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.
Learn more about our MSW Intern of the Year, Community Practice: Kyla Wilson!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.’”
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
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.”
Victoria came a long way, both educationally and geographically, to the Garland School of Social Work (GSSW), where she received her MSW in May. Victoria is from Atlanta, GA and studied theology as an undergraduate at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK.
Victoria was named the 2018 MSW Spirit of Social Work award winner, and her experience at the GSSW was greatly shaped by her internship opportunities.
During her first year, Victoria interned with Tri-Cities Ministries, a network of interdenominational churches united to care for local communities around Bellmead, Lacy Lakeview, and Elm Mott, TX. Victoria was charged with launching a case management program, including training volunteers and beginning to see clients, in order to better meet the long-term needs of those within the Tri-Cities communities.
Congratulations to our 2018 MSW Outstanding Student: Elise Jones. From Oklahoma to Norway to Houston, Texas, Elise Jones has called many places home. It wasn’t until she started attending Lutherhill Ministries Camp in La Grange, Texas that she found where she belonged, which propelled her in a new direction of life.
Students often come into a class wondering what it is their professor wants them to learn, but Dr. Helen Harris encourages students to be more personally invested in her courses.
“It’s really important, if students are going to learn, that they engage with their own passion around the topic,” Dr. Harris said. “I have a syllabus that has course objectives, but I don’t know how meaningful those really are to students. One of their first assignments in any class I teach is to write their own course objectives for this course. [I ask] ‘What do you want to take away from this course and how will you know whether, and to what extent, that has happened?’”
Each year, many students have the opportunity to take what they are learning in the classroom at the Garland School of Social Work and go into local communities to make an impact through asset-mapping initiatives.
What is asset mapping, you might ask? Asset mapping is a model of community development where a group goes into a community or organization and takes inventory of what strengths and resources it has. Through this process, students look at what is good and how those assets can be used to make an impact, as well as what could be changed to make a community or organization even better.
Kelsey Moffatt, a second-year Master of Social Work (MSW) student at Baylor, was awarded a 2017 Ima Hogg Scholarship in July. This scholarship awards social work graduate students in Texas $5000 to support their studies and encourage them in their passions for mental health service after graduation. Garland School faculty, including Dr. Holly Oxhandler, Kelsey’s mentor and advisor, easily recognized Kelsey’s strong work ethic in her research and her distinct passion for counseling and improving care for people with mental illnesses.
The Garland School of Social Work’s Master of Social Work (MSW) Preview Day in October gave prospective students a unique glimpse into the program and what their next few years could hold if they decide to pursue an MSW at Baylor University.
A neighborhood school. Each morning children are dropped off at the front entrance of Brook Avenue Elementary School and personally greeted by Brook Avenue staff as they make their way to their classrooms. Each afternoon, those same families are congregated outside of the school waiting to walk home with their children. This is what a neighborhood school looks like.
In August, a new cohort of students began their Global Mission Leadership journey at the Garland School. This group is our fourth cohort in this program, and we are already proud of the work these students are doing.
The Garland School of Social Work and the Waco Independent School District formed a multi-faceted partnership to help WISD students develop emotional resources that can lead to academic success through the BEAR Project. BEAR stands for Be Emotionally Aware and Responsive, and its interns provide personalized attention to help students build skills that can help them stay in the classroom and learn.
Jennifer Dickey from the Garland School of Social Work and Brian Thomas from the School of Engineering and Computer Science collaborated on a multidisciplinary approach to student education and social service, informed by the Christian faith. The team took 26 social work and engineering students to Laredo, Texas, to assess and support the services already being provided to persons who are migrating from desperate situations in