Faculty voice:

Set the bar high

Amanda Toler Woodward is an associate professor in the MSU School of Social Work. Her goal is to share reflections on a wide range of topics related to aging research, social work, academia and whatever else catches her fancy. Learn more about her and read her other blogs on her website.

Sept. 14, 2016

I love my job. When I found academia, I found my professional home. Writing, research, teaching and service . . . well, writing, research and teaching are fun. That doesn’t mean every day is all flowers, dark chocolate and puppy dogs. Some parts of academia are unfair, dysfunctional and outdated. It is, if not always an ivory tower, sometimes an echo chamber.

It can be all too easy to get comfy in this academic bubble and lose track of why we are here. As an associate professor of social work, I try very hard to remember what led me on this path – a desire to make the world a better place for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, etc. A lofty goal – some might say naïve. I say, set the bar high and take it one step at a time.

Now that I have tenure [insert sigh of relief here] I am contemplating life after “publish or perish”. My website is a step in that direction. My hope is to push my work and the work of others beyond the boundaries of peer-reviewed academic journals and into (or at least closer to) the hands of the practitioners, policymakers, communities, clients and caregivers who are best positioned to do something with it.

I also want to hear from you – the social work field and the people whose lives it touches. I have plenty of questions I’m interested in exploring that I think are important. But are those the “right” questions? Will the answers to those questions be useful? Inform practice or policy? Help you do your job better? I’m hoping my website will be one place for academia and practice to have conversations about how to best move our collective efforts forward.

My particular interests seem to be ever expanding, but the overarching theme is access to and delivery of services for older adults, especially related to behavioral health. How can we improve behavioral health services for older adults and make sure those who need help get it? Why do racial/ethnic barriers in access to and use of services still exist and what can we do to address them? How can technology help us deliver services? What can we learn from other countries about these issues and what can they learn from us?

On the teaching side, what can we do to better equip our students as they enter the field both in terms of content and delivery of that content? How can we infuse more global content into our courses and overall student experiences? How will we as a society meet workforce demands as the population continues to grow older?

There’s a lot to talk about. I hope you’ll join me.

Reprinted from Woodward’s website

Photo by G.L. Kohuth