For the third year running, the Annual GCSW Scholarship Donor & Recipient Luncheon brought together donors, students, GCSW faculty and staff. The luncheon provides an opportunity for our community to come together to champion the cause of social work we all hold so dear. This year, Ph.D. candidate Rebecca Mauldin (pictured above with Dr. Zuñiga y Rivero benefactor of the Zuñiga y Rivero Doctoral Fellowship) shared remarks that gave a special window into the hearts and minds of social work students and scholarship recipients everywhere.
Her speech demonstrates, with humor and illustrative examples, the life changing impact donors have on the lives of students when they choose to give.
I would like to tell you a story and a secret.
The story begins 2 years ago, on a beautiful fall day like today. A woman sits outside, on a deck overlooking the impressive Houston skyline, but she doesn’t notice the view. She’s crying. Recently, she quit her job and left behind friends and family and moved to Houston to earn a Masters and PhD in Social Work.
She’s not crying because she’s lonely, homesick or intimidated by school.
No, she’s crying over a number.
She has just calculated this number and to her, it is huge. It is a five figure number that represents the number of dollars of debt she will have when she graduates with her PhD.
It is no secret that students enroll in the Graduate College of Social Work because we want to make a difference. Listen to student introductions on the first day of class and you will be inspired by the dreams you hear.
What is less apparent is that, along with these aspirations, the heart of a social work student holds some doubts.
The doubts sound something like this:
- Who am I to think I can make a difference?
- People think I’m foolish to care so much.
- My dream is unrealistic. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’m not the one to do it.
We don’t talk much about these doubts, but to understand the secret I’m going to tell you, it’s helpful to know about them.
It’s also helpful to know what happens when a student reads the mail that says, “you have been awarded a scholarship.”
Imagine whooping, hollering, victory dancing, stomping, or some other form of unbridled excitement.
It is a very happy and most uncool moment.
Afterward, when the thrill has worn off a bit, there is a quiet and peaceful feeling that settles in. The feeling comes from an understanding -- perhaps conscious, perhaps unconscious, but a knowing nonetheless – of the secret message the letter contained.
This is the secret I am here to tell you. The secret message goes like this:Dear scholarship recipient,We are writing to you today to let you know that you belong here! You matter to us and you will matter to your clients. We believe in you and we think your dream is important. You are the perfect person to make a difference in the world and we are glad you are here.
This is exactly the message that a doubt-filled heart needs to hear and is a major reason for the most uncool responses I told you about earlier.
As I’m sure you know, the woman in story 2 years ago was me. Today, I stand before you having completed my Masters and in my second year of the doctoral program. And the tears I shed today are tears of gratitude.
When I calculate how much I will owe when I graduate, it is about half of what I anticipated two years ago. A big reason for this is the generosity of donors like you. Without the scholarships I’ve received, there is no way I would be standing before you today.
When I graduate and go forth in the world to make a difference, believe me having ½ the educational debt I thought I was going to have will make a huge difference in my world.
I honestly cannot find the words to express my gratitude for this. So instead, in a moment I’m going to ask my classmates to join me in a round of applause for the donors in the room. I ask you to show them a bit of the energy you felt when you opened your scholarship letter. Let’s applaud for their financial support and for the secret message of hope they sent us.
From the bottom of our dream filled hearts – THANK YOU!
Rebecca Mauldin, GCSW Ph.D. Candidate