The pursuit of social justice


By Audrey Gurkin

BOONE, NC — Liam Waller is a senior social work major from Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He’s also a veteran, serving six years in the Air Force active-duty security forces. Because social justice is one of the core values embraced by social work, Waller said he felt that pursuing a career in social work would be the perfect avenue for him.

“I left the Air Force because I didn’t see a place for me in the military as I am trans and queer,” he said. “I felt a lot of social injustice while serving and I am passionate about social justice for all marginalized people.”

While at Appalachian State University, Waller has pursued his passion for social justice by actively participating in various clubs/organizations on campus. Last year, he served as the vice president of Appalachian Social Justice Educators and this year he serves as the group’s marketing, publicity and social chair. He has also served as the co-director of the student-led social justice conference, Equity in Action.

From May of 2018 to July of 2019, he was an organizing fellow with Ignite NC, a leadership development organization that has trained over 250 young people, mostly students who hold marginalized identities, on direct action, facilitation, coalition building, campaign development and policy transformation. Through this fellowship, he was able to recruit individuals who are interested in social justice via community canvassing and partnering with community organizations. One of these partnerships included a midterm voter education event in collaboration with the local community group Small and Mighty Acts. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Waller said he is passionate about organizing spaces for individuals in the transgender, gender non-conforming and gender-variant community in the High County and has done so via a group called Radical Kindred that aims to create a sense of community and support. 

After graduation, he plans to apply to graduate school, become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and ultimately pursue a doctoral degree in Social Work. He said he believes he can make a positive difference by focusing on social justice research and policy change and plans to continue participating in social justice-based organizations with the intent of bringing equity and opportunity into all communities so that all can find a place where they belong.

Published: Oct 3, 2019 9:35am