The Avila University School of Social Work awarded its annual undergraduate honors this month, recognizing seniors Paige Rackers and Hayley Thagard with the Outstanding Social Work Student and Dorothy Gallagher Awards, respectively. The School announced an additional award, the Field Instructor of the Year, given to Rita Howard, who supervised Thagard at The Groves retirement community in Independence.
“I would like to congratulate our graduating class of 2020 on its achievement and to commend it on its flexibility during a disruptive time,” said Francis Origanti, Ph.D., chair of the school of social sciences and associate professor of social work. “While unfortunately this year, we are unable to hold a traditional farewell to send on our graduating class, we recognize the excellent work of Paige and Hayley, as well as Rita, in exemplifying the best of our department and Avila.”
Rackers, who hails from Jefferson City, receipt of Outstanding Social Work Student is well-earned. An excellent student, she will graduate Summa Cum Laude this May before pursuing graduate studies in criminal justice at the University of Central Missouri. Outside the classroom, Rackers served as treasurer of the Students Social Work Association and contributed to the various activities of the organization.
“I was very surprised by the honor,” Racker said. “I came to understand that college is what you make of it and keeping perspective. When I chose Avila, I was really impressed with the social work program, and it just felt like home. The mentors I met in the social work program, and across campus, challenged me to go outside my comfort zone.”
Named for a former teacher at Avila’s predecessor St. Teresa’s College, the Dorothy Gallagher Award recognizes a social work student who represents the University with distinction in the community. Thagard’s involvement in numerous organizations across campus and Kansas City includes volunteer work with the Student Social Work Organization, Student Ambassadors, the John Knox Village retirement community in Lee’s Summit, and others.
“Getting such an amazing honor and receiving congratulations from my professors and fellow students made me feel that the hard work I’ve put in at Avila has paid off,” Thagard said. “I’m so thankful for everyone who I’ve worked with and who has helped me on this amazing journey.”
The Field Instructor of the Year Award was created to recognize excellent service to the department of social work in supervising a student in practicum. Howard, who supervised Thagard during her time working with patients at The Groves, said her goal as a field instructor was to demonstrate the lessons social workers can only learn through experience.
“Working in the field as a social worker, every day is different and holds different challenges,” Howard said. “Although one has schedules, there are always changes and priorities must change from day to day, sometimes minute to minute. Hayley was always there and ready to do what was needed, even though there were changes throughout the day.”