Huntington University is a Christian liberal arts college in Indiana

Putting feet to faith:

Social work major uses skills, empathy to minister to women
Chynna Wright on advantages of social work degree program at Huntington University, a Christian college.

“I think the Huntington University social work department does a great job of balancing book learning with experiential learning.”

Each day, Chynna Wright put feet to her faith in her role as an education advocate for the YWCA in Fort Wayne, Ind.

She joined the YMCA in November 2008. The YWCA advocates for women’s rights and civil rights and offers job training, career counseling, child care and health and fitness services.

“As an education advocate for the YWCA, I travel mainly to high schools and middle schools and speak about domestic violence, healthy relationships, setting boundaries and related topics,” said Chynna, an alumna from Huntington University's social work program. “I speak about domestic violence to various adult groups as well. The YWCA serves six counties — Allen, Huntington, DeKalb, Noble, Whitley and Wells — so I travel to all these counties to educate people on domestic violence.”

Prior to her role at the YWCA, Chynna served as a family specialist for White’s Residential & Family Services in Wabash, Ind. The agency’s purpose is to “share God’s grace with hurting children and families.” She has since worked at Youth for Christ and is now pursuing public speaking and writing opportunities.

Chynna had a caseload of 13 to 17 children who she visited in foster homes twice a month when she was employed by White's. She maintained relationships with foster parents, biological parents, Department of Child Services’ caseworkers, therapists and other service providers to ensure continuity of care for each child.

“A large part of my job is to be a support for the foster parents,” Chynna said. “They are the ones who work with the children on a daily basis, so they need someone to call when they are frustrated, or need a break.”

As a student, Chynna interned at White’s, and halfway through her experience, the organization offered her a full-time position.

“I think that alone shows that Huntington prepared me very well for this position,” she said. “I think the social work department does a great job of balancing book learning with experiential learning. When I began my job, I did not feel uncomfortable. I was familiar with the terminology and felt that I fit in quickly.”

The social work department requires 20 hours of experiential learning every semester as well as a junior practicum during January Term and a semester-long senior internship. Chynna shadowed a guidance counselor, worked in a homeless shelter, took part in a group at the Bowen Center, spent a month in Uganda, Africa, and shadowed a case manager at her current place of employment.

“It’s hard to sum up all that I learned in these experiences,” she said. “If anything, I’ve learned to take time to look at a situation from every angle before summing up my judgments. I’ve also learned to be sensitive to communication and lifestyle barriers.”

In addition to experiential learning opportunities, Chynna appreciated the chance to cultivate relationships with her peers as well as faculty and staff.

“The small ratio of students to professor was very helpful because I was able to have more focused attention on my needs,” she said. “Because HU was small, I developed relationships with a great number of students as well as staff. I appreciated having professors who were interested in getting to know students beyond the classroom. Most of all, I appreciated the friendships I made that have carried on into my adult life.”

Huntington provided an environment for Chynna to examine her relationship with Christ and to challenge herself spiritually.

“I learned that I have to continue to push myself to seek God’s face even when things are going well – not just in the difficult times,” she said. “I also learned that Christians hurt from some of the same things that non-Christians hurt from. I learned to be sensitive to believers who have a hard time understanding why God would allow so much pain in their lives.”

Although Chynna chose a major that requires intensive outside-of-class learning, she still made time for softball, intramural volleyball and basketball, serving as a resident assistant and participating in fall and spring work days as well as Student Activities Board events. She was chosen for Homecoming court twice and was queen her senior year. She says involvement in extracurricular activities helped her get to know others outside of her circle.

Chynna encourages students interested in social work to consider Huntington – if they like a challenge.

“My advice to future social work students is to push through the hard work because Professors Twyla Lee and Carla MacDonald have put a considerable amount of work into the program, and although it can be challenging at times, there is a method to the madness,” Chynna said.

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