Name: Rachel Girdler
Graduation Year: May 2017
Major: Social Work and Public Administration
Current Position: Independently Contracted Research Assistant for the Duquesne University Juvenile Delinquency and Education Law Clinic… Newly appointed Missionary Associate to Ecuador.
City and State: Pittsburgh, PA
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
In December I finished my Master of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh. I was graduating, so I knew I’d have to give up my Research Assistantship (I was working on this really cool study about equitable access to affordable housing and complaints of housing discrimination), but I was also in the process of applying to be a Missionary Associate through the A/G. I spent a lot of time and money working toward a degree I love, but felt it would be bad practice to accept a position (but more importantly, to build rapport with a client base) from a social service agency with the full knowledge that I would be leaving in a few months for South America.
Then a professor of mine mentioned that he had an ongoing research project through a law clinic and would be interested in hiring someone just through the summer. We’re working on presenting a more complete picture of the importance of Holistic Representation for youth going through the juvenile justice system. I got my Social Work concentration in Community Organization and Social Action, so this job seems like a Godsend. I get the flexibility I will need over the next several months to raise my funds to go to the Mission field while also working on a project that incorporates what I love- building better communities!
What is your favorite memory from Evangel?
I have so many that it is hard to choose, but more generally I would say getting really involved with my floor- Shout out to W3N. I decided to join our events team my freshman year and stayed on it for three of my four years at Evangel. For Thanksgiving every year we’d do a midnight dinner at IHOP, but everyone had to dress up for the event. In true American Thanksgiving spirit, I’d always go get large cardboard boxes from Walmart or Todd in the cafeteria and build/paint the Mayflower. Pilgrims have to get to Plymouth Rock somehow, right? It was silly, but definitely one of my favorite college memories. Getting to know and doing life with the girls I lived with truly made Evangel and Springfield my home.
How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?
I’ve wanted to be a social worker since the seventh grade, but by my junior year at Evangel I told the department that “case management would kill my soul.” It was a bit dramatic, but my advisors, who had taken the time to really know me personally, understood my frustration as well as my love for government, communities, and creating change. They helped me find opportunities that fit my passions while teaching me how to use the Social Work Values to truly live out being the hands and feet of Jesus to the most vulnerable in our society.
How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?
I said it before, but I will definitely repeat it- the social work program at Evangel taught me how to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Throughout both the Old and New Testament you see passages of scripture that embody a mandate to be good stewards, take care of the widows and orphans, visit those in prison, provide food and shelter to those in need, etc. The Social Work department leaders adamantly taught this principle. I can remember sitting in class during my very first semester at Evangel being told that “volunteering in church is great, but do it on your own time.” It was required that I not only go into the community but learn to be comfortable being in communion with those who have the greatest need- just as Jesus did. I don’t think that statement was meant to be the point of our seminar, but it really hit home with me. Evangel prepared me to use the degree I gained and the field I love to reach people, simply through being present with them in some of their lowest moments, that may never otherwise encounter Jesus.
(On a different note, I’ll add that after leaving Evangel I went to a nationally ranked top-10 MSW program. I truly feel the education I received at Evangel matched or even surpassed that provided to many of my graduate level classmates. I was definitely well prepared!)
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
Be passionate about what you do! I don’t care if you want to become an actuary or an astronaut for NASA, if you love what you do then people will listen and notice! Hone in on your skill set. Making the commitment to those extra hours of practice or volunteer work can really give you a boost when talking to individuals already in the field. Nothing is worth doing if you don’t care about it!
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?
Know and use your StrengthsFinder results to your advantage! I heard a lot of people complain about how much emphasis Evangel places on the strengths, but taking the time to learn about those strengths (and also the downfall to each strength) is a major point for future employment! You don’t need to list your Top 5 necessarily, but they are great for discussing how you interact with leadership or during teamwork. A self-aware employee is one that organizations want to keep around!