First-generation student Javana Joyce says the opportunities, experiences and support at BGSU inspired her to create public good through social work advocacy.

Learning to lead: First-generation student credits BGSU 'village' in shaping her future

Senior Javana Joyce inspired to advocate, create public good in social work

By Laren Kowalczyk '07

Javana Joyce wants to lift people up and to treat them compassionately regardless of their situation or the labels they’ve been given by society.

She wants to help children and teenagers navigate their feelings and teach them that mental illness doesn’t mean they’re broken.

Most of all, she wants to make a difference.

“I’m going to go to graduate school and become a therapist, and I’m going to change the world,” Joyce said.

Joyce says the experiences, opportunities and support of Bowling Green State University have prepared her for that endeavor.

When Joyce arrived on campus as a first-generation student from Columbus, Ohio, for the Fall 2019 semester, she said she was unsure of many things. But now, as she embarks on her senior year, Joyce said she's more confident than ever in her abilities as a leader, change-maker and future licensed clinical social worker.

“Similar to the quote about it taking a village to raise a child, BGSU takes its village and raises leaders,” said Joyce, who is majoring in social work. “I wouldn’t be the same person I am without all the things BGSU has given me.”

Self-care advocacy

Among her many impactful experiences at the University, Joyce said her involvement in the McNair Scholars Program has been profound. The program supports first-generation, low-income or underrepresented students in their pursuit of graduate studies. 

Joyce recently completed an eight-week research project as a part of the program’s Summer Research Institute. During that time, she focused on self-care in the social work profession, prompted by a change to the National Association of Social Workers code of ethics in 2021 that specified “self-care is paramount for competent and ethical social work practice.”

To evaluate the impact of the amended code, Joyce researched the social work curriculum of 15 universities in the Great Lakes region and found only six with a mention of self-care and only one with a class on self-care. She presented her findings at a conference at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, in the summer.

Joyce said the BGSU social work faculty recognized the importance of her research and are using it to explore implementing self-care into the University’s curriculum.

“Self-care is just so important in the social work field,” Joyce said. “Burnout rates are extremely high. Often, people in social work don’t know how to set boundaries professionally. They don’t know how to say no or not take on excessive responsibilities. 

“People in social work professions are driven and passionate and want to change the world. That’s why advocacy in our profession is so important. If one person can make a change and share that information, it can benefit everyone.”

BGSU senior Javana Joyce will graduate in Spring 2023 with a degree in social work and is planning to pursue a graduate degree.

Becoming a leader

Another pillar of Joyce’s educational journey at BGSU has been her role as a student leadership assistant at the Marvin Center for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement. The Marvin Center develops leaders who serve their communities and lead for the public good.

Joyce was first introduced to the Marvin Center during her freshman year when she completed the Inclusive Leadership Certificate, a foundational program for students to develop attitude, knowledge and skills for inclusive leadership. 

Soon after, she applied for a job and has been facilitating those same programs and others since.

“If you had told me I would be doing leadership programming throughout my years here, I would have said, ‘What are you talking about? I’m not a leader,’” Joyce said. “I remember my first time facilitating, there were faculty and staff, people with doctorate degrees and graduate students in the session, and I was a second-year student.

“But I was passionate, and they supported and empowered me the whole time, and it was such a validating experience that I can. I am smart, and I can convey the knowledge and passion I have and plant little seeds to sprout passion in others.”

Kendra Lutes, assistant director at the Marvin Center, has witnessed Joyce’s growth as a leader professionally and personally. 

“Javana possesses many skills,” Lutes said. “She’s a wonderful public speaker and has a beautiful way of connecting with her audience. She has a willingness to be vulnerable and share parts of her story while facilitating. She does so gracefully and in a way that makes people want to connect and develop relationships with her. In addition to that public leadership role she sometimes takes, I see Javana leading on a daily basis in her kindness and care toward others.” 

A role model

Joyce has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her time at the University, is president of BGSU Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society, a Thompson Family Scholar and a Social Justice Learning Community member.

She says every part of her journey at BGSU has impacted her life and future, from learning to be a leader, better communicator and social justice activist to feeling empowered to create change and pursue a graduate degree.

“It’s not just one program that’s helped me,” she said. “It’s all the programs, faculty and mentors. They’ve created my journey and shaped who I am. Those people and programs have helped me develop skills I can use in my career to feel empowered that I’m smart and know how to do things. But also, I can share that empowerment, confidence and compassion with others.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | | 419-372-6349

Updated: 11/18/2022 01:10PM