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20 Years of MSW – Josie Phillips

As we celebrate 20 years of the Master of Social Work (MSW), let’s meet Josie Phillips, Assistant Professor, teaching in the MSW Programme in Durham University’s Department of Sociology.

Please tell us about your role within Sociology/MSW.  

My main job is teaching on the MSW, convening the Professional and Personal Development module. The module aims to do what the title describes – it introduces the basic social work skills, values and principles and invites students to explore their own development both as an individual and as a professional. I also teach on a Criminology Inside-Out module, which is theoretically linked by themes of social justice/injustice and criminal justice systems. 

What is your research specialism / areas of interest? 

Harmful and problematic sexual behaviour/Child Sexual Abuse/Children and Families affected by violence. 

How did you become involved with MSW? 

I was a social work practitioner for many years and came to Durham as a research associate on a study led by Simon Hackett (Durham) and Helen Masson (Huddersfield) on life course trajectories of young people who were previously involved with services for harmful sexual behaviour. This was my area of work at the time. I was involved with the MSW first as a practice tutor, and eventually as an assistant professor.  

Why are you so passionate about Social Work and the work your department does? 

I am a social worker, have significant professional experience, and believe that social workers make a difference. The families I worked with over the years have taught me about their lives, experiences, and emotional worlds, their challenges navigating complex systems, and the strength which enabled them to change in situations of adversity. Social work is an immensely complicated profession, and my aim is to be part of a strong staff team which is available to students to help them become the professionals they want to be.  

How does your work impact communities / the world around you? 

I see my work as supporting students to have an impact on the world in their practice and engagement with individuals, communities and services around us. 

What’s been your proudest moment working on the MSW? 

Hearing from students who have finished and successfully moved into jobs they love. 

What would you say to someone thinking about working in Social Work? 

It’s hard! It is also interesting, rewarding, varied, skilled and full of challenge and joy. If you don’t like working with people, don’t do it. 

How has your subject changed in the last 20 years? Or have the key fundamentals stayed the same? 

My module did not exist 20 years ago. However, the key topics have always been relevant and contributions from research and social work practice have brought increased depth and breadth to all areas covered. 

Find out more

  • Josie Phillips is an Assistant Professor, teaching in the MSW Programme in the Department of Sociology. If you would like to find out more about Josie, visit her profile.
  • If you’d like to share your story or insights into your work, visit our Submit a blog or vlog page to learn more.