When Rob and Sue Warfield Caples ’60 gave to Mary Baldwin University to start an accredited social work program, they left a lasting mark on the college community. In 2007, 148 students petitioned the college to begin accreditation processes for a Bachelor of Social Work, and the Capleses answered their call by donating thousands of dollars to their cause. Rob recalls the first time his wife learned that Mary Baldwin students were clamoring for a social work program. Sue, who holds a master’s degree in medical social work, is familiar with the desire to help others. “She said to me, ‘we have to be a part of this,’” he said.
Today there are 48 students with declared majors in social work — 20 of whom are in the Baldwin Online and Adult Programs — and there is an active social work club on campus where interested students work together to host community outreach events. Berra Kabarungi ’14 came to Mary Baldwin to study social work through a partnership with Women for Women International in spring 2011. Kabarungi hails from Rwanda where she served as an international social worker for nearly a decade at Women for Women and other organizations. Even with experience in the field, she felt she could benefit from academic instruction.
“I appreciate this and embraced this opportunity; I am learning a lot I wouldn’t have known had I not pursued a social work degree,” she said.
Residential College for Women student Melissa Anoh ’14 discovered social work through a friend on campus. She discovered the right path for herself after enrolling in Introduction to Social Work, and there was no looking back. “Social work is all about helping, and that’s what I’m about. I love seeing that smile on a person’s face and knowing I’ve helped them,” she said. Next year Anoh will apply to do her field placement in Rwanda at Women for Women International. “My goal is to become an international social worker to help people in developing countries,” she said.
The semester-long field placement sets Mary Baldwin’s program apart from others, said Assistant Professor and Director of Social Work, Mary Clay Thomas. Since she joined Mary Baldwin in 2009, Thomas has organized international field work placements for several students in El Progresso, Honduras in addition to field placements in local social service agencies. “That’s where so much growth comes from. We have a high percentage of students who are employed right after graduation because their internships turn into job opportunities for them.”
“What a gift they’ve given us,” Thomas said of the generosity of the Capleses. “They gave me the opportunity to come here, and in turn, they’ve enabled the students to explore a new field — something they couldn’t have done here otherwise.”