By Jade Mardirosian
Baylor’s School of Social Work celebrated its new location in downtown Waco with an open house on Wednesday.
The event included welcoming remarks from Dr. Diana Garland, dean of the School of Social Work, Dr. Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost, and Waco Mayor Jim Bush. Visitors toured the new facilities located at 811 Washington Ave.
Garland said the school began in 1999 and was located in the then-new Speight Plaza Parking Garage. After growing to a faculty of 18 and a student body of about 270, the school had outgrown its old location.
“Fortunately the wonderful administration of Baylor University is very creative and very visionary and they made the decision along with Gordon Robinson to prepare this building for us right in the heart of the community we serve symbolizing the vital relationship between Baylor and Waco,” Garland said.
The school’s dean described the school building as elegant, and said the social work faculty and students are thrilled with the new location.
“We are home to a treasure house of students who have hearts on fire for people in need; we are home to faculty doing research on ending hunger, stopping slavery, strengthening marriages and lifting families out of poverty,” Garland said. “We have long prepared for this event I cannot think of a more fitting group of people to gather and celebrate with us.”
Students have spent this semester at the new location and are enthused about the opportunities the move has afforded.
Waco senior Abigail Felix said the new downtown building has brought attention to the school, among other things.
“I feel like it brings a lot more awareness not only to the students at Baylor to let them know we have a school and this major exists but it’s also awareness to Waco,” Felix said. “Part of the reason we decided to move downtown is so that we would have more opportunities to reach out to the community down here, so I think with our move here and our existence letting Waco know we are here would create a good opportunity for us to connect with agencies in Waco to help out in any way that we can.”
Davis spoke about the collaborative process of moving the school to its new downtown location.
“This new location is symbolic of the relationship between the school and the university with our community. It’s not moving off campus but moving campus toward the city, something we at the university need to continue to do,” Davis said. “Of course the school of social work has been a leader in this regard. They represent the heart of Baylor’s mission, tackling issues that matter.”
The event also featured the opening of an exhibit featuring award-winning photography taken by Mark Menjivar, a Baylor School of Social Work alumnus. The exhibit, titled “You Are What You Eat,” will be on display at the school until April 29. The exhibit includes 20 of the series’ 36 images made by photographing the interiors of refrigerators from across the United States.
Garland thanked Menjivar for the exhibit and “for being such an incredible exemplar of this school.”
Menjivar graduated in 2002 and spoke briefly at the open house, thanking the school for hosting his exhibit.
He also explained the profound role the school has had on his life.
“There is a great writer, Frederick Buechner, who says that vocation is found at the intersection of the world’s greatest need and your deepest desire,” Menjivar said. “The School of Social Work has helped form those two things for me and to show me what those are and I look forward to seeing what occurs inside these walls over the next couple of decades.”