September 18, 2012
Kansas City, MO – One of Avila University’s senior social work students recently was elected to a prominent state position of a national organization, providing excellent recognition for both herself and the University.
Samantha Smith was elected by statewide social work peers to serve on the board of directors for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Missouri chapter. The chapter serves about 2,200 members in five regions across the state.
“The biggest exposure that a social work student can get is being a part of an organization, especially as a board member of the National Association of Social Workers,” said Francis Origanti, Ph.D., chair of Avila’s social work department. “Networking is key when you are in social work practice, and Samantha will benefit from this tremendously.”
Another big advantage of her new board position, Smith said, was that this fall the NASW was offering continuing education instruction, where professionals from all levels of social work come together to provide continuing education. The Fall Institute is a new CE program that the NASW is offering. Smith is serving as an ambassador for the institute.
“By introducing guest speakers … I have been able to network with those in the social work community and practice my public speaking skills in front of peers,” said Smith, who lives in Raymore, Mo.
Also, while at the last board meeting recently held in St. Louis, Smith was appointed as a committee member of the NASW-Political Action for Candidate Selection, a committee which provides support in various ways to political candidates that support NASW values and political agendas.
“This is a great way to get my foot in the door in regard to macro social work,” she said.
Smith said that, while reviewing the NASW Code of Ethics, it became obvious to her that the values her parents taught her growing up in Kansas City, Mo. laid down a foundation of what a good social worker does.
Origanti said those qualities have shown every day in her studies and practice of social work.
“Samantha is open to new places, peoples, cultures and customs, has a keen intelligence with which to analyze and order her experience, and has an unusual ability for dealing with people of all ages and conditions,” he said. “Those qualities, combined with her toughness of character, will enable her to understand and empathize with others while never losing touch with who she is.
“She is not only compassionate about people, but very passionate about the social work profession.”
It was other relatives that helped bring Smith to Avila. Two aunts graduated here – one in nursing, one in education – and a cousin is a senior studying business administration.
“I always wanted to go to Avila as long as I can remember,” she said. “It’s more than lived up to my expectations.”
Smith said she thought about following her aunt’s lead and entering nursing school. But while working in a hospital as a telemetry technician, she found herself working next to an area where doctors provided dictation for their cases.
“That was my first experience of what a social worker does,” she said. “It really intrigued me. I never would’ve thought it before.”
In June 2011, Smith applied to Avila’s social work major.
“I realize every day in class that this was meant for me,” she said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Smith’s life-long ambition to attend Avila has been just the right fit for her educational needs, Smith said.
“Avila has set up a foundation to provide me confidence, but also resources and networking opportunities,” she said. “It’s just provided me many opportunities all around.”
One of those opportunities, she said, is performing an internship with Sunflower House in Shawnee, Kan., a non-profit, United Way agency and advocacy center for children.
Smith also said she plans on entering graduate school after graduation and eventually would like to move into more big-picture work like grant writing, legislation and policy. Her election to the NASW Board will provide valuable background for that.
“It’s a real exciting thing,” she said. “It’s something I’m really passionate about.” AU
Avila University is a private, coeducational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.