Taylor University’s Social Work Program equips students for future careers in social work and counseling while cultivating a deeper love for God and His people. The program offers a variety of career paths, and for Cristina Spear ’18, it introduced her to the world of policy where she found her passion.
Since graduating with her JD from the University of Tennessee in May 2021, Spear is currently a Policy & Partnership Fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Violence Prevention Division. She is pursuing her Masters in Social Work from the University of Tennessee.
Discovering a Calling
It was a multi-step process for Spear to land in her current career field. She arrived at Taylor with plans to be an art therapist, citing both her love of art and her heart for therapy, and felt that the social work program was the right step for her. But after taking social work policy classes and serving as a Personnel Assistant (like an RA), Spears found that she had different goals in mind.
Spear realized that her long-term goal was to work at a macro level rather than an individual level. One of the content areas of baccalaureate social work is social policy, and that’s where Spear found her passion. Professors, hall directors, and even a local county judge worked with Spear, each encouraging her in small ways that, together, propelled her towards policy and law school.
“Taylor helps people develop their ethics more and how they want to be perceived and what kind of employee they want to be,” Spear said. “A huge part of our social work degree was the code of ethics that social workers have to follow--taking the time to diligently go through them in undergrad and how they line up with Scripture and learning what it means to be a person of faith and an employee.”
In law school, Spear’s social work degree set her apart. She was one of only a few students who did not have plans to be a practicing attorney, and many of her classmates had undergraduate degrees in political science or similar fields. Her social work background provided her with a more holistic view of law and its greater-reaching effects outside the courtroom, something she holds in high regard.
“Social work does a lot with advocacy for policy,” Spear said. “The law degree helps. I actually understand what enacted laws and acts can do, so the two together really help my job.”
The Taylor alumni network proved invaluable to her when she moved to Tennessee as she was able to connect with Taylor alumni both professionally and personally. Spear’s current roommate and former co-Personnel Assistant in Bergwall Hall, Mackenzie Taylor ’18, introduced Spear to the Violence Prevention section of the CDC, where Taylor works as a public health analyst.
“Taylor has a community outside of the ‘Taylor bubble,’” Spear said. “Never be afraid to reach out.”
Spear said that being at Taylor taught her the importance of having a community, especially one of faith.
“Being a person of faith influences the way that you view social work,” Spear said. “Some of the issues that I read about and deal with--it’s deeply sad, it hurts my heart in a lot of ways. But I have this hope that it isn’t forever.”
Spear is looking forward to completing her Masters in Social Work, and is confident that she’ll be continuing in policy work.
“I’m really excited to learn what I do,” Spear said. “I enjoy learning more about the different policy recommendations for each of the areas we deal with. I love learning from experts on these topics. I love hearing my team be advocates for their area, for each other, and for the United States as a whole. It’s so exciting to see because everyone deeply, deeply cares about preventing violence...it’s amazing to work on a team of ten people and see how much work they can accomplish to better our country and better our neighbors.”
Interested in pursuing social work at Taylor? Start your application today.