Desire for social justice leads Ward into action for others

Sara Ward has a wide range of professional interests from diversity education to violence prevention, but the underlying theme tying them together is a passion for social justice.

Ward thought that she found an outlet for her passion through family law and the legal system but soon realized the field of social work was her true home.

Sara Ward was actively involved at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, helping kids and serving as co-chair of the student groups Violence Against Women Awareness and Students for Change.
Sara Ward was actively involved at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, helping kids and serving as co-chair of the student groups Violence Against Women Awareness and Students for Change.

“To me, social work is about social justice and social action, and I felt like I could go about my work in more of a holistic and preventative way,” she says. “When I started to understand more about social justice and social action issues, I knew that it was a really good fit for me personally and professionally.”

And she’ll soon be able to put her passion to work. Ward graduates May 16 with a master’s degree from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

After earning her undergraduate degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Ward decided to come to the Brown School because of the option to individualize concentrations and the field education program.

During her second-year practicum, she worked with the children of incarcerated adults through the Let’s Start Agency, based in St. Louis.

“I developed a support- group curriculum for children with a formerly incarcerated mother in the Let’s Start program,” Ward says. “Some of the topics addressed are identifying and managing emotions and communication. This curriculum parallels a research-based program we are piloting that helps formerly incarcerated women address parenting issues.”

Ward and her colleagues recently received approval from the University City school board to start a support group in their school system for students who have or have had a parent incarcerated.

George Warren Brown School of Social Work

On campus, Ward made her mark at the Brown School through her involvement with student groups. She served as co-chair of the Violence Against Women Awareness (VAWA) and Students for Change.

Ward also helped organize a trip to Jena, La., to be a part of the large civil rights demonstration in support of the “Jena Six” students. A group of students from the University joined a St. Louis community group for a bus trip to the protests.

“I felt like I really had to seize that opportunity to do something,” she says. “People in Jena are dealing with so many of the issues that are important to me, and it was an incredible experience to be a part of the demonstration. Just being on the bus for 20 hours was an amazing learning experience in itself.

“I felt so lucky to be on a bus with a diverse group of people from the community who were concerned about the same issues,” Ward says.

Tonya Edmond, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs at the Brown School, says that Ward’s passion for and commitment to social justice shows through in everything she undertakes.

“It is reflected in her formal leadership roles with VAWA and Students for Change but also informally through the support and mentoring she provides her colleagues within the Brown School,” Edmond says.

“Sara consistently models the core principles and values of the social work profession in her service work, the classroom and in casual conversations. She has contributed greatly to the sense of community we strive to establish within the Brown School,” she says.

After graduation, Ward hopes to continue her involvement with the Let’s Start Agency. She’s also considering an international social work opportunity with the Amy Biehl Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa.

“The Biehl Foundation focuses on restorative justice, and I’m very interested in the work they do in the community,” she says. “They do violence prevention work with children in the townships around Cape Town.”

Ultimately, Ward is looking for the dream job that combines all of her interests.

“I’m not quite sure what that job is, but I know it’s out there,” she says. “I’m going to remain open to going where I think the work is that I need to be doing.”