I was the pompous Christian college student who spent time with friends memorizing Scripture, even if I didn’t truly live them.
It was misplaced rigor, misguided piety and an out-of-focus faith. I could spit these passages out and talk about the virtue of humility, but practicing humility was not my strength.
My whole Christian fraternity and I memorized Philippians 2:3-8, but I missed the point. I had plenty of selfish ambition and was truly blind to what this passage meant.
Furthermore, my selfish ambition and vain conceit was tied up in my views of race.
Born in Vidor, Texas, a well-known sundown town, I was influenced by white supremacy in the earliest years of my life.
My white racial identity was a standard by which I compared myself to others and the norm against which others were seen as different or less than.
By white, I don’t simply mean skin color. White is not ethnicity or nationality. To be white is one thing, but the pride in whiteness is problematic given how whiteness was created to marginalize, oppress and enslave as part of our nation’s history.
Editor’s note: Laine Scales and Melody Maxwell have written a new book about the history of the Carver School of Church Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, its 1997 closing and its legacy carried forward at Baylor University. What follows is an excerpt of the Epilogue to their book.
In November 2017, Kristen Tekell Boyd stands in the pulpit of Truett Seminary’s chapel in Waco, Texas, and preaches, taking Ezekiel chapter 37 as her text. As she describes the valley with the prophet Ezekiel coming upon the dry bones, she reads a key question from the Scripture: “Can these bones live?”
This question might have been asked 20 years before when Carver School of Church Social Work closed in 1997, an event that seemed like a death to many of its alumni.
She continues, “God created (these bones) from the dust, and God is the only one who can breathe life into them once again.” After recalling several stories of loss and death, Boyd assures her listeners that God is with us. She closes her sermon with a hopeful directive: “Let us be a people that rise and bear witness; rise and remember!”
WACO, Texas (July 20, 2020) – As individuals and institutions across the country consider necessary changes to effectively fight racism, two terms are gaining familiarity: cultural humility and antiracism.
Kerri Fisher, LCSW, an expert in cultural humility training and lecturer in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, defines those terms and shares five tips to help people cultivate cultural humility and antiracism in their personal and corporate lives.
“We are all impacted by the supremacist cultures that socialize us,” Fisher said, “so while we are not responsible for our first thought, we are responsible for our second thought and our first action. This means we must be brave enough to admit when our brain, body and behaviors are exhibiting racist reactions.”
Laine Scales at Baylor University believes the history of a school that ceased to exist 23 years ago is worth telling because of what it reveals about changing Southern Baptist attitudes toward gender roles and social ministries.
Scales, a professor in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, and co-author Melody Maxwell, associate professor of church history at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada, wrote Doing the Word: Southern Baptists’ Carver School of Social Work and Its Predecessors, 1907-1997.
Scales and Maxwell trace the history of the school through its various iterations—the Woman’s Missionary Union Training School for Christian Workers, the Carver School of Missions and Social Work and finally the Carver School of Church Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In spite of “twists and turns” along the way, Scales sees one constant: “It’s never a predictable or boring story.”
I grew up in Houston, Texas, in the most diverse county in America. Growing up, I was most fascinated by my Social Studies classes, especially when we discussed the sections on human and civil rights movements. For college, I attended Baylor University, where I received my Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and was pre-med. The sciences was not a fulfilling track for me, and I quickly found out that I was meant to do something different. Shortly after working at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a nutritionist, I switched tracks and went back to Baylor to attend graduate school, where I received a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Social Work (MSW). My first MSW internship was working with homeless and unaccompanied youth in the Waco Independent School District. I primarily worked with high school students, many of whom had been kicked out of the house and were living in foster care or in group homes.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory (Psalm 63:2 NIV).
Nature calms me and reminds me in times of doubt and feeling disconnected from God that the Creator truly is. I find assurance in the creativity of each leaf, tumbling stream, dipping valley, rolling wave, bird song and even the blade of grass surviving against all odds in the crack of the sidewalk.
The minute details of nature act like a balm to my weary soul. They remind me with a fierceness something has been here creating and is still here creating. Remembering this brings me to God’s sanctuary. Sanctuary is a word too often equated with a building. It actually means “refuge” or safety.” It means God’s very presence.
Recently, I had the privilege of hearing from our Black social work students in a Listening Session hosted by our departmental administration. The students were vulnerable and raw and brave. They expressed exhaustion and hope and disappointment. They pointed out ways in which the Garland School of Social Work could be better, Baylor could be better, and our curriculum could be more inclusive and supportive. Many of our Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color have likely felt this for many years, but they finally had the collective voice and platform to express this hurt. I am thankful for them and to them.
The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship has awarded Baylor University’s Dr. Stephanie Boddie a grant of nearly $18,000 to support ethnographic study of ways to create worship practices that integrate traditional theology, Negro Spirituals, storytelling and social history.
Amid increasing racial tensions and a decline in church attendance by millennials, Boddie’s research project focuses on establishing worship practices that help African American churches reconnect spirituality with the social justice legacy of the African American Church. The research will also examine how corporate worship practices, coupled with individual spirituality, creates transformative church experiences and communities.
Dr. Jocelyn McGee, Garland School of Social Work assistant professor, recently answered the call from Rev. Dr. Wismick Jean-Charles, Vicar General of Monfort Ministries for the World, to collaborate on a developing a telepsychology program and training in Haiti for the Center for Spirituality and Mental Health (CESSA) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
As states re-open and congregations create their plans in response to COVID-19 for returning to corporate gatherings, the questions at hand may look very similar for church leaders: “How do we move forward? What do we need to consider or listen to? Who needs our care? How will our worship, fellowship and service look different going forward? What resources already exist in our community?”
According to study after study, college students suffer food insecurity at alarming rates. Many face the reality of having no idea where their next meal will come from. Houston MSW student Joyelle Gaines hopes, however, to make this a thing of the past with a new venture called the Joy Store.
The Joy Store is a student food pantry that opened this semester on our Houston Campus thanks to Joyelle’s advocacy, and she hopes it will help students just like her.
The Garland School of Social Work proudly salutes the MSW Intern of the Year, Clinical Practice: Megan Jennings.
Megan is a dual-degree student from Rockford, Illinois, who began her Baylor career in 2012. She graduated is 2016 with a BA in religion, and then started her MDiv/MSW classes. She completed her coursework at Truett Seminary in the spring of 2018, and entered the MSW program in August. This month, she completed her educational journey.
The Garland School of Social Work proudly salutes the MSW Community Practice Intern of the Year: Katherine Reynolds.
Katherine is from St. Louis, Missouri, and began classes at Baylor University in 2015. Though she did not initially choose Baylor for social work, through the recommendation of friends, she said she quickly fell in love with the GSSW.
“I changed my major to social work after participating in the Poverty Simulation hosted by Mission Waco,” Katherine said. “I have always felt a passion for service, and, after discovering social work, found a way to turn this passion into a career.”
WACO, Texas (May 5, 2020) – Twelve Baylor University professors have been honored with Outstanding Faculty Awards for teaching, scholarship and contributions to the academic community for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The Outstanding Faculty Awards recognize the best all-around professors – including non-tenure track, tenured and tenure-track faculty – based on teaching capabilities, research achievement, time spent with students and church and community service.
The Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) proudly salutes Laken Shelton, the 2020 BSW Intern of the Year. Laken is a senior from Henderson, Texas.
Laken never thought she would pursue a career in social work. But, having grown up with social workers in her life through the foster care system, she looked into it at her mother’s suggestion as classes began at Baylor. Laken declared social work as her major that day and has never looked back.
“I do feel [now] that social work is my calling,” Laken said. “I am passionate about working and walking alongside children and families involved in the child welfare system.”
Abu Kamara excels both inside and outside the classroom and has known from his first semester of college that social work was right for him. Abu is an athlete, a humble academic and an aspiring social work rock star!
According to his classmates, Abu was the only male in his #BU20 cohort, and while this might be difficult for some, he has remained a "steadfast and humble learner throughout the years."
Social Work didn’t always run in the blood of MSW student Romy Nunes. It wasn’t until she spent three years working as a refugee case manager at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston that she was inspired to take her experience working with diverse populations in professional helping and pursue a career in social work.
After receiving her BSW from Texas Southern University, Nunes decided she wanted to attend a private university in Texas, and landed on the Garland School of Social Work Houston Campus.
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind to say the least, shaking us to the very core, evoking mixed emotions from deep within namely: sorrow, grief, anger, frustration, fear, worry, depression, anxiety, confusion, tranquility, calmness, empathy, love, and gratitude. Everyday activities have come to a standstill as we are forced to stay at home; in a flash, life has turned upside down with death and destruction of people’s livelihood across a large number of nations. Suddenly, we are faced with a stressor called uncertainty, the fear of the unknown not just to us as individuals, but to us as citizens of this world. This monumental problem of COVID-19 has forced us into a crisis-mode, with great devastation caused by something only visible under the microscope; coming to us like a thief in the night confronting our very existence.
When her husband proposed, he did so with her deposit for Baylor. He told her he would always support her and never get in the way of her dreams.
Lucky for her, and for those whose lives she’s touched since, this promise made to Joyelle Gaines was kept, and is a gift that carries with it an impact that continues to this day.
After growing up in Newark, New Jersey and attending Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania, Gaines discovered what she wanted to do with her life in a distinct moment her senior year. She was working as a research assistant when she explained her career aspirations to her supervisor Dr. Junlei Li, who immediately told her what social work was and the available opportunities in the field.
“Even though I was a little upset I didn’t know about it sooner, it actually turned out that my four years spent in psychology, communication and children’s studies at Saint Vincent thoroughly prepared me for the social work field,” Gaines said.
In the evolving dynamic of COVID-19, we have witnessed our world turn upside-down. The normal routines of life, work and play look completely different than they did a few weeks ago.
As followers of Christ, our way of worship and of gathering together in a sanctuary space has shifted. As businesses close down and events get cancelled left and right, congregations are doing their best to press forward. They are restructuring their way of fellowship, teaching and outreach.
While our congregations may be closing their doors physically, I am deeply moved by how they are opening their hearts, arms and minds to new ways to reach their members and their neighbors.
Grief can present itself in a number of different ways. It can manifest as anxiety or depression, or even depression and anxiety at the same time. We may notice changes in our own behavior we can’t explain, or maybe changes we don’t notice, but others do. That’s all the more reason to be patient with our loved ones, friends, strangers, and perhaps most importantly, ourselves.
The first step to approach and manage the condition of grief is to recognize and claim our feelings about what we’re experiencing. A lot of people aren’t accustomed to this, or it may make them uncomfortable, but almost the whole world is experiencing a collective grief right now, and if we can name and claim these feelings we’re having and talk about them with each other, we can begin to cope.
Baylor’s focus on offering a distinctly Christian educational environment includes cultivating thought leaders who can help congregations answer the call of societal challenges. Dr. Stephanie Boddie, an assistant professor of church and community ministries at Baylor, is one of those leading the way.
Boddie is known nationally for her research on congregation-based social services and trends in faith-based initiatives. Over the years, much of that research has been through the lens of the black church, with a focus on the social and entrepreneurial approaches these institutions have used to address disparities in wealth, health and food insecurity in their communities.
Can you experience grounded, present, awareness? So much is changing around us. How are you handling it?
Higher education has been in flux for many years with financial and technological upheavals changing so much of what we as faculty and staff understand about ourselves in our institutions of teaching and learning. To this, the crisis of Coronavirus is completely overwhelming. Financial burdens are even more significant. Our dependence on technology is all-encompassing. Students struggle with the anxiety of it all and we are hardly prepared to respond given our own anxieties.
Maundy Thursday didn’t come naturally to me. Growing up Southern Baptist, we didn’t celebrate Holy Week, or much of anything from the church calendar, except for Christmas and Easter. In seminary, I remember being asked how you get to Easter if you don’t recognize Good Friday or Maundy Thursday.
Humility, curiosity and leadership.
These three characteristics have been used to describe senior Colorado Springs native and 2020 Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) BSW Outstanding Student recipient Megan (Meg) Peck.
Though she didn’t know what social work was at the beginning of her freshman year, this posture of open-mindedness is perhaps what led Peck to listen to the many voices repeatedly telling her it would be a good fit.
“I always wanted to be a counselor, but I appreciate how the profession of social work puts an emphasis on social justice and cultural humility,” she said.
Fast forward three and a half years at the GSSW and Peck has experienced community, growth and encouragement all while discovering her passions and using her voice to bring about positive change.
These are disorienting times. Due to COVID-19, our professional, relational and recreational routines as American Christians have been disrupted by quarantines and social distancing. In our typically fast-paced world, it feels strange when things suddenly come to a halt. But what if God is using our disorientation for reorientation? What if, amid the coronavirus pandemic that now envelops us, we can rediscover the importance of Sabbath?
WACO, Texas (March 26, 2020) – For the week ending March 21, a record 3.28 million workers applied for unemployment benefits, a result of the sweeping economic consequences of COVID-19, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor.
In the proverbial “blink of an eye,” many find their neighbors, friends, family – and even themselves – out of jobs that only a few weeks ago seemed safe and secure.
The jobless are grieving. What’s our role? How do we help? How do we engage?
On Sunday I watched the news – until I couldn’t watch it any longer. I doubt I learned anything new during those three hours. I confess that I’ve never been much of a Sabbath observer, but I can say with confidence that there was nothing about Sunday that felt like a day of rest (except sleeping in and tuning into our church’s online worship service while still in my pajamas).
On Sunday I needed rest. I sat around all day, but it wasn’t rest. A big chunk of the day was spent consuming news that wasn’t new, except for the God-awful, rising number of COVID-19 cases and casualties, which only further prevented any sense of rest. Watching the news only fed fear and anxiety, doubt and disbelief.
WACO, Texas (March 25, 2020) – In a difficult and ever-changing time of crisis surrounding the spread of coronavirus, the basic needs of health and safety come first. But as these basic physiological needs are met, the more advanced care for spiritual and mental health can remain overlooked or ignored altogether.
Baylor University’s Holly Oxhandler, Ph.D., LMSW., associate dean for research and faculty development and assistant professor 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.
WACO, Texas (March 17, 2020) – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease are at a high risk for the coronavirus.
The virus hit hard in late January at a nursing facility in the state of Washington, where a number of residents died. As a result, the CDC has recommended strong restrictions on visitors to long-term care facilities, and the health organization continues to preach limited physical contact and “social distancing” – creating intentional space of six feet or more between each person – to stem the spread of the virus.
I’ve always considered myself an “outgoing introvert,” meaning I like people but prefer to be alone. It’s almost a week into social distancing, and I’m already starting to question if I’m actually a full-blown extrovert.
I find myself craving human interaction, and my house is feeling a little smaller than normal. My ongoing inner refrain has become, “This is what caring for your neighbor looks like,” and I’ve worked it into mindfulness exercises during these last few days.
What a difference a few weeks make in the way the world operates. Widespread limits on social interaction, closing of restaurants and other gathering places, and the moving of worship services to online-only experiences are just a few of the ways the world is a different place today. Political leaders insist the changes are both necessary and temporary. The importance of “flattening the curve” to reduce the rate of Coronavirus infection escalation is essential to protecting the most vulnerable among us. Limiting the size of crowds, elbow bumps instead of hugs, and three to six feet of space between us are some of the operationalizations of social distancing. Others include canceling sporting events and meeting for worship and education on-line.
The Family Health Center of Waco won an award from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians for its model of integrating behavioral health care into doctor visits in its 16 McLennan County clinics.
The Behavioral Health Integration Innovators Competition awarded three Texas clinics for their models of behavioral health integration into existing primary care settings, with a $10,000 prize.
Dr. Alan Keith-Lucas (Keith) is one of the earliest and most influential leaders of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work (NACSW) and a seminal thinker and writer on the integration of Christian faith and social work practice. Many who knew him were both inspired by his understanding of faith and human behavior and energized by his practice wisdom as he valued every human being.
It’s that time of the year again, where we sing about what a wonderful time of the year it is. Hot cocoa, warm fireplaces, Friendsgiving’s and family gatherings galore make this time of year such a special and beautiful time for so many people. Although this season is full of love and giving, this year is hard for me because it is my first year without my sister. Last year on December 5th I lost someone very dear to me, my big sister, Kimberly. She was 28-years old and died from a 10-year battle with diabetes.
December 2019, Baylor's Diana R. Garland School of Social Work alongside Baylor's Office of External Affairs honored the BEAR Project as a Solid Gold Neighbor. The BEAR (Be Emotionally Aware and Responsive) Project, a collaboration between Baylor and Waco ISD, seeks to engage schools and families in the development of internal and external emotional resources that contribute to the social and academic success of children and, ultimately, strengthen Waco’s schools, families and community.
Danielle E. Parrish, PhD, has been named editor-in-chief of the Journal of Social Work Education (JSWE). She takes over from Dr. Joanne Yaffe, whose term ended in December 2019. Parrish will serve a 3-year term, 2020–2022, during which time she also will head the JSWE Editorial Advisory Board and serve as an ex-officio member of the CSWE Council on Publications.
When given the opportunity to develop an innovation project for her Academic Leadership course, PHD student Kayte Thomas drew on her firsthand experience in refugee resettlement to create a program addressing a crucial obstacle for the refugee population: higher education. Through her research surrounding refugee experiences, Thomas confirmed the existence of structural barriers preventing access to a college degree. She also discovered a common thread in the need for guidance between the high school and college transition. This prompted her to create the BRIDGES program (Building Refugee Initiatives to Develop Goals for Educational Success) a peer mentorship program designed to connect college mentors with junior and senior high school students who are either refugees or children of refugees.
Tia Khachitphet, MSW ’15, is making a difference with her passion for helping youth when they are most vulnerable. She grew up in a mental health conscious household, where her mother worked as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and her sister is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Tia’s interest in mental health was sparked when she learned her cousin, who had seemed to be on a path for success, had gotten into legal trouble. She became curious about the influences someone encounters, which lead them to make the choices of committing a crime. Tia learned how someone’s life can be drastically affected by an adverse decision, which motivated her to get involved
WASHINGTON, DC (September 17, 2019) – New research by Ana O’Quin (Baylor University ‘20) and faculty advisor Dr. Stephanie Boddie was published today by the Center for Public Justice (CPJ), a Christian civic education and public policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. Now in its second year, The Hatfield Prize (previously called the Student-Faculty Research Prize) honors the late Senator Mark O. Hatfield, a U.S. Senator from Oregon known for integrating his Christian faith and his public policy commitments. The Hatfield Prize is made possible through the generous support of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Bonni Goodwin, a recent recipient of the Oklahoma NASW’s Emerging Leader in Social Work award, stumbled upon a passion she is now pursuing in the form of a PhD through the Garland School of Social Work (GSSW). Goodwin studied Family and Human Services at John Brown University, received her MSW at Washburn University and now holds a position in the Center for Child Welfare Training and Simulation at the University of Oklahoma while she completes her PhD in social work. While working with an adoption agency in Kansas for her MSW generalist practicum, Goodwin’s eyes were opened to the world of adoption and foster care.
The Spencer Foundation recently awarded Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) a $50,000 grant to study if and how accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) programs incorporate curricula around religion and spirituality (RS) into social work education as well as assessing faculty views around the topic and how universities’ religious affiliations impact MSW education.
Assistant Professor Dr. Edward C. Polson and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development Holly K. Oxhandler are co-principal investigators for the study, entitled “Graduate Social Work Faculty Views on Preparing Students to Ethically Integrate Clients’ Religion/Spirituality in Practice: A National Survey”.
Formerly known as the Center for Family and Community Ministries, the Center for Church and Community Impact (C3I) seeks to strengthen congregations and other religious organizations by providing hands-on training and relevant research. C3I, like the Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) as a whole, believes in the importance of integrating social work and faith in order to foster collaboration and holistic care for others.
Gaynor I. Yancey, D.S.W., professor of social work, Master Teacher and director of the Center for Church and Community Impact at Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, was honored April 12 during the annual Academic Honors Convocation as the 2019 Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year.
Joyelle is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work degree through the Garland School of Social Work, at our Houston campus. We sat down with Joyelle to ask her about her decision to pursue a career in social work, her experience in the program thus far, and her hopes and goals for the future.
Read this inspiring story about a young woman who has big plans to serve others.
Did you know that 43.8 million adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year? Within that 43.8 million, nearly 1 in 25 adults (roughly 10 million) are living with a severe mental illness.
Social workers are in a unique position to offer hope and healing to those suffering from mental illness. Read on to learn about the need for experienced and competent mental health social workers and how a master’s in social work degree best prepares these professionals to meet the need of this growing population.
“The SERVE Project resonated with my core values that include uplifting and empowering women in our society to become the best versions on themselves. I am passionate about being an advocate and giving a voice to women and girls who might not otherwise have one.”
MSW student Sarah Burwell is a research assistant for the SERVE Project, a grant which seeks to Support, Encourage, Respect, Value, and Empower women and girls. The SERVE project is dedicated to learning how to best serve women and children who have undergone traumatic events.
Podcasting … a seemingly vast and overwhelming realm of possibilities. Any topic one might be interested in is probably available via a podcast, from politics to polar ice caps and everything in between … including mental health. Podcasting is a valuable tool in the mental health care arsenal. Podcasts provide educational opportunities for both those experiencing mental health issues and those wanting to learn more about how to help people cope with and thrive through those issues.
To that end, our own Dr. Holly Oxhandler, associate dean of research at the Garland School of Social Work, is now co-hosting “CXMH: A Podcast on Faith and Mental Health”. According to its creator, Robert Vore, CXMH is at the intersection of faith and mental health, bringing Christian leaders and mental health professionals together for “honest conversations”.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” (Col. 2:6) While everyone’s walk with the Lord is different, Dr. Louis Gomez, MSW ’08, has found his calling by serving vulnerable populations.
This year, Gomez was named the chair of the Board of Advocates (BOA) at the Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) after being a loyal member for several years. Before joining the BOA, he was a part of the Houston Master of Social Work Committee, helping the GSSW open its second campus.
Whether working with the refugee community in Kampala, Uganda, interviewing vulnerable youth in Western Africa, or beginning her master’s degree at the Garland School of Social Work in Waco, Texas, Elizabeth Mukasa stated that faith has been the driving force in her desire to know and help others.
“Faith is the only reason,” Elizabeth explained. “[My mindset is] just following what Jesus did, whether I’m a social worker or not. I mean, he spoke against injustice, and I don’t think I can be a Christian and look at injustice happening. He fed the poor. I cannot see my neighbor being hungry and not look for ways to help them. So, my faith is part of it. It’s not a profession for me; it’s how I live out my faith.”