I want to work at the intersection of local congregations and trauma and mental health, so the joint degree was imperative for that work. I needed to be competent in theology, scripture, and practical ministry skills in addition to social work skills, such as interpersonal communication and community development. It was important to me that I could speak both "languages." I also knew that both Truett Seminary and the Garland School of Social Work were highly respected and would give me the best training that I could get.
I think the thing that I enjoyed most was that I could make it what I wanted. I could tailor my classes, research, and projects to how I saw the MDiv/MSW working together. For me, that meant having a concentration in communities while having a specialization in trauma and congregations. I focused my last year of studies working at the intersection of trauma and local congregations, whereas when I started, I didn’t even know if that was a realistic goal. It was so fun to take what I learned from each program and to see them working together to positively impact the local church.
My leadership position within the Congregational Social Work Initiative came with my role as the MSW intern at The Center for Church and Community Impact. I led a team of three other students, and we organized monthly meetings focused on topics that impact churches but can be difficult to talk about, such as race, grief, interfaith conversations, and sexual assault. These meetings brought in community leaders and created a safe space for conversations about these topics and also how ministers and social workers can work together to best come alongside congregants who are experiencing them. It also brought awareness to how important congregational social work truly is and why it is necessary.
It’s beneficial because it allows you to see a person more holistically. People aren’t just biological, social, emotional, and psychological beings. They’re also deeply spiritual beings. And an individual’s spirituality is a part of who they are and impacts everything within them. On a macro level, it helped me understand faith, spirituality, and Christianity even better. If a client comes to me after experiencing some kind of trauma, I can be better prepared to walk alongside them in their immediate pain but also as they’re questioning bigger things such as the character of God or why suffering happens. Truett gave me the theological training while Social Work partnered that with the skills to carry out that theology in a practical way.
Being in this program allows you to experience the best of both worlds. You have experts in both fields that you get to build relationships with and learn from. The professors at Truett and the professors at the Garland School of Social Work are known around the world for their expertise, research, and contributions to academia, yet I got the chance to learn alongside them and get to the know them on a personal level. It’s such a privilege!