WNMU “Catapulted” Aspiring Social Worker to Grad School

WNMU alumnus Samuel Davenport at UCLA, where he is enrolled in a Master of Social Work program.

© Western New Mexico University

WNMU alumnus Samuel Davenport is the only WNMU student, maybe the only person ever, to be awarded three BUILDing Scholar summer internships in a row. This most recent go-around, he evaluated the effectiveness of mobile health fairs for people who are homeless and created templates to share with other cities to assist homeless populations. This fall, he started a master’s degree in social work with a full scholarship.

Davenport said the BUILDing Scholars program provided experiential learning through engagement with research. Students benefit from working with professionals who are most intimate with their fields. “My BUILDing Scholars mentor was a professor in social work. She’d engaged in different ways to advocate for underserved populations, focusing on individuals experiencing homelessness,” he said. “My mentor helped me understand better what advocacy is all about and the role of a social worker to ensure a positive difference in the communities.”

And it was his WNMU mentor, Dr. Jennifer Johnston, who first introduced Davenport to the program. “What she and others had done to help me prepare for each summer was to provide me with other experiences in research,” he said, specifically naming an analysis on narcissism and its relationship to mass shooters that he and another student worked on with Dr. Johnston. “Once I got a taste of research and what that entailed, I thought it might be something I want to do as I continue with my academic journey.”

WNMU prepared Davenport for entry into graduate school in a number of ways, he said, namely by providing him with a robust an undergraduate education. “WNMU helped me to understand the profession that I wanted to get prepared for. It provided me the experiences and resources and support I really needed to get my degree,” he said. “The psychology program helped me define the importance of human behavior as it relates to advocacy work.”

Social work has long been Davenport’s calling. “Since at least around the 1950s, the common theme that has been talked about all across the nation is the importance of equal access. An example: education. We’re talking about a child’s opportunity to attend whatever school they have access to. A common theme recently is talk about equitable access. Equal access speaks more to meeting a standard. Equity speaks to meeting the client or individual where they’re at,” he said.

It’s a difference Davenport understands first hand. “If it wasn’t for the faculty at WNMU who were willing to provide me with the knowledge and direction, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. There’s a list of people at WNMU who provided this critical role of support that I needed to achieve the things I have,” he said. “There was a point in time, even in high school, where I experienced self-doubt, felt inadequate. I didn’t feel like I was a student who would even attend college or graduate school at UCLA. It’s the academic, emotional support that I received from WNMU faculty that helped catapult me in the direction I’m walking today.”

Click here to watch the documentary Davenport co-produced about his work with individuals experiencing homelessness.

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