Intern of the Year. Geneece is a May 2022 graduate who hopes to work with domestic violence survivors, to work with clergy and congregations around the topic of domestic abuse, and to one day go back to school and get her PhD. Her internship sites included Calvary Baptist Church and the GSSW's Center for Church and Community Impact. #sicem, Geneece!
Pope Francis once said, “Go and show love to everyone, because your life is a precious mission: it is not a burden to be borne, but a gift to offer.” And when you meet our 2022 MSW Outstanding Student Trinity Martinez, you know no other mantra could better describe her.
Trinity is an advanced standing student from San Antonio, Texas, but has lived all over the US and has traveled the world through mission work and study abroad programs, including countries such as Lithuania, Jamaica, Italy and Ireland. All of these experiences contributed to her ability to adapt well to change and exposed her to many cultures and diversity at a formative age. Today, she is a natural leader, committed to speaking up for others and standing up for what she believes.
From a family of educators arises Micaela Jones—emerging social worker. This graduating senior originally thought she would continue the “Jones legacy” as a teacher until she began student teaching and realized that many times, the “home prevented students from being able to thrive in the classroom.” Couple that with a heart for justice, and it became clear that social work was the correct path for Micaela to pursue so that she could impact change at a larger systemic level. It was this passion that earned Micaela the title of BSW Outstanding Student of the year!
What does a healthy relationship look like for a Black son-in-law and his father-in-law? A study aims to answer that question and was published in “Psychology of Men & Masculinities” by University of Maryland School of Social Work’s (UMSSW) Assistant Professor Ericka M. Lewis, PhD, MSW, with Professor Michael E. Woolley, PhD, MSW, and Baylor University Assistant Professor Brianna P. Lemmons, PhD, MSW. Studies on in-laws are far and few between, less so for male in-law relationships, and even less so for Black male in-laws.
The Enneagram, unlike many modern-day personality tools such as the Myers-Briggs or the Birkman, can trace its roots to ancient times. The word itself is derived from the Greek words ennea (nine) and grammos (drawn symbol).
The Enneagram is represented by a circle with nine different starting points and nine equidistant lines drawn within the circle. It is meant to show nine different perspectives or “personalities” for how different people view and understand the world. The lines within the circle show how different personalities interact with each other in times of stress or growth. Numerous tests or checklists can be found online or in books to help someone identify which personality type resonates the most with themselves. However, as learned from Dr. Jon Singletary, Dean of the Garland School of Social Work, the Enneagram is so much more than just a test.
Dr. Singletary describes the Enneagram as a resource that can be used to better help us understand ourselves. He adds that the Enneagram can reveal more about how God has created us, is calling us, and transforming us.
Military veteran and Baylor alumna Crystal Brown is shining her Baylor light via social work in a way she never expected—in the field of nephrology.
Growing up, Brown recalls seeing her cousin dressed professionally each day as an attorney. She always knew as a kid that she too wanted to be a professional one day so she would be able to establish her own voice.
Congratulations to Raashida Birmingham, the Garland School of Social Work’s 2021 MSW Clinical Intern of the Year.
Like many others, Raashida did not first choose social work. However, after an internship with Healthy Families Florida, a program that “improves childhood outcomes and increases family self-sufficiency by empowering parents through education and community support,” Raashida said her supervisor at Healthy Families suggested the profession of social work to her.
“I am thankful for this suggestion because social work is definitely my calling. I love working with and serving others and am very passionate about having the opportunity to do that every day as a career,” Raashida said.
“Nataly represents so much of what we are talking about nationally in terms of health care workers on the front lines during COVID-19. She is an academically excellent student. Nataly managed the many challenges of COVID-19 in her placement with dedication, perseverance and excellent client care this year,” said a colleague of the 2021 BSW Intern of the Year: Nataly Sanchez.
Nataly said she chose social work because of her strong passion for community building as well as her goal to fighting human trafficking.
“Dondra’s personal values align with service, integrity, and dignity, and she upholds these values while maintaining a sense of worth on the survivor. She appreciates and meets people where they are in terms of being diverse with different cultural and social values,” said Amanda Carpenter, task supervisor of Dondra Williams, the GSSW’s MSW Community Practice Intern of the Year.
Dondra began classes at the Garland School of Social Work’s online program in May of 2019. She said Baylor felt like the right place for her to pursue her master's degree because of the prioritization of the ethical integration of faith and practice, especially because of the influence her faith has had on her life choices to become a social worker.
WACO, Texas (May 25, 2021) – Danielle Parrish, Ph.D., professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University, has been awarded a $3.1 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to study the efficacy of risk reduction intervention efforts for young women age 14-17 in the juvenile justice system. The grant will be dispersed over five years, beginning May 2021. The project, titled CHOICES-TEEN: Efficacy of a Bundled Risk Reduction Intervention for Juvenile Justice Females, is an effort to fill gaps in care for at-risk young women in the juvenile justice system.
"I'm really excited and honored to have this opportunity to pursue this research that I’ve had on my heart for many, many years," Parrish said. "This grant will provide the resources to implement a randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of an intervention that I hope will be able to be used more widely in the U.S. and fill the gaps in services for this population."
MSW Outstanding Student Award winner Samantha Nelms never imagined herself to be so involved in the field of social work.
Growing up, with her mother as a member of the city council in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, Samantha had been raised to appreciate and prioritize policy and politics. Because of her passion for the two, she decided to major in sociology, a field where she could study social organization, structure and the reasons behind it.
Because of her expertise in the field after conducting her senior capstone on community partnership and education, Samantha remembers her friends that were already in the MSW program at the GSSW encouraging her to apply.
“I used to not stand up for myself. I think because of the nature of kindness at Baylor and the sense of advocacy that the School of Social Work instills, I do [now],” said Isabella Book, winner of the Garland School of Social Work BSW Spirt of Social Work Award. “I always knew I had it in me, but I just never carried through. I have a voice now, and I'm not afraid to use it.”
Isabella said along with learning about the importance of advocacy, the Garland School of Social Work has also inspired her to pursue what she believes to be her lifelong purpose and career path-- being a hospice social worker.
Being raised as a “military kid,” BSW Outstanding Student Award Winner Asianna Brown knew she always wanted to foster such meaningful connections as the ones she was fortunate enough to experience with social workers growing up.
“I reflected on a lot of my encounters with social workers as a military kid. I had my parents deployed at the same time, at points in my life. Sometimes my mom would be deployed and my dad would be in a different state so I had to deal with that,” Asianna explained. “I had a social worker who [would say], ‘Hey, I'm here to help,’ and it was a big relief to have somebody in my corner. I want to do that for other military dependents.”
This year, it is with great pleasure mixed with great sadness that we award Alicia Martinez with the Garland School of Social Work’s 2021 Honorary MSW Spirit of Social Work Award.
What a bright, up-and-coming leader in the field of social work we lost when Alicia passed away due to COVID-19 in January of this year. But, today, it is our great honor to recognize her as this year’s recipient because she truly was a shining example of what it means to be the spirit of social work.
Alicia was a first-generation college student determined to make an impact on people. A friend said this of her: “She’s like, ‘I don’t care if they remember my name, but I just want to know that I’ve touched them.’”
Words have power; they can carry freedom or they can carry weight.
We often forget that power also resides in names.
Our names are what we closely identify with in places of comfort and places of estrangement. Knowing someone’s name can allow them to feel safe and cared for, just like forgetting someone’s name can make someone feel shame and embarrassment.
The adjectives or labels that we ascribe to someone also carry weight. When talking to or about someone who is in a vulnerable state, the words used are particularly important.
For example, there is a common tendency to call individuals who are on the journey out of addiction and in recovery as “addicts” or “alcoholics.” The intentions might be pure, but the verbiage is haunting.
“Hi, my name is Lacey, and I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.” This statement was a hopeful reminder of a new identity I received when accepting the gift of salvation.
Grief is a part of life for every person and, therefore, is a natural part of life for every church community.
Two of the most foundational duties of those in ministry are to walk alongside those who are grieving and to conduct funerals for the deceased and their loved ones. While the church is no stranger to grief, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges in how the church approaches and supports those grieving the loss of loved ones.
In honor of women’s history month, I want to take a moment to emphasize the diversity of women in Social Work, and acknowledge contributions to the work of intersectionality that encompasses women’s issues. “Social workers are tasked to examine roles, equity and fairness not only in the profession, but within society and with the women they serve each day (NASW, 2021).” The role of the social worker is to promote social justice in all aspects of life including advocating for meaningful change for a better tomorrow. Social work is an emerging field with women taking the lead in addressing women’s rights. According to CSWE Annual 2019 report, 74.1% full time faculty in accredited Social Work universities are women (Council on Social Work Education, 2019).
The Coronavirus, first declared as a global pandemic on March 11th, 2020, has impacted millions of individuals in a variety of ways. Across the nation, people have suffered financially, physically, and emotionally from the virus. As a result, an immense number of individuals’ mental health amongst every age group have taken an extreme toll. However, a prominent population that has been heavily impacted have been women.
According to research, the fatality rate for men has been twice as high than for women – however, the pandemic has impacted more women’s mental health than men. Because women represent the majority of the health workforce, they have been at a greater risk for COVID-19 and the emotional toll it comes with (Thibault, 2020). The effects of quarantine alone have caused many to feel isolated, lost, and scared, which is distressing for anyone – but add a susceptible population for increased mental health issues into the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Lately, it seems I never can get enough sleep. I find myself with less patience. A task that used to take me an hour now takes me three hours. Any of this sound familiar? I guess it probably does.
We are in the midst of “compound collective trauma.” Collective trauma is described as a traumatic experience that affects and involves entire groups of people, communities or societies, such as a hurricane or war.
In a previous article, I discussed the positive and negative effects of the collective trauma of Hurricane Harvey. That is just one example of a collective trauma that effects a specific community or geographical area.
The whole world is a geographical area, right now, experiencing the collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. While various countries are experiencing it differently, everyone is simultaneously in the midst of some aspect of the pandemic, and we all are experiencing the trauma throughout our specific communities.
Growing up, the church always was a safe place for me. I grew up in the same small-town church my entire life, and a lot of our life revolved around the church.
Sundays were filled with Sunday school and the beloved evening prayer meeting, while Wednesdays were for mission group and choir. Our church felt like a village, a family that was raising me alongside my family of origin.
As a teenager, this could feel smothering at times. The beloved elderly church ladies had a running commentary on my life; out of a place of love, they would frequently express their opinions on my life choices — both positive and negative. Overall, my church was a safe, loving, nurturing place to be.
Because of the sensitivity and confidentiality of the people and location, this piece has been generalized to keep those involved safe and to challenge congregations of all sizes not to underestimate what they can do.
“We sometimes underestimate the influence of the little things.”—Charles W. Chesnutt
I am the kind of person that must be doing something “big” in order to think change will occur. However, I was challenged by the above quote from Chesnutt.
I was blessed recently to witness a church do something that in most eyes would seem small, insignificant and ordinary. Last week, I observed a small community church rally around one of their members, do the “little things” and, through them, advocate for this individual while also instilling a sense of hope.
Why it is so hard for some people of faith to own their own discomfort? To own their own fears and see how they injure others?
These are salient questions when it comes to creating caring Christian community for the LGBTQIA+ community. It is an even more relevant question for the leadership of my own university.
In the Bible, there are multiple references to people being known by their fruit and people’s actions being judged by their consequences.
Jesus’ fruit analogy seems to be one of the most useful lenses through which we can examine our words and actions. And it should help us provide clarity for any conversation about how we offer support to the LGBTQIA+ community.
People who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not harm or injure others in any way because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The history of the Christian church includes many examples of addressing who belongs and who does not belong, starting at the very beginning.
Despite how clear Jesus was that women belonged, that Samaritans belonged and that lepers belonged, the early church struggled with whether or not Jesus came for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
That seems obvious to us now (as most reading this are likely Gentiles, not Jews), but it was a matter of contention until both Peter and Paul understood God’s inclusion of all and spoke up and spoke out.
Phillip’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch gave a concrete answer to the question, “Is there anything preventing me from being baptized?”
The answer, to someone barred from entering the sanctuary because of sexual difference, resounds through the years but often not through the church.
As a member of Protestant, often Baptist, congregations through the years, I have participated in the use of the words “Brother” and “Sister” to refer to other Christians.
If we are truly family, what does it mean when we cut off our siblings? When we make them hide or leave the family because they are different and unwelcome?
It didn’t take long for me to learn that what made me different was not always seen as beautiful by the world that existed outside the four walls that I was raised in.
My story is from a third generation Chinese American lens, who was raised in the Midwest and attended school in the south — please know this writing doesn’t encompass or represent all Asian American stories.
“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed” (NIV, Psalm 103:6).
“God makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet” (The Message, Psalm 103:6).
Christian Scriptures give great hope for the oppressed and victims of oppression. No matter which translation of the Bible we read, it is clear in Psalm 103:6 that God knows about the oppression and the resulting victimization.
The Bible is full of admonitions to followers of the way of Jesus about our actions toward the oppressed and victimized. We are to treat all people with love, dignity, honor and justice, because we all are made in the image of God.
Our actions should flow naturally from a heart filled with God’s love. Learning to see people as God would have us see them, with loving actions toward and on behalf of all people, comes with a commitment to do this hard work with the Lord. That commitment, I have discovered, is a life-long journey.
The white church in America is learning racism is not merely about our individual actions and decisions.
As a civil human being—more so as a child of God—we know better than to be racist, than to do racist things. In fact, in our effort not to be racists, we work hard to talk as though race doesn’t exist. Being colorblind was the way to be nonracist, we were taught. I suppose it meant if we didn’t see race, we couldn’t perpetuate it or contribute to racism.
The work of identifying racist attitudes and behaviors is not only uncomfortable but also never-ending, said Kerri Fisher, a lecturer and diversity educator at Baylor University.
Recognizing white privilege and oppressive social systems isn’t enough to sustain “cultural humility,” said Fisher, co-chair of the Race Equity Work Team in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.
“There are always new ways to be unjust, so we have to always be learning,” she said.
“Cultural humility” describes an ability to critically self-reflect on the existence of cultural differences and impacts on marginalized groups with the goal being to build relationships with those groups, she explained.
Fisher outlined the process for achieving cultural humility, anti-racist and anti-oppressive attitudes during a recent interview with Baptist News Global.
One point that often gets lost in the academic debate of teaching versus research is that research, at its best, is teaching. Baylor’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award — presented each year by Baylor Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) — aims to recognize those who exemplify that by mentoring undergraduate students in a research setting.
This year’s honorees? Dr. Stephanie Boddie from the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, and Dr. Lorin S. Matthews (BS ’94, PhD ’98) from the Department of Physics.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
I memorized this verse as a child and earnestly sought to live it out. For most of my adolescence, I thought it meant being nice and cordial to the people around me. After learning about trauma-sensitive language, the verse has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
I now am aware of the diversity of experiences I might encounter on a daily basis in my congregation members or clients. I must remember each individual has a different story and has experienced things that caused deep pain and harm in their lives. I must remember we all handle things differently.
Amidst the busyness of life, it can be hard to take time for yourself, let alone get the care you need. In this interview, Holly Oxhandler provides insight on the importance of self-care and the best ways to cultivate it for yourself and others during any season.
Holly Oxhandler, Ph.D., LMSW is the Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and an Associate Professor at Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. Dr. Oxhandler has studied the intersection of faith and mental health over the last decade and is particularly interested in the degree to which mental health care providers discuss and integrate clients’ religion/spirituality in mental health treatment. She’s also the co-host of CXMH, a weekly podcast on the intersection of faith and mental health, and is currently writing her first book to translate her research on this intersection for everyday helpers.
Through the expansion medical care and technological advances, the lifespan of older adult women has progressively increased. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports of the U.S., in the year 2017, the national average of female life expectancy is the age of 81. Compared to the 1920s, female life expectancy was the age of 54. Older adult women are living longer and are experiencing the world through many significant changes throughout the lifespan. They experience milestones of struggles, hardships, love, and laughter throughout their lifetime that is monumental to their well-being.
I was born, raised and now live in El Paso. El Paso is a great place to live if you like to run, and I do. My runs regularly take me up to a place where I can see all three cities and states that adjoin each other here.
A few weeks ago, while on a morning run on my usual route, I noticed two things at a distance I hadn’t realized could be seen from my vantage point.
To the left of my viewpoint was a thick black line in stark contrast to the natural colors of the desert landscape. This is a part of the border wall funded by private donations.
Directly across and above this wall is Mount Cristo Rey, which sits on both sides of the international border between the United States and Mexico. The mountain is named for the statue of Christ located at the top of the mountain.
The figure of Christ stands in front of a giant cross. His eyes gaze out over the borderland, and his arms are outstretched with his palms facing outward over three cities and two nations.
As we wait for healing and solutions to the distress of the coronavirus pandemic, we seek revival like the people of God sought during the time of the prophets.
We desperately search for stories of God working, despite the little we have or the sickness we are trying to understand.
How is the church responding? How should the church respond? Who are the prophets of our time, and how are they responding to the call of God?
Congregations around the country are seeking to answer these questions in new and unique ways. In Waco, as elsewhere, many institutions have responded to COVID-19, seeking fresh ways to love their neighbor like Christ would have us do.
With unique challenges in 2020 related to COVID-19, the University has acknowledged those hardships for all in the Baylor Family by taking the initiative to focus on mental health throughout October.
Baylor University’s Holly Oxhandler, Ph.D., LMSW, associate dean for research and faculty development and associate professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, is an expert on mental health, primarily anxiety and depression, as well as religion and spirituality in clinical practice.
In this Q&A, she shares tips and resources to students, faculty and staff who are facing all of the typical challenges of another mid-term while also navigating a global health crisis.
Ruth was elderly, a widow, very hungry and giving $1,000 checks to anyone who came to her door if they would just bring her something to eat. Most took the money, but didn’t bring back any food. She gave her car away to someone who promised to bring her food. She was about to sign her house away when Adult Protective Services got involved. The court appointed a guardian for her who ensured she was never hungry again.
Stories like this can be heard time and time again, all across our country. The protection of vulnerable Americans has never been more important. In particular, persons with disabilities and advanced age live into devastating vulnerability, desperately in need of a trustworthy, well-informed and committed guardian. Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) and Friends for Life have partnered to offer an online educational opportunity for anyone wanting learn more about guardianship.
Some see addiction as a disease that stems from biological factors. Others see it as a moral failing that stems from the choice to sin against God. Addiction, however, is formed through various influences in a person’s life, including biological, psychological, spiritual and social factors.
Addiction does not discriminate by color, background, status or gender.
Addiction to alcohol or drugs is characterized by the repeated use of the substance, despite consequences that include personal loss, harm to oneself or others, and damage to property.
The word “addiction” is derived from the Latin word addicere, which means to have no voice and to surrender oneself to a master.
Paul’s self-description in Romans 7 fits addiction very well. He did not understand what he did. He did what he did not want to do, even doing the very thing he hated.
Lt. Col. Liquori L. Etheridge isn't a man of few words but, after winning the Army's Social Worker of the Year for 2020, he was left speechless. Etheridge, who works in the Department of Social Work at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, was named the Army's Social Worker of the Year for 2020.
Mark Wingfield makes a compelling case that “You cannot follow Jesus and endorse racism.” However, he may have placed the “Period” of his title a little too soon.
I do believe the biggest problem in perpetuating racism is the “virulent white supremacist views” of people of faith, but I believe that virus is far more widespread than most of us white progressive Christians care to admit.
Let me be clear in my agreement with Wingfield. As he says, “The Jesus of the Gospels allows no room for being a racist or enabling racism. White supremacy and racism are wholly incompatible with a Jesus way of life.” And, Donald Trump’s white supremacy does contribute significantly to empowering hate groups and sustaining our culture of racism.