School of social work strives to integrate faith in a unique way

The Baylor School of Social Work strives to provide students with the tools to reach an ethical, faith-based social work in their teaching. Beyond that, the school of social work tries to provide individual and unique experiences for every student. Photo courtesy of Baylor University.

By Adrienne Redman | Reporter

One of the principles of a Baylor education is the integration of faith and academics according to the Baylor mission statement. The Baylor School of Social Work highlights this combination as one of its core values, and strives to provide its students with the tools to achieve an ethical, faith-based social work practice. The application of this, however, looks different for every student.

The School of Social Work’s website sites the integration of faith and academics as a unique characteristic of a social work education at Baylor.

“One of the competencies we help social workers develop is the ethical integration of faith and social work practice. This means we are also preparing students to serve in congregations, religiously-affiliated and other faith-based organizations,” the website said.

According to Fort Worth senior Elizabeth Petersen, “competency” is the term used by the department for putting these ideas into action.

“Competency is learning the practical ways to apply the skills that we’ve learned,” Petersen said. “For my internship we have our learning contract which goes through competencies that we should achieve, such as diversity, practice and learning how to interact and serve those who come from diverse backgrounds.”

Petersen said Baylor students become proficient in the faith-integration competency through discussion in the classroom as well as with field experience.

“Us being in a helping profession we look at that in the context of being a Christian and how that influences what we do. [Professors] ask, ‘How does this affect you as a Christian?’ Almost every day it’s talked about,” Peterson said.

For many students like Austin junior Jessica Morton, faith can be a driving force toward the field of social work. Morton went on a mission trip to Guatemala her junior year of high school, and afterwards she felt called to advocate for healthcare in developing countries. Morton enjoys the aspects of her education that allow her to “be aware of [her] faith” and how it has influenced her.

“Our whole thing in social work is accepting people where they are, and not trying to influence them,” Morton said. “But it’s important to know where your values are.”

Kerville senior Brie McKinney said she “thinks of social work as a vocation,” and uses this to guide her interaction with clients.

“I like to think that I’m called to do this work, a lot like pastors are called to the Church I am called to work with people,” McKinney said.

According to Morton, the ethical integration of faith and social work is illustrated by having respect for clients, no matter their background. In doing so, Morton has come to appreciate the differences in the world.

“I think it is a beautiful depiction of the diversity of the people that we work with,” she said.

For McKinney, integrating faith into her practice means praying before difficult meetings and talking to clients about her faith when she can.

“I do get to talk about my faith with clients sometimes but I don’t work in a faith based agency,” McKinney said. “Faith only comes up if my clients bring it up, but it doesn’t mean that my faith isn’t present in my practice.”

Social work students are placed in difficult situations and witness harsh things almost daily, which, according to Petersen, may challenge the faith that originally drove them to the practice.

“Sometimes it seems like the little things that I’m doing aren’t really influencing the world,” Petersen said. “But having faith that every interaction with a client is worthwhile and will impact them is so important.”

According to McKinney, it’s the feeling of being meant to do something that keeps her going.

“This is something that God’s put on my heart to do. He’s given me this passion for what I do,” she said.