Quality of life

Chelci Fadded 225x150
Chelci Fadden finds her calling in social work.

Chelci Fadden knew she wanted to make a positive impact on the world – she just didn’t know how. But in 2008, Fadden, a senior majoring in social work, took a trip to Uganda that changed her life. Fadden witnessed first-hand the poor living conditions and struggles in the lives of those living there. Fadden realized how she could make a difference.

“I was really impacted by the children there and what I experienced,” Fadden says. “We built a schoolhouse for orphans and got to play with kids and babies at a young age. From that point, I knew that I wanted to work with people; it just changed my whole focus.”

Discovering her ideal degree

Fadden, a first-generation student from Phoenix, was initially unsure whether she wanted to attend a university or immediately travel and begin working on her goal. She explains her parents’ support – and persistence – gave her the motivation to apply.

“At that time, I would have rather gone back to Africa and worked for a non-profit organization there forever,” Fadden says. “But my parents helped me realize I could do it so much better and so much more professionally if I did have a degree.” 

Though she originally focused on areas such as international affairs and sociology, it wasn’t until she spoke with advisors at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences that her educational path truly began to take form.

“I already knew where my heart and passion was, but I didn’t know social work was an option,” Fadden says. “I didn’t know that you could specialize in helping people like that. I told my advisors that my majors up to that point didn’t seem like the right fit; it was close, but I wasn’t quite there yet. And that was the first time I heard about social work as a profession and as a degree.”

“You don’t do it for the money”

Since becoming a social work major, Fadden has excelled in the program, which utilizes just four professors to ensure smaller, more intimate courses.

In addition to forging closer relationships with her professors, Fadden has also built strong bonds with her peers, many of whom share the same core classes with her. Fadden estimates thirty-five students are currently enrolled in her senior class, which allows her to develop close-knit interactions with like-minded individuals. 

“We’ve gotten really close,” Fadden says. “Finding people that are passionate about the same things you’re passionate about – that was a huge discovery for me, and a really rewarding experience. There’s something special about moving forward in those four years together, working together as a team and getting to know people on a really personal level.”

Fadden values this mindset she shares with her peers, who prioritize making a difference over the bottom line.

“You don’t do social work for the money,” Fadden says. “You do it because you have a heart for it and because you know that’s what you want to do. Now, I’m able to help people in my own backyard and not just overseas.”

Broadening horizons

As an undergraduate, Fadden has been able to travel in order to obtain a better understanding of the global community. In the fall of 2010, she studied abroad in Dubai and developed her own perspective on international relations.  

“I love to travel, and I figured the Middle East was a great place to visit because I wanted to learn about it; with the wars and the media covering it, I felt like it was really one-sided,” Fadden says. “I just wanted to learn about the culture, the history, and have it be something different to broaden my horizons and challenge myself that way.”

Now as she prepares to graduate in May, Fadden is drawing upon these experiences as she applies for graduate school and begins the pursuit of her master’s degree in social work. 

“It’s very intimidating at first,” Fadden says. “Graduate school is something my parents never heard of or even talked about. But it’s exciting with all the possibilities and career choices that I’ll have that were never available to them.” 

After finishing her education, Fadden hopes to work with a political organization called the International Justice Mission (IJM), which works globally to fight civil right issues, including human trafficking. The IJM has social workers that specifically deal with child rehabilitation on a global scale, which Fadden acknowledges is a career path she’d enjoy pursuing. 

“Northern Arizona University has equipped me with the right skills and helped me find my focus,” Fadden says. “It let me explore my options and discover what I’m passionate about.”