Social Work's Emerging Leaders


SUMMARY: The Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD), an organization supporting the development of social work educators, named JMU faculty Dr. Karen Myers and Dr. Laura Trull as members of their Emerging Leaders program last spring.

By: Brett Seekford '16
Creative Services

Laura Hunt Trull and Karen Myers

Many universities track the development of students: Are they growing as people? Are they contributing to their communities? Do they see the world differently than before they came to college? To meet this goal, universities must consider the quality of the professors the students encounter and the resources offered to them in facilitating success.

The Social Work Department has made it a priority to ensure the growth of their faculty as leaders. The recent accomplishments of two professors in the department show that learning from and supporting one another is an effective way for faculty to continue advancing in their careers.

The Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD), an organization supporting the development of social work educators, named JMU faculty Dr. Karen Myers and Dr. Laura Trull as members of their Emerging Leaders program last spring. In this role, they will work with a group of three peers in their cohort to foster discussion with colleagues around the country about research work and other challenges in academia. This distinction is noteworthy, as two faculty members from the same university were chosen to join this select group from a nationwide pool of applicants.

“I had this real feeling of admiration for Laura, hoping we would both earn this distinction—not just one and not the other,” Myers explained. “I knew we would bring something different to the BPD Emerging Leaders program despite coming from the same university.”

They soon found out they had both been chosen for the new cohort. “I couldn’t believe they picked us!” Trull said. “While I think we’re aligned philosophically, we bring different skillsets to the table and I was so happy BPD recognized that.”

As part of the program, they attended a conference in Dallas, Texas, where the preceding cohort passed the torch to them. Myers and Trull heard about the challenges and successes of colleagues from different parts of the country.

“It was nice to hear that we’re struggling with similar things as educators regardless of where we come from,” Myers said.

Trull agreed. “We’re not necessarily defining leadership so much as operationalizing what it means for us. For these five selected leaders from across the nation, we have some mentoring from the only other prior cohort,” she said. “We’re building the spaceship as we’re flying it, not really sure of the destination, but we know it’s grand and personal.”

Their cohort will lead some sessions at the next BPD conference in New Orleans this spring. They hope to present their scholarly work while engaging with other professionals to address their needs. Their focus is on providing a framework under which conference attendees feel they can learn from others while expressing themselves.

But while they help others cultivate leadership skills, Myers and Trull plan to develop as leaders themselves. “Leadership is broadly defined, and I’m more of a quiet, behind-the-scenes leader. I think this cohort will help me develop professionally while helping others,” Myers said.

Trull attributes her leadership potential to her role at JMU. “I think we all lead by example, not just with students but with colleagues and frankly the university. I feel our department, in general, helps us stand in roles to influence leadership.”

Their new positions as BPD Emerging Leaders, while helpful in cultivating new skills and knowledge, also brings greater national attention to JMU’s Social Work Department. The department can benefit from professors more attuned to their own needs as well as the needs of their students.

“Out of just five people, two were chosen from this university,” Trull said. “It’s another feather in the cap of JMU.”

Published: Thursday, September 29, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2016

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