AUSTIN—Connie Belciug is living her dream, pursuing a doctorate in social work at the University of Texas. She credits Baylor University’s School of Social Work with making it possible.
Belciug, a 31-year-old wife and mother of a 3-year-old daughter, received her second master’s degree in July. One month later, she and her family moved from Moldova to Austin so she could begin her doctoral studies.
Belciug received her first master’s degree from the State University of Moldova in 2010. Three years later, she is a graduate of the Baylor School of Social Work’s master’s degree program at the College of Theology and Education in Chisinau, Moldova.
She, along with five other students, received a master’s of social work degree in a program organized and taught by Baylor professors. Belciug expressed gratitude for the Baylor program, because it paved the way for her doctoral studies.
The master’s degree program Baylor launched “gave me a lot of practical skills and a different perspective on the issues our country was fighting with,” she said. “I believe that because of (the Baylor program), I understood that I actually needed to study more, and I couldn’t stop there.“
Tanya Brice, a Baylor School of Social work professor, taught classes in Moldova in summer 2012 and inspired Belciug to apply for the doctoral program at the University of Texas. Belciug noted Brice encouraged her and trusted in her more than she trusted in herself at that time, but all her Baylor professors encouraged her pursuit of continued education.
The Baylor-initiated program “helped me broaden my horizons and made me strive to know even more,” she said. “All my Baylor professors were highly supportive of me. They provided me with their mentorship and inspiration to want to continue my education in a Ph.D. program. I would have definitely not been here without all of their contributions.”
The Baylor professors all showed grace, kindness and joy through their teaching, she said.
Preston Dyer, who helped launch the program, “had a special passion for our cohort,” she said. “I know he invested a lot in this program and was always an advocate for us. He also successfully combined in his teaching theoretical concepts and practical applications, showing cultural competence and sensitivity.”
Cynthia Harr taught the final courses of the program over last summer and attended the graduation ceremony in July when Belciug received her master’s degree.
‘Goodness and kindness’
“One specific thing I remember from what (Harr) said is that teachers need to teach students with goodness and kindness,” Belciug said. “She said she learned this over time, and she definitely taught us with a lot of kindness and respect.”
While earning her master’s degree at the Moldovan college, Belciug put into practice the knowledge and skills she gained from the Baylor program. For five years, she served as the Moldovan national director for Children’s Emergency Relief International, the global arm of San Antonio-based Baptist Child & Family Services. In that role, she worked with institutionalized children in orphanages and poverty-stricken families.
Belciug excelled inside and outside of the classroom while working for the nonprofit organization, Harr noted.
“She was an excellent student who did extremely well academically and really reached out through her organization to meet the needs of a lot of vulnerable children and adolescents,” Harr said.