I knew this semester was going to be a pretty busy one (past students have all warned that this is the worst semester of the program; you could almost hear ominous music start to play in the background whenever the topic came up in conversation last year), but hearing myself tell my sister everything all at once the other day really made me realize the enormity of everything I've taken on...and I'm excited about it! Here's a look at what I'll be up to through December!
I have 5 classes: Administrative Practice in Social Work, Research Seminar, Introduction to Advanced Internship III- Community Practice, Frameworks and Perspectives for Community Practice, and Advanced Practice: Community Practice. Each have big projects and assignments and readings throughout the semester, of course. As a couple examples: I will be planning a research project to be carried out this winter and completed next semester, hopefully something that will be a benefit to the agency I will be working with, too. As a class, those of us in the community practice concentration will be working to come up with a plan (something from almost nothing) to increase volunteerism and engagement among residents of five more rural counties surrounding McLennan county (that's huge! our class of 13 working in 5 different counties). We will be presenting our plan in December to the Heart of Texas Council of Governments, so it's not just a school project, it is almost like we are hired employees of the City, giving us real experience and holding us accountable to the people and clients we serve, not just to a grade. I like the graduate Baylor program because I can every day see the value in the readings and assignments we are tasked with, that extends far beyond the classroom and these two years in the program. We are learning for life, now, and that's learning of the best kind.
I also am still working as a graduate research assistant for the Texas Hunger Initiative, 20 hours a week. I got this position in February; I was brought on to work due to a grant that THI received, and with this comes full tuition remission and a good hourly wage. So, I will do whatever they need me to do. :) In all sincerity, though, THI is a great organization doing wonderful things around the issue of food insecurity in Texas and the United States, and I am truly honored to be a part of it. And for that reason alone I would do whatever they need me to do.
Next week our internships start. For the fall semester it's 7-8 hours a week of orientation and training, preparing ourselves for working full time at internship for our final semester in the Spring. My internship will also be with the Texas Hunger Initiative, at their Waco Regional Office (they have, in the last year, expanded to 12 regional offices around the state of Texas!). So I will be doing different, hands-on things in the Waco community, in contrast to the more research/office oriented work I do as a GA. I am in deep with THI, you might say.
I am also the treasurer for the Graduate Social Work Student Association. There are four of us officers, and we will be planning and executing service and social events through the semester. We have our first event, a welcome back picnic this Saturday, and we just found out that we got a spot for our tailgate at the homecoming game! We also have meetings twice a month, more as needed for event planning and such. The Baylor School of Social Work community is a great one, and I hope to help others find their place as I have.
I also, on my own and due to my own curiosity, desire to help and need to be involved (and not sleep, apparently), have been in touch with the Executive Director of Temple Parks and Leisure Services (the Leslie Knope of Temple, I like to think), about the possibility of creating a community garden. I walk my dog at Lion's Park in Temple often (every day before school started, and on the weekends now), and they have large, open fields. I've seen little baby trees watered through some irrigation system. So I got to thinking and wondering about what might be required to add a community garden to the many offerings of the park, or perhaps elsewhere in Temple. At the start of the summer I also spoke to the Nutrition Director of the Temple Independent School District about how I might be able to help them with their summer meals programming for next summer, so I plan to stay in touch with that as well. I am looking forward to learning a bit more about this community in which I am currently pretty isolated.
In addition, I have a dog and two cats to take care of! I wake up during the week at 4:45 am to go jogging with Luna, and leave for Waco between 7 and 7:15. My animals are the best, so it's all good there.
I also, and most importantly- because without this my life would be unbearable- have made and grown very close to my wonderful friends and cohort at Baylor. I always tell people that I really loved high school, because it was basically getting to go hang out with my friends all day, and that's how I feel now (the school work is more intense, though). I get to be with smart, passionate people that I really really like, learning and engaging in great conversations, with professors I really admire, and making a difference of some sort in the world. It is still rough at times and I still feel out of place now and then, but I have fallen in love with the life I have at Baylor and in Waco, and that is the best feeling. I haven't felt this sense of joy in community since my theater days back at American University in '08 and '09, and I didn't know how much I missed it.
So, yes, it's a lot, but whatever this semester has to bring, I say- bring it on! (and maybe also bring me a 5 hour energy or two)