What a gift it is to move from the beautiful anguish of vocational liminality to a place where I feel confident to lead and to serve. I loved my first year serving as your dean. Having a year prior as interim was a nice launchpad for this opportunity. Having an amazing faculty and staff make the role pure joy. I spend more time planning, budgeting, and organizing, but I am still engaged in some research, looking at spirituality and leadership through the lens of the Enneagram. I am still teaching, this year a Human Behavior course with undergraduates who are just beginning their coursework in the social work major.
As I step into a second year with even more confidence, I celebrate our amazing new president, Linda Livingstone, and her appointment of Micheal McLendon from the School of Education as interim provost. They are the right team at the right time as we step out of our Title IX struggles into the future God is preparing for us. The university is embarking on a new academic strategic plan that expands the compelling scholarship aspiration of Pro Futuris as we strengthen our research focus.
What does this mean for social work? Social work practice seeks to be rooted in the richness of practice wisdom and at the same time, a body of evidence rooted in research. Social work research compares interventions, develops best practices, evaluates new models and analyzes data in the field seeking to understand our best responses to the needs of the populations we serve. Here in the Garland School, we are not just teaching our students how to practice in the profession based on what other scholars are learning; we are building our own body of research and seeking to translate it into practice. Each semester our website highlights a faculty member’s research and what it offers the profession. These same faculty are teaching undergraduate and graduate students the skills that make a difference in the lives of others. In the years to come, we plan to seek out more funding for our research, develop more partners in what we are investigating, and disseminate more widely what we are learning. The whole university is taking a big step in the direction of strengthening transformational research, and we are excited about the value this has for the preparation of social workers here.
Adding to the excitement of a new year, we are getting ready to announce a new endowed chair shared with Truett Seminary. This will be our second joint appointment as Dr. Stephanie Boddie joined us in a similar position held in social work, education, and the seminary. We have new gifts to support our Houston campus and continued growth in Waco. We are poised to launch a virtual advanced standing MSW program next summer and continue the growth of our Houston program, where we currently have 25 students. Similarly, our PhD program, led by Drs. Rob Rogers and Jim Ellor, welcomed its third cohort this summer. We have had three graduates from the program, and have 15 students currently enrolled.
The BEAR Project, a partnership with Waco ISD, and Mastering Your Marriage, a partnership with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, continue to garner support, provide students with excellent learning opportunities, and have strong evaluation components. These funded projects and other collaborative innovations, seen in strategic initiatives focused on trauma, diversity, global mission leadership, congregational ministry, and gerontology, are ways our faculty continue to keep the school strong.
In these pages, you will ready about these efforts and more, and I hope to hear from you soon,