Briana Fowler is a first-generation college student from Austin, Texas, who, in her words, is a work in progress just trying to be a better version of herself every day…so much so that she has a tattoo that says it. And she is the 2022 Alicia Martinez MSW Spirit of Social Work Award winner.
The Spirit of Social Work award is intended for students who embody the spirit of social work through engagement in and beyond the classroom, and who demonstrate a commitment to the values of the profession, and last year it was renamed to honor MSW student Alicia Martinez who lost her battle with COVID-19. Alicia was such a shining example of the spirit of social work both in and out of the classroom, and it only seemed fitting to honor her legacy in the profession through this award and judging by the words of one of Briana Fowler’s recommenders, Briana could not have been a better choice for of this award.
“Every time I am around Briana, I feel this spirit that is so kind, warm, energetic and loving,” a peer said of her. “She has so much passion within her that it rubs off on me. To have this strong desire to help people in the best way I can. I've never met anyone so passionate before. It is her support, words of encouragement, prayers and her walk with Christ that allows myself and others to experience God's love through her.”
Briana is a passionate Enneagram 8 who works for justice and equality and who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, especially if it is to advocate on behalf of others.
“Briana is someone who not only shows up but who orchestrates community among her peers,” one faculty recommender said. “She is invested in excellence in the profession, is committed to diversity and inclusion, and shares her Christian witness with joy.”
Briana believes she was called to the field of social work, but she did not fully realize that from the start.
“I would definitely say I was called to the field of social work and did not know it at all. All of the adversities I have conquered in my childhood and then working for CPS all exposed me to the field of social work,” she said. “I initially was a social work major in undergrad but changed to criminal justice, yet still God mapped it out for me to make my way back and here I am.”
As Briana explores the needs she sees around her, she feels led to advocate for the Black community through representation among Black mental health professionals.
Every time I am around Briana, I feel this spirit that is so kind, warm, energetic and loving. She has so much passion within her that it rubs off on me. To have this strong desire to help people in the best way I can. I've never met anyone so passionate before. It is her support, words of encouragement, prayers and her walk with Christ that allows myself and others to experience God's love through her.
“There is a real need for more Black mental health professionals to help destigmatize receiving therapeutic services, which is just [one of the] reasons I am so passionate about helping uplift and advocate for the Black community,” Briana said. “I am reminded of this every time I was at my internship and every time I reflect on my own life and the experiences of my family. Representation matters, and Black people feel safe when they see themselves in positions of helping professionals.”
This year, Briana interned for the Garland School’s BEAR Project at Waco High, the first time for BEAR to serve inside a high school. She served as a mental health professional providing individual and group-based services to students as well as crisis intervention services. She also trained school staff in Trust-Based Relational Intervention and trauma-informed practices.
When asked about what it meant to receive this award, she said, “I’m honored to receive such an award, especially after it being changed to the Alicia Martinez award, because it stands for who I am naturally while also still giving honor to a fellow GSSW honoree.”
While at the GSSW, Briana served as president of the Phi Alpha Honor Society and was a member of the Black Leaders Moving Social Work student group. Her plans after graduation include working toward her LCSW with the hope of one day coming back to Baylor as an adjunct while working on her PhD.
Sic, ‘Em, Briana! You are the very essence of the spirit of social work, and we cannot wait to see the difference you will make in your community and in the individual lives of those you serve.