Baylor Student Joyelle Gaines: Why I Pursued an MSW
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.
Tell us about yourself. What initially sparked your interest in social work?
I am originally from Newark, NJ but my parents now live in San Antonio, TX. I decided I wanted to be with my family, so I chose Baylor as my number one school for academics and location. I completed my undergraduate program at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.
Initially what sparked my interest in social work was a mission trip to Kenya, Africa with my church when I was sixteen. While there, I worked with the prison and foster care systems as a volunteer. A lot of the issues that were elucidated while working with these populations were issues of prostitution, rape, extreme poverty, etc. I learned so much on the trip about people’s different experiences and met with several “social work-type” individuals. I fell in love with the work they were doing and decided on that trip I wanted to help people.
Did you encounter any hesitations, obstacles, or fears when deciding to pursue an MSW? How did you overcome them?
One of my fears was regarding the salary, something I’m sure everyone in this profession has struggled with at one point. Granted, no one should go into this profession with the expectation to make a lot of money. That is not the job, the job is to help people. However, money plays a huge part in our wellbeing so that was a concern of mine.
To overcome this fear I reached out to other social workers and asked them to be transparent and share how they manage the job financially. They were very open with me and told me not to worry. They explained that with the flexibility of the degree, my needs would be met.
Additionally, I am a first-generation student and I struggled both financially and academically during undergrad. This made me feel as if I didn’t have any business going to graduate school. To overcome that fear, I asked a lot of questions about money, housing, scholarships, class size, you name it. If it was on my mind, Baylor heard from me. The faculty and staff were so helpful and made me feel safe in my decision to attend by providing me with the resources I needed.
Why did you choose Baylor for your MSW?
I initially chose Baylor because the second year of the program was offered online. They no longer offer that option, however now that I have been in the program for a few months, I couldn’t imagine leaving. One of the things that continually attracts me to the school is their teaching and openness about the integration of faith and practice.
What do you appreciate most about the program?
There is an overflowing of love and hospitality not just from the faculty, but within my cohort. We are a very diverse group (both age and race) but we get along so well. The classes are always full of different experiences and perspectives, which is refreshing.
Tell us about your field placement through the program. How has that shaped your view of social work?
I am placed at Spring Spirit in Spring Branch of Houston. There, I have had the opportunity to tutor middle and high school kids. I have also been able to run my own group (with supervision of course) for high school seniors, to prepare them for the realities of college. It has been wonderful working there and has given me a more optimistic understanding of social work. This positive experience of social work in practice dispels the stressful, ungratifying, or other negative stereotypes of social work.
Describe the community you have found at Baylor University.
First, let me give a shout out to my cohort because without them I wouldn’t be here! We have become such a family and are always there for each other. When my sister passed away, my cohort rushed in with food, finances, company, phone calls, and texts. I am eternally grateful for them!
The professors, faculty, and mentors are exceptional. They are always open to listening and helping the students. They care about each student, and I always feel supported and loved by the community in Houston.
What are your career dreams or plans?
Immediately after graduation, I would like to take the exam for my LMSW and obtain my LCSW. After that, I will focus on play therapy (the psychotherapeutic approach primarily used to help children ages 3-12 explore their lives and freely express repressed thoughts and emotions through play) and obtain my license/certification in this area. I hope to start a non-profit that focuses on the integration of play and mental health services for children in vulnerable communities.
Is there any advice or wisdom you would pass along to a prospective student?
Fred Rogers once said, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are, gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”
The way that Christ shows love throughout the Bible is through service. Even if you aren’t a Christian, many of our world leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. showed his love for people through service. Every time I see this quote, I replace the world loved with served. I remember that as a social worker, although we may never see it, serving people exactly as they are, gives them the best opportunity for growth — and that pushes me every day.
This article first appeared on our Advocacy in Action blog. To access the original article, click here.
Interested in earning your MSW? Have questions about degree requirements, career outlook, or how to finance your graduate education? Explore our digital resource: Master of Social Work — The MBA of the Helping Professions.