Aspiring Social Worker Combines Sports and Service

October 28, 2013
by Remi Levoff
MSW student Lawrence Doss. Photo by Dietmar Quistorf.

Graduate student Lawrence Doss didn’t aspire to be a Trojan, but thanks to advice from a professor, he is thriving at USC.

Doss is pursuing a Master of Social Work while working as a graduate assistant for USC’s Recreational Sports Intramural Program, a perfect combination for the former football player who said he knew he wanted to be a social worker because “I could merge some of the convictions I have about service to people into a profession.”

With a major in human services and minors in psychology and sociology, a graduate degree in social work was a logical step. However, it took an assertive professor to direct him to the Trojan Family when Doss had his sights set on a different university.

“He called me into his office one day,” Doss remembered, “And he said, ‘You’re too smart for that other school; I want you to apply to USC.’”

Doss spent his undergraduate career in Pennsylvania, playing football for the Villanova University Wildcats. The California native describes this transition as one of the biggest challenges he’s faced.

“Being away from home is never easy, but you get to learn a lot about yourself…when everything is available to you — good and bad — you see the choices you make and you find out who you really are,” he said.

Not long after receiving his acceptance to USC, Doss applied for a job in Recreational Sports. Armed with a positive attitude and a willingness to work the unpopular 5:30 am shift, Doss was quickly hired. As the graduate assistant for intramural sports, he uses his background as an athlete to develop connections with the students and strike a balance between fun and safety.

When he’s not attending class or working in Recreational Sports, Doss is interning in the counseling department at Compton Centennial High School, volunteering with youth groups twice a week at his church and playing on the church basketball team.

His experiences growing up in Lynwood contributed to his decision to pursue social work, Doss said. “I had a stable household and I was pretty fortunate, but some of the rougher things that were going on weren’t very far from me. And then my dad was a probation officer working out of Compton, so I heard his stories. It was something I just grew to have a passion for.”

When he graduates, Doss wants to work as a school counselor dealing with mental health issues and from there become a high school principal.