Many Voices, Many Paths

A new podcast developed by the GSSWSR aims to demystify social work.

People come to the GSSWSR from all kinds of backgrounds. They may have spent years in the field already or they may be undertaking a complete career change. Some come right out of undergraduate school, while others have gone through challenging times in their own life and been inspired by that experience to earn social
work credentials.

With so many different entry points, students come to the school with questions aplenty—and often a side order of anxiety.

Voices in the Field, a new podcast series created by the GSSWSR, aims to answer some of those questions and showcase the work of alumnae/i, faculty, and staff working in the field. Available in all the usual places (Apple Podcasts, Google, Spotify, etc.), as well as through the GSSWSR website, Voices in the Field will add new episodes every few weeks during the academic year and is free to all.

“We’ll be talking about all the different paths to a social work career, and the challenges within people’s roles,” says Mary Florence Sullivan ’11, a licensed social worker and doctoral candidate in the program who serves on the student services team and is coordinating the podcast. “We’ll talk about the reasons they got into the field, where they are, their journey, all of those different pieces.”

GSSWSR Dean Janet Shapiro was inspired to launch the podcast after being impressed by What the Health?, a similar initiative on the topic of wellness created by Associate Dean of Health and Wellness Reggie Jones. Emily Overholt, an MSW student from Penn, handled the production work on that series and is doing the same for Voices in the Field.

For the first episode, Sullivan interviewed the GSSWSR’s new director of field education, Kanako Okuda, (pictured), as well as Assistant Director Tony Morelli, who talked about their own journeys into social work and how they ended up working in field education.

“Field education is the signature pedagogy of social work education,” says Okuda. “It’s where students learn to think and act like social workers.”

In the podcast, Okuda talks about how the field practicum, where students are placed in social service agencies, integrates what they have learned in the classroom with real-world practice of those skills.

“They begin to learn that there are so many ways to help people,” says Okuda, “and that in itself can cause anxiety because they’re exposed to an area they have limited knowledge of and where they may need to make mistakes to be able to get where they need to go.”

The second episode, which features Sarah Slates and John Edwards of the GSSWSR’s student services team, discusses how student service work is not always seen as a social work practice and challenges that misconception.

Future episodes will showcase faculty and talk about their research interests and their diverse journeys into the field.

“We need more social workers,” says Sullivan. “We need advocates and social work researchers and social work educators. So being able to show people all the different paths into and through social work, their different missions and focuses and passions, is really an important goal.”


A Conversation With Kanako Okuda