By Laine Zizka ’19
The transition from military service to higher education can be difficult, and a career in socialwork is anything but easy. For Department of Social Work alumna Megan Morris ’19,though, it couldn’t have been more natural.
From eight-year Air Force veteran to studious social work student, Harris College alumna Megan Morris has taken flight as a caring force both in and out of the classroom.
Morris says growing up as a middle child instilled an ability to recognize inequality and differences in how people were treated.
“I felt like everybody should be treated equally and that blossomed into something else,” she said.
When she realized she could channel her passion into a career, Morris found her calling in social work.
Morris transitioned from the military, working as a dental assistant in the Air Force, to the classroom when she decided to come back to school at TCU. The Department of Social Work seemed like a natural fit, offering supportive faculty and opportunities for service learning and field education within the large, diverse Dallas-Fort Worth community.
When she arrived, faculty and classmates alike were impressed with her intelligence and sincerity. During her last semester at TCU, Morris was even recognized as the Department of Social Work senior scholar, a recognition determined by faculty consensus and awarded to students who represent academic excellence and outstanding achievement.
“I was pleasantly surprised because I had her in class and students don’t always speak up – and she did,” said Lynn Jackson, an associate professor of professional practice and the director of field education for the Department of Social Work.
Jackson described Morris as serious about her education, hard-working, fun-loving, but, above all, intentional and caring in her actions – traits that pay dividends for a social worker.
“She really cares about people and I can see through the works that she does that she really wants to make a difference for people,” Jackson said. “You can tell by the things that she does, the way that she brings up certain topics that it’s genuine for her.”
In fact, Morris’ attitude seeps into everything she does.
“She was definitely a leader [but] didn’t just take charge without listening to other people,” said Katie Lauve-Moon, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work. “She never backs down from a challenge and she does it with just a really positive attitude and just an enthusiasm to learn.”
Morris brought that same intelligence and sincerity to her field work at the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, where she helped create policy and write grants, all while breaking down negative perceptions about those experiencing homelessness.
One of her most noteworthy projects was a homelessness simulation for 13-17-year-olds. The experience highlighted the impact of poverty on living life.
“In an hour’s time, you’re kind of putting yourselves in the shoes of a homeless person, seeing the process that they go to, the way they’re treated, the systems that they have to go through to get services,” Morris said.
She also worked in conjunction with her supervisor to develop accessible housing that could be offered to Fort Worth’s unsheltered residents.
“It’s kind of hard to house somebody if there’s not enough housing,” Morris said. “[My supervisor] has created this for-profit [system] where investors can invest their money then get a small return on their money.”
TCU’s Department of Social Work places a significant emphasis on the capstone field work experience that informs students’ future careers.
“The idea is that they’re working up so that, by the time they get done, they are able to demonstrate that they can work more independently and that they can really function as a social worker at the bachelor level,” Jackson said.
In and out of the classroom, social work faculty work hard to impart invaluable wisdom that can’t quite fit into a PowerPoint presentation.
“One thing that it is very hard to teach people is to be empathetic,” said Jackson. “That’s really important to have that empathy for people – also tempering that with what you are able to do in a professional role.”
In addition to empathy, Lauve-Moon thinks the key to social work is looking beyond circumstance.
“[The key is] seeing people and seeing the way society is structured in ways that don’t give them equal opportunities,” Lauve-Moon said. “Recognizing social structures and how they impact people’s lives – and fighting against the unjust parts.”
Without a doubt, both professors glowed at Morris’ ability to tap into these key characteristics of social work.
During her last semester of undergraduate education, Morris reflected on her field work opportunities through the Department of Social Work and couldn’t imagine being anywhere but TCHC, thanks to her field education experience with the organization.
“I’ve developed a loyalty [at TCHC] already; I don’t want to leave,” Morris said. “I can’t really envision that right now because the community is going to change in the next 30 years.”
Most of all, Morris wants to take her cumulative knowledge and skills, earned through an honorable Air Force career and an empowering experience in TCU’s Department of Social Work, and use them to dispel stereotypes about the social work field.
“We’re just people that want to make a difference in the community,” she said.