Statement of Purpose
The primary goal of the Brehler Scholarship Manuscript Competition is to encourage social work students to explore their personal and professional values, and the challenges they have faced applying those values in practice situations. It is one thing to talk about the need to allow self-determination or manifest respect for all people, and quite another to distill and demonstrate such abstractions in our interactions with others.
While a student at the Wayne State University School of Social Work, Elizabeth Brehler wrote a paper titled "From Faith to Autonomy" in which she described her struggle with values in her experience growing up, raising a family, and beginning her professional career. In this paper, she highlighted the idea that a life well-lived requires that one navigate a rocky path, but that meaningful growth occurs as one deals with obstacles along the way. Nearing the end of her life, Elizabeth returned to that rocky path, confronting her deficits with a desire to learn and to grow, and recognizing in her strengths an opportunity to serve.
She described one goal as spiritual growth, but saw as a part of that process the need to help others rise above their condition. Her paper is a reflection of a turning point in her own life as she pursued a professional career in social work, one intended to help others meet the challenges they face. Social work, however, brings unique challenges to those who make the decision to pursue it as a professional career.
The Elizabeth N. Brehler Scholars Program, established in 1991 by Richard Brehler in memory of his wife, is an annual manuscript competition that gives BSW, MSW and PhD students (both full and part time) the opportunity to produce a scholarly work. In establishing this Manuscript Competition, the Brehler family's intent was to encourage other social work students to explore their values, and the challenges they face related to those values both within themselves and in the professional context. Moreover, if students are challenged to examine their own lives and the decisions they make through the lens of theoretical social work, they may learn valuable lessons about themselves that will enable them to become more competent professionals. And by writing about this, they will also contribute to the professional social work literature. The goal is growth, and it is the hope of the Brehler Review Committee that each entry will spur growth through introspection. We need to identify our values and how we have come to hold them. We also need to recognize the difficulties of applying social work values in a variety of arenas.
Our goal as social workers is to provide help to those we serve. This can only be accomplished after each one of us has grappled with our deficits, faced our fears, identified our strengths, and acquired the skills our work demands. This process is an arduous and continuing one, and the committee believes that each entry is both an opportunity for a scholarship and a contribution to the student's process of growth.