Three Questions for a Social Work Leader, with Rebecca Jackson-Garcia

Jackson-Garcia (center), Professor Tiziana Dearing (far right), and student leadership luncheon attendees

Jackson-Garcia (center), Professor Tiziana Dearing (far right), and student leadership luncheon attendees

Rebecca Jackson-Garcia is the associate director of training at Trinity Boston Counseling Center, an organization that provides mental health services to individuals and families, with an emphasis on issues of high-risk youth, poverty, violence, and social or economic injustice. Jackson-Garcia is a seasoned veteran in the field, having spent more than 10 years working with Boston-based youth and families in various capacities.

On October 2, she was invited to the Boston College School of Social Work to share her expertise with students as the latest featured guest in the school’s Leadership Speakers Luncheon Series.  

“I was particularly struck by Rebecca’s holistic pursuit of social justice in both the clinical and macro spheres,” explained one student in attendance. “She reminded me why I committed myself to the profession of social work rather than another mental health or helping profession. As social workers we are uniquely positioned to solve complex social problems. Our training gives us a broad spectrum lens that allows us to see both the interpersonal and broader institutional contributors to social injustice.” 

Here, Jackson-Garcia speaks with BC Social Work about the importance of being able to apply the macro to the micro, being yourself, and finding work that ‘hurts you.’

What does it mean to be a social worker in 2015? 

Rebecca Jackson-Garcia: First off, it means being flexible. Times are changing, so you have to be prepared to be nimble to meet people’s needs. I think it also means being aware, in particular in 2015, with regards to topics such as police brutality that have surfaced recently. It’s important to understand what’s going on nationally and how that may be impacting our clients and their individual lives.

Tell us about the most important lesson you’ve learned as a leader in the field. 

RJ: One important lesson is to know your self and be yourself. It is really easy to get pulled into a place of having to apologize for who you are, for your approaches to your profession, or even for your personality. I’ve learned that the things that are important to me are important to me for a reason, so I should own them, and not be apologetic.

One recent example for me: When I’m in a work setting, I tend to be the person who says let’s figure out how to move a project forward, let’s go! Sometimes I’ve found myself second-guessing that aspect of who I am. I’ve reflected on why I do that, and have wrestled with feeling a need to be apologetic for this personality trait. But what I’ve learned in these reflections is that I do this because my work is so very important to me. The people I’m working with, and for, are literally in life and death situations, so often my team can’t afford to have meeting after meeting to talk about what we might do. We need to figure out what we’re going to do and thoughtfully but efficiently move forward. Our kids deserve for us to be thoughtful and proactive, so I’ve learned to not have to apologize when I’m forceful about compelling collective decisions forward.

What recommendations do you have for those who aspire to be social work leaders in the future?

RJ: I always say to people, those I supervise, co-workers, if the work doesn’t hurt you in some way, you’re doing the wrong thing. It should be hard work, and there are going to be times when you’re going to cry. In fact, if that’s not happening, you need to find a new job.

Find whatever it is you’re passionate about and go after a career in that field. It may be something that keeps you up at night. In fact, it should be something that keeps you up at night. If you care that much, I believe that positions in leadership will find you.  

“Three Questions for a Social Work Leader” is a recurring column at Innovate@BCSW designed to share some of the knowledge imparted to the Boston College community by social work professionals from beyond our campus walls.


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