Master of Social Work 1998
My journey into social work goes back to my childhood and to memories of observing and making sense of the world around me. I remember seeing and experiencing the power of difference and inequality at an early age and in ordinary spaces. Through these experiences I learned about the value of care. As an undergraduate student I studied English literature and funded my studies through part time work as a nursing auxiliary and later as a social care worker. These were formative experiences. Living, learning and working independently broadened my mind and my heart. I learned about human experiences through the facts and fictions of reading, study, work and travel. I completed my studies, spent a season in Lebanon and returned with a commitment to care and help.
I chose University of Edinburgh because it offered a good quality Master's course and my experience at interview assured me that this was a course and city that would bring opportunity for new knowledge and learning. Edinburgh also promised a thriving environment for post-graduate study.
I remember good things. My memories of studying at Edinburgh are a mix of lectures that left you thinking long after they were delivered, professional role models, peer learning, and significant practice experiences; mixed in with friendship, film, nights at the Traverse, cycling and time spent in cafes reading, writing and generally philosophising about life. It was a time of becoming a social worker and becoming myself. Mixed into this were significant experiences of learning and becoming through work. In addition to practice placements I worked as a support worker in a drug rehabilitation unit for women and children. This was a rich and humbling experience and I had the privilege of listening, laughing, crying and getting alongside women who were doing it tough yet determined to change things for themselves and their children. These relationships taught me that, for some, individual level change is the easy part, the hard part is returning to lives, relationships and communities where sustaining change is tough.
After university, I joined Barnardo's to work with children at risk of persistent offending. This was a fantastic first post, inspired by my learning at Edinburgh and my developing values. I worked with many beautiful and troubled children and developed relationships that are hard to let go of. After a few years I moved to a statutory criminal justice team where I stayed for another few years, returning to Edinburgh part time to complete my Masters in Advanced Criminal Justice studies. From here I moved to University of Dundee to take up a post as lecturer in social work and in the mix of living and working completed my doctorate in 2014. I’m still at University of Dundee, and I’m still learning. I enjoy the diversity and challenge of my academic role and the opportunities it brings. I don’t like that there are not enough hours in the day!
Looking ahead? I see a strong commitment to social work education within Scotland, despite the multiple and extensive pressures the sector faces. I think the key challenge we face is ensuring that social work education continues to be a thoroughly collaborative endeavour, at a point when there are pressures on partners to retract and retreat into old silos. Relatedly, we need to ensure social work and social work education remains relevant to those we serve. That means realising the kinds of relationships, partnerships and practices that we spend a lot of time talking about.
As to advice … act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.
Source: own contribution.