Baylor alumna Liz Ligawa loves impacting individual lives and communities, everywhere she goes, so pursuing a career in social work was a no-brainer. She recently received her Master of Social Work and a Master of Divinity. She now serves as the Director of Community Engagement at Prosper Waco, an organization that strives to make true social impact in the city of Waco, raising the quality of life for Waco’s marginalized community.
She describes this position as a macro social work practitioner’s role, as the work she does affects the local community on a large scale. In her position at Prosper Waco, she focuses mostly on poverty and poverty reduction in Waco.
In an interview, Ligawa, MSW ’16, discussed how her time at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work greatly prepared her to work in a setting where she is the only social worker in the office. She said that, in this environment, it is crucial she be an excellent communicator and seek to find common language to seek common goals with others. Being able to communicate and show your value keeps you from becoming isolated and not bringing the impact you are capable of as a social worker.
“We are needed in so many more settings than are traditionally thought of as where [social work] practitioners’ skills are needed,” Ligawa said. She went on to challenge her peers, saying, “If we’re only comfortable among practitioners, then the world doesn’t get the benefit of us because we don’t go into these environments that really require us.”
Ligawa has seen the way her presence has impacted Prosper Waco since she took her position, so she believes that the same power to make a difference is found in so many other social workers, they just need to get out of their comfort zone to see it come to life.
Ligawa has a personal passion for affecting policy and hopes to work closely with changing national policy in Washington, D.C. one day. She believes that social workers have a unique and valuable lens when it comes to viewing systemic policy, so she wants to use her background and experience to work with policy-makers in order to change not just her local community, but the nation. She cites her time studying at Baylor for giving her the courage to seek making this national impact.
Even in Waco, she has been able to be a part of policy change, such as decreasing the punishment for truancy, which will allow for more children to stay in school rather than being arrested for truancy. Long term, this helps students stay in school and be more likely to find employment, as they don’t have criminal records. Regarding her desire to work with policy, Ligawa said, “What I’m realizing is that when God has a purpose for how you’re designed, He already has a place for that to play out.”
Overall, Ligawa reiterated that social workers need to be confident and bold in order to see the impact they are capable of come to fruition in the field of social work. She highlights the great need for collaboration between social workers and others in the community when she discussed the importance of “not just partnering…on a professional level but [seeing] communities and residents…as coproducers of outcomes.”
Note: This article was originally published here.