THE HEART BEHIND A TAYLOR UNIVERSITY SOCIAL WORK DEGREE

“Changing my major to social work was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!” says fourth year senior at Taylor University Fort Wayne (TUFW) Andrea Burns. “I changed to social work in my sophomore year because God put a thought in my mind and a passion in my heart to do orphanage work, and I decided social work would be the best major for that career.”

Hilary Fleischmeinn, a brown eyed, curly haired junior preparing to transfer to Taylor University in Upland this fall also switched majors. “My freshman year RA had a big role in getting me started in social work. I’ve always had a heart for sex traffic victims, and I felt it’d be a better major than standard counseling if I wanted to help those victims.”

When TUFW students joke that one just has to throw a rock in any direction on campus to hit a professional writing major, they’re not kidding. Even though the less-heralded social work majors are harder to hit, they are passionate and motivated individuals who work hard so that they can be equipped to fight for what they believe in.

“There’s nothing that burns me more than seeing injustice, especially where children are concerned,” insists senior Stephanie Simpson, who has wanted to be a social worker since she was in high school. “I have always felt passionately that children deserve to grow up in an environment that will nurture, love, and protect them.”

Another senior, Bethany Wheeler, said, “It’s about serving people and reaching out to them in many different ways other than just spiritually.” She will walk at Taylor University Fort Wayne’s final graduation before the undergraduate program closes on May 31. “If I ever get bored of the work I’m doing, there’ll always a new branch of the field I can get into at any time,” she continues. “I like it because there are endless routes I can take in the field. I can do adoption, counseling, criminal justice, medical assistance, or school social work.”

TUFW’s motto “Where your Calling Takes Shape” comes to life in the social work program when the students are required to go out into the city and put to action what they learned in the classroom. In their senior practicum, the students are required to complete 480 hours of work in 14 weeks.

Wheeler is half way through her senior internship at Parkview Behavior Health Clinic, the only inpatient psychiatric hospital in Fort Wayne. “I think the major is a really challenging one at Taylor, and I’m glad for that, because I now feel really prepared to go out and do this work professionally.” She facilitates adolescent group therapy, interviews and gathers information on youngsters and their families to help the doctors figure out the best way to treat them, and sets patients up with follow-up treatment so they can continue to stay healthy after they’re discharged from the hospital.

Simpson explained she felt prepared for her current internship at the Department of Child Services in Grant County, where she works 42.5 hours a week. “My responsibilities include investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect, making home visits, writing up risk and need assessments, taking intakes when report sources call our hotline, preparing court reports and other clerical duties, and supervising visits between children and the parents they were removed from.”

One time during court, the judge lost his voice and asked Simpson to step into the witness stand and read through the proceedings for him. “He stated for the record that everything I said was the same as if he was saying it. Playing judge was pretty entertaining.”

Not only do these students have to complete an internship during their senior year but also a junior practicum. Burns went to India last May and June, where she worked at an orphanage called Christ Faith Home for Children. There she learned about India’s adoption system and assessed the orphanage and the cognitive, social, motor, and language skills of the toddlers there. This semester she is performing her senior internship at Charis House, a homeless shelter for women and children in Fort Wayne.

“I am currently working with a lot of women who have lived life on the streets, been addicted to drugs or alcohol, been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, and who have nowhere to go,” explains Burns. “I have never experienced any of those circumstances personally, and the classroom cannot truly prepare me to comprehend that, but I am learning each day as I stay involved.”

Fleischmeinn has had several internships, but her job at Logan County Children’s Services several years ago was her favorite experience. She reviewed more than 1000 cases and wrote summaries of them, transferred people to doctor and court appointments, and worked with the court department. Fleishmeinn is transferring to Upland this fall, where she will change her degree to sociology and will fulfill her dream to add an emphasis in policy management. “With an emphasis on policy enforcement, I want to fight for sex traffic victims. It’s a global tragedy impacting thousands of women and children.”

Each of these students agreed that the social work program has equipped them with the experience and confidence they need to have when they leave.

“Our classes have covered so many different aspects of social work, I feel pretty comfortable doing just about everything I’ve had to do here,” says Wheeler about her internship.

Simpson was quick to agree that she feels “very prepared” for her job: “The curriculum is strict and challenging, and the credit load is heavy. There’s no room for picking up a course or hobby just for fun.”

Burns adds, “When I talk to alumni who are social workers, they always tell me that the degree they received from Taylor was excellent.” Her brown eyes light up when talking about her major, no matter how exhausted she is. “Many of the things we learn now at Taylor are things most students don’t learn until they go for their master’s degree. That’s really encouraging for me to know!”

It doesn’t take long to see the these social work majors as not only loving and serving people, but also as passionate and ready workers.

“I definitely think this major fits me and the things God has placed on my heart. I love interacting with and serving other people,” says Wheeler, who is also a youth group leader at her church in Forth Wayne.

Burns will walk through graduation ceremonies on May 23rd with her classmates but will actually finish her courses online during the summer. She notes, “I know that it is what I will be doing the rest of my life, regardless of the field or fields of social work I go into. I just want to bring heaven to earth by serving His people.”

 

Laurie Filson is a professional writing major at Taylor University and a freelance writer for Church Libraries and Christian Book Previews.

The Waynedale News Staff

Laurie Filson

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