Studying social work led Laura Greenough ’19 on a journey of self-discovery. Now, the winner of the Sisters of St. Joseph service award is working to foster self-determination in students at a local elementary school.

“I Could Feel It In My Heart and Soul”

Laura Greenough ’19 always knew that she wanted a career focused on helping others. Before she came to Elms, she began writing a book about overcoming adversities, drawing from her own experiences to create a story about discovering resilience. That’s when her creative side clicked with her educational goals.

“I decided that I wanted to get into a field where I could do more to help others on a daily basis,” said the Westfield, MA, local.

Photo of Laura Greenough '19 with professors Jen Rivers and Autumn MathiasAs a senior, Laura was inducted into two honor societies: Delta Epsilon Sigma and Kappa Gamma Pi, both of which recognize outstanding academic achievement and a commitment to service leadership.

Social work was the natural solution in Laura’s mind, so she scheduled a tour of Elms and a meeting with Autumn Mathais, Ph.D., MSW, LCSW, assistant professor of social work.

“I was completely convinced I wanted to come here,” Laura said. “I could feel it in my heart and soul, this is where I wanted to be.”

The Gift of Self-Determination

Laura’s ultimate goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) so she can offer counseling advice to clients. To prepare for graduate school, she completed 400 hours of fieldwork at McMahon Elementary School in Holyoke, MA, working as an adjustment counselor for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

“I know how much the support and guidance of others has changed my life and made an impact on me,” she said. “When I was in counseling, my counselor recognized strengths in me that I couldn’t see myself — she changed my perspective on life.”

'My whole education here has been a transformative experience.'

One of the advantages to studying social work at Elms was applying what she learned in the classroom to her fieldwork, Laura said. Using core concepts of social work practice — integrity, social justice, dignity, and self-worth — Laura was able to make positive interventions at McMahon.

“It’s about allowing students to have self-determination,” she said. “These small things that I would do or say —  I’ve seen how much that impacts the students.”

A Transformative Experience

After completing her fieldwork, Laura discovered a “true, core belief” in herself. But she also appreciates how Elms as a whole helped her grow and learn about herself.

“My whole education here has been a transformative experience for me,” she said. “It’s been the best time of my life, my time here at Elms.”

Photo of Laura Greenough '19, Javier Cruz '19, and Rachel Magnusson '19In addition to her social work classes, Laura appreciated how the liberal arts courses at Elms enriched her experience on campus. One of her favorite classes outside of her major was Ethics, Spirituality, and Compassion with Fr. Savage, STB, M.Div.

As the president of Pi Gamma Mu for two semesters, Laura developed leadership skills alongside her social sciences cohort. Her skill in social work practice was recognized by faculty, too, ultimately resulting in a leadership honor: the Sisters of St. Joseph Service Award, which recognizes a student’s positive impact on the world and efforts to uphold the mission of the SSJs.

Following graduation, Laura will join McMahon as an adjustment counselor for grades 6-8 while pursuing her MSW.