News - Three New Awards to Honor Criminal Justice and Social Work Majors

Three New Awards to Honor Criminal Justice and Social Work Majors

By Rachel Heston-Davis

The Department of Criminal Justice and Social Work will bestow three new academic awards on graduating seniors this spring: the Estevez Award for Commitment to Social Justice, the Trooper James M. Bava Criminal Justice Award and the Award for Academic Excellence in Social Work.

GraduatesDirector of Social Work Hannah Shanks explains that all three awards are meant to honor the challenging work that social work and criminal justice majors undertake in their chosen fields. “These awards were established to recognize students whose work embodies the values of our respective fields and honor the ways they have lifted up our department and their fellow students through their faithful service.”

“We wanted to create these awards to honor the excellent work students in criminal justice and social work are doing on campus,” says Department Chair of Criminal Justice Michael Laughlin, “and the lives of character and service that we are already seeing implemented in their young adult lives.”

The Estevez Award For Commitment To Social Justice

This award recognizes outstanding achievements by a graduating senior in the area of social justice. It is named for the Estevez family, who served G.U. in varying capacities for more than 40 years.

Edwin Estevez ’94, former administrator and professor at the University, says his family is honored to have their name attached to this award. “Our family mission is ‘serve without expectation,’” he says. “Our hope is that the award promotes this idea of serving without any expectations.”

Originally from the Dominican Republic, the Estevez family first intersected with Greenville University in the 1920s when G.U. graduates carrying out mission work in the Dominican Republic founded a school. All four of Edwin’s grandparents worked at the school. Edwin’s mother Olga Estevez became its first female director. She then came to Greenville University to teach Spanish for one semester. The Estevez family relocated permanently to Greenville in 1989, where Olga continued to teach Spanish. Edwin’s father Rolando worked for the University’s food service, and Edwin and his brother Ivan ’98 attended as students. Edwin taught at the University from 2000-2005 and returned again from 2014-2018 to assume administrative duties.

Estevez stresses that this award, focused on the dismantling of injustice, is integral to the University’s identity as a Wesleyan institution. He says the award’s purpose “is at the heart of our doctrinal position. It is at the heart of our theological assumptions. It is at the heart of our history as a denomination and our affiliation to that denomination.”

He hopes recipients of this award will reach out to persons living on the margins, who don’t have a voice and who find themselves impacted by the inadequacies of social structures.

To qualify for this award, a student must:

  • demonstrate a commitment to the reform or dismantling of unjust and oppressive systems,
  • demonstrate a realistic acknowledgement of the challenges involved in this work along with real hope for change,
  • display character and service in their contributions to campus life, and
  • have a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Trooper James M. Bava Criminal Justice Award

This award recognizes outstanding achievements by a graduating senior in the area of criminal justice.

The award is named for James M. Bava ’12, who majored in criminal justice while at Greenville University. Bava became a state trooper in Missouri and was killed in the line of duty in 2015.

“James went into law enforcement believing peace officers were given the task to protect, serve and sacrificially give in order to stand in the gap between good and evil,” says his mother Alyce Bava. She describes how James could work long hours under stressful conditions and never complain once; instead, he would notice the good moments—a kind word from a stranger, a “good job” thumbs-up from a passerby.

James strove to treat everyone he encountered with respect, opting to calm an offender through talking if possible. “He would use respect, kindness and gentleness as his greatest weapon,” Alyce says.

Motivated by his strong faith, James served humanity outside of work, too. In college he hosted a Bible study in his dorm for those who needed someone to talk to. He spent time with friends and classmates who were struggling.

“He always had a way of including others who would be on the margins,” Alyce says.

The recipient of the Trooper James M. Bava Criminal Justice Award will:

  • write a 500-word essay detailing her/his reasons for pursuing a career in criminal justice and her/his philosophy on the role of a criminal justice system in society,
  • exemplify James Bava’s posture of hope for humanity,
  • demonstrate strong Christian faith,
  • exemplify integrity, courage and kindness in the face of challenges,
  • foster an attitude of service and selflessness, and
  • have a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Award For Academic Excellence In Social Work

This award recognizes outstanding achievements by a graduating senior in the area of social work. The recipient will:

  • demonstrate dedication to the field of social work and its practices,
  • demonstrate a commitment to professional growth and lifelong learning,
  • exemplify the G.U. social work motto: “Will work for good,” and
  • have a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Shanks commends social work students and other students pursuing majors within the department for undertaking work that will “lead them to challenging contexts and difficult circumstances.”

Laughlin adds, “It was apparent that there are amazing students in our program, and we wanted to have the opportunity to recognize some of their successes.”


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Daily, G.U. students tackle the challenges of social work and criminal justice thanks to the support of Financial Champions like you. Thank you for giving.

This story was published on April 26, 2019

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