An inaugural social worker's journey, right into humble service

Bachelor of Social Work graduate Lindsey Long poses outside Global Credit Union Arena before Thursday night's Spring Commencement ceremony.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Lindsey Long, among 14 students in the first graduating class in the Bachelor of Social Work program on Thursday night, knows she is not walking Grand Canyon University’s Commencement stage toward material wealth.

“That really is not a motivation for me in this field at all,” she said. “If I can be comfortable and safe with my salary, that’s all I need.”

The California native already accepted her first job as a case manager at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, a Christian nonprofit that helps people facing hunger and homelessness, which follows closely with the Bible verse University Pastor Dr. Tim Griffin gives before every Commencement ceremony from Philippians 2 – a call to be of humble service to others.

“When I learned about social work – that I could serve my community as a job – I was like, ‘that sounds awesome.’ On top of that, I think Jesus is the best example of what a social worker should be. He just loved all, no matter what.”

Director of Social Work Dr. Cheryl McAuliffe and Faculty Chair Dr. Martin McDonell worked hard to ensure accreditation for the Bachelor of Social Work.

It’s why the recent Council on Social Work Educators-accredited program is such a good fit with a Christian college.

“Between the growing need and the high demand, the job itself is a tremendous opportunity to serve other people,” said Dr. Cheryl McAuliffe, director of social work.

“We are so incredibly proud of our first BSW graduates. Their dedication, empathy and commitment to serving others demonstrates the essence of our profession.”

In his speech at Global Credit Union Arena, GCU President Brian Mueller recognized the first BSW class, which also included Alea Minnich. She was happy the program was accredited just weeks before her graduation.

“It took a lot of trust in the process, but in the end, God came through,” said Minnich, who plans to work for a Christian organization in Indiana that helps young mothers and children.

The GCU experience molded their servant mindset.

Long worked as a resident assistant and became a listening ear to freshmen. She soaked in knowledge in classrooms with a small student-teacher ratio that allowed her to get to know other social work students and professors, most of whom had worked in the field and could tell what it was like in real life outside of textbooks.

Then she landed an internship at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, where she heard clients' stories to understand the reality of how they got to this moment in their lives. She learned the center’s approach to integrated care, caring for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of a person.

She saw daily devotions, Bible studies and Chapel as a regular part of every day.

“I got to see a baptism a couple months ago when 50 people were baptized. I’ve seen baptisms before, but the symbolism of being made clean and fresh in the Lord and knowing some of their stories and the pain they have experienced and seeing the joy on their faces coming out of the water was so beautiful,” she said.

Long has learned a lot that has only solidified her choice of social work, including rejecting judgment of people who are in need, which existed at times when she was younger.

“Getting to interact with them, you learn it’s so much more than not having a job or somewhere to live. It’s mental illness, it’s addiction, it’s generational poverty. There is just so much more to it than the inability to get something,” she said.

“It takes more inner healing that people realize, especially if you’ve been under this stress for years and you’ve experienced a lot of pain. They need support. And I don’t think they should be shunned for needing help.”

Lindsey Long (third from left) celebrates with friends following Thursday night's Commencement.

She saw clients’ faces brighten through the weeks, even change physically. “They came back to life a bit. They are recovering, they’ve been sober for months, they feel safe physically and emotionally.”

Her good work there landed her a job just days before she walked the stage Thursday.

Long hopes to incorporate one day what she researched in her senior capstone project, “Approaching Mental Health in Long-Term Shelters Through Nutrition.”

She’ll also know something of those families’ limited budgets, taking three roommates (all GCU graduates) in her first post-college residence.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

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GCU News: An inaugural social worker's journey, right into humble service

GCU News: Social work program earns accreditation, students prepared to meet high need

GCU News: Helping others centers College of Humanities and Social Sciences Showcase

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

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