Finding Greatness: Gaye Martel

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Monday, March 14, 2022 12:00 AM
Categories: Pressroom | Finding Greatness | School of Education and Behavioral Sciences | Students

Macon, GA


Gaye Martel, a paralegal, is pursuing MGA’s Bachelor of Science in Social Work to transition to a career of helping people overcome immediate hardship and become empowered to make permanent changes.   

Full Name: Gaye Martel.

Hometown: Fort Valley.

Residence: Macon.

Family: “I am mom to Mary-Katherine Lewis, my 14-year-old daughter, who amazes and inspires me daily.” 

Employment: “I am a full-time student and also work as a criminal defense paralegal for Gómez Law Group.” 

Degree Objective: Bachelor of Science in Social Work.

Class Rank: Junior.

Primary Campus: Macon.

Activities: “I am active in Horizons, the social work volunteer organization, and I am a founding member of the MGA chapter of Phi Alpha, the national social work honors society, for which I will be serving as president.  In the community, I volunteer with the weekend lunch program at Christ Church, organize and supervise the weekend lunch volunteer team from High Street Unitarian Universalist Church, and serve on the weekend lunch board. I also serve on the board at High Street Church.”

Career Goals: “Social work for me entails a midlife career transition, as I have spent most of my adulthood working in administrative or executive support roles. In that ‘first life,’ however, I was most impacted by my work with a day center for people experiencing homelessness. Since witnessing homelessness as a young girl, I have wanted to be able to contribute somehow to a solution for it, and working with this day center inspired me to pursue an education that would prepare me to work more effectively within this population. I am inspired to focus on affordable housing policy issues, although I would also like to work with a ‘housing first’ program that provides wrap-around supportive services.” 

She chose Middle Georgia State University because … “It offered me an option to pursue a quality social work degree at an affordable, accessible venue. The social work program at MGA is grounded in core social work values like service and social justice, and the faculty's commitment to helping social work students become competent, effective social workers is apparent. The ability to participate in such a well-developed program while maintaining my existing parenting and paralegal responsibilities presented an attractive opportunity.” 

The greatest thing she discovered about Middle Georgia State was … “The commitment of the University to provide a rich, opportunity laden campus experience for its students. I have witnessed in my lifetime how MGA has grown from a fledgling commuter junior college to this wonderfully diverse, beautiful campus filled with opportunities for engagement, self-exploration, and self-development. All the faculty I have encountered and their passion to teach have inspired me to carry those lessons with me past the final exam and into the fabric of my own life. Beyond the classroom, I have been impressed with the numerous growth engagements offered by the University.” 

Her greatest academic experience as a Middle Georgia State student has been … “Rediscovering the joy of learning, especially in a classroom setting. I have been grateful for the convenience of virtual learning, but I have found that the face-to-face experience of a professor's lecture, being able to ask questions in real time, and especially engaging in dialogue with the professor and fellow students creates a spark that is hard to replicate online. 

“If the topic is greatest academic experiences at MGA, however, I must also mention the fan girl, starry-eyed awe of attending a lecture on campus by Joy Harjo! The University understood the importance of her voice and the relevance of her words to us as a community, then invited her to speak. Besides the sheer wonder of meeting a hero of mine and the appreciation I had for MGA hosting her, this was a watershed moment for me in recognizing MGA as a respected academic environment.” 

To her, “greatness” means … “Meeting the challenge of doing more than what is required. It means finding ways to deepen my service to the community and improve my capacity to lead. It means seeing the potential for greatness in others and opening up my mind to new possibilities. It means having a willingness to learn, to experience life, and to add dimension and color to who I am and to my understanding of the world.” 

In five years … “My immediate goal after graduating from MGA with my BSW is to complete a master's program and then roll up my shirtsleeves and do the life-changing, world-saving work that I am learning about right now. The BSW program at MGA is clear: social workers have a responsibility to engage not just in helping people overcome immediate hardship, but also in working with them and empowering them to make lasting changes that benefit and strengthen the entire community. Ultimately, I would love to be involved in policy making that brings hope and possibility to all the people of Macon through community building initiatives.”