Lifelong Connections: Buffie Longmire-Avital

A social worker, Brenda Reavis ’15 writes about the impact Associate Professor of Psychology Buffie Longmire-Avital had on her career path and beyond.

The recipient of the 2018 Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Mentoring Award, Associate Professor of Psychology Buffie Longmire-Avital consistently applies her expertise to mentor students in deep and meaningful ways. As a 2018–20 Center for Engaged Learning Scholar and coordinator of the African & African-American Studies Program, she focuses on the inclusion of historically underrepresented students in undergraduate research.

One often hears stories about mentors who shifted the direction of someone’s life and shaped who they are today. Professor and researcher extraordinaire Dr. Buffie Longmire-Avital is that mentor for me. For three years, Dr. Longmire-Avital worked with me on my Honors thesis project, which involved an in-depth look at what black women are searching for in a partner, and the ways societal barriers specific to the black experience influence that search. I was new to research of this extent, and, as a black woman myself, I was nervous to take on a topic with such important implications. Dr. Longmire-Avital was knowledgeable, patient and encouraging as we gathered, analyzed and coded data, mapped our findings onto past research and carved out new insights. Our research went on to be published in the Journal of Black Psychology shortly after I graduated from Elon and remains one of my greatest accomplishments to date.

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Dr. Longmire-Avital taught me that when working with people and their stories, it is our duty to produce high quality, ethical results. She promised me our project would be difficult but rewarding. Throughout the thesis process, she made time for me while balancing countless other responsibilities. Watching her strive for greatness provided a model of the kind of woman I wanted to be. Under her guidance and encouragement, my confidence in my abilities as a researcher, student and black woman grew exponentially.

During my senior year, Dr. Longmire-Avital was integral in my decision to pursue graduate school. She regularly met with me as I pieced together what I wanted the next step of my life to look like. From reviewing my personal statements to offering feedback on programs I was interested in, I genuinely felt there was nothing she wouldn’t do to make sure I was happy with my choice. Because of her, I felt confident enough to apply to the top social work schools in the nation and got into the University of Chicago. Quite simply, Dr. Longmire-Avital inspired me to be my whole self at all times, equipped me with the skills I needed to confidently explore all of my interests and grounded me in the meaning of the work I do today as a licensed clinical social worker.

She never allowed me to consider that I wouldn’t be successful, a mentality that has opened doors I feel humbled to walk through. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the time she spent mentoring me. Even now, her influence lives on in how I approach each client and handle the stories they share.

After graduating from Elon in 2015 with a psychology degree, Brenda Reavis obtained a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Chicago, where she works as a staff therapist in its Student Health & Counseling Services.