Seniors Joshua Thompson, Rebekka Conz, Tierra Smith, and Misty Epps became part of Mary Baldwin University’s newest national honor society, Phi Alpha, which recognizes excellence in social work. The society’s slogan, “Through Knowledge — the Challenge to Serve,” demonstrates its purpose. Mary Clay Thomas, assistant professor of social work, gave credit to Smith for bringing the group to campus.
“She has spearheaded this process; it was her idea. She got all the paperwork done and led the induction ceremony,” Thomas said. “She’s a real leader.”
To earn membership in Phi Alpha, social work students must achieve an overall grade point average of 3.25 and a 3.5 GPA in all social work courses. Members must also demonstrate their dedication to the standards, ethics, and goals of the profession. The four seniors will wear special regalia, a single gold cord, at Commencement in May to symbolize their accomplishment.
“It encourages the students to perform excellence,” said Gauri Rai, associate professor of social work and faculty advisor to Phi Alpha. “These social workers are getting ready to go out into the community and make changes for those who need them.”
During the induction ceremony in December, new members lit candles that were once lit by the world peace flame, which burns continually in Snowdonia National Park in Wales and encourages the pursuit of peace around the world. Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox gave a speech at the ceremony in which she expressed her pride and admiration for the social work program and its students.
“Throughout the [accreditation] process, in speaking to the board, in making our case to the donor, it was our students’ passion for the profession that made it all so compelling,” Fox said.
Smith recalls the ceremony with excitement, “To see it all come together was an amazing experience for me and was a huge accomplishment. I believe my favorite moment was obtaining my certificate for membership because it showed that my work in and out of the classroom had paid off.”
Membership in Phi Alpha gives students access to scholarly and professional resources, as well as scholarship opportunities. Members of Mary Baldwin’s chapter will also have the opportunity to participate in community service and outreach projects.
Smith, a native of Fredericksburg, is interning at Mary Washington Hospital during the spring semester with a focus on case management for stroke, ICU, delivery, surgery, and dementia patients. She hopes to pursue work in social welfare policy after graduation.
“I feel there is a lot that can be altered within the system,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to be a part of the president’s cabinet as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.”