Tiffany Washington, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, prepares future medical social workers to meet the needs of Georgia’s increasingly diverse older adult population.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I received my bachelor’s degree in communication studies and my Ph.D. in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2000 and 2013, respectively. I received my Master of Social Work degree from the joint Master of Social Work Program between North Carolina A&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2002. I am an assistant professor in the School of Social Work. My responsibilities include teaching undergraduate and graduate social work courses, serving on the Bachelor of Social Work program committee and engaging in independent research.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came to UGA in August of 2013 after completing my Ph.D. UGA has three characteristics I desire in a university: a research 1 classification, a location in the Southeast and a commitment to public engagement.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I enjoy teaching “Medical Social Work” and “Social Work Practice with Older Adults.” I have a medical social work practice background and I encountered many older adults who were living with chronic conditions. I bring my practice experiences into the classroom. I am honored to play a role in training Georgia’s future medical social workers who are committed to meeting the needs of our increasingly diverse older adult population.
What interests you about your field?
I was initially drawn to social work because of its commitment to social and economic justice. The core values of social work mirror my personal values and beliefs about citizenship and service. I appreciate how social work intersects with many fields including public health, criminal justice and education.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
My first year at UGA has been memorable. “Medical Social Work” and “Social Work Practice with Older Adults” are my “dream” courses to teach, and I appreciate the support from my dean and colleagues to pursue my teaching and research goals. I also was accepted into the Service-Learning Fellows program for my proposed Alzheimer’s disease caregiver respite project, which will provide a unique opportunity for students to connect with older adults with dementia and their caregivers in Athens and surrounding communities. I am excited that the Athens Community Council on Aging has agreed to be a community partner.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Students learn from real-life examples. In my teaching, I expose students to research tools (for example, surveys, questionnaires, intervention manuals) and explain how they can be used as tools in practice settings. I engage students in discussions about issues affecting older adults and I’m inspired to witness the development of their own research interests. Those discussions often inspire my thinking about my research trajectory.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
In my “Social Work Practice with Older Adults” course, for example, I begin by asking students to disclose biases and myths they hold about older adults. By the end of the course, I hope that students walk away with renewed perspectives about the aging population and increased interest in working with older adults.
Describe your ideal student.
Because social workers frequently encounter individuals and families of diverse backgrounds, my ideal student is one who is honest about his or her biases and is invested in confronting those biases toward becoming an effective social worker. An ideal student seeks to negotiate the intersection of personal and professional values as part of his or her development into the social work profession.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
My favorite place on campus is Sanford Stadium. During my first visit to UGA, I walked to Sanford Stadium to take photos. Because I spent many years at UNC where basketball is life, I’ve always appreciated UGA’s passion about football. My favorite thing to do on campus is write in my office.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
I enjoy indoor and outdoor cycling. Four years ago, I co-founded a bike club to encourage more friends to ride because African-Americans are under-represented in the cycling community. In addition, I enjoy traveling to new places. I have visited South Africa, Nigeria, Mexico and various destinations in the Caribbean. I enjoy watching college basketball; March Madness is an exciting time of the year.
Community/civic involvement includes….
I actively volunteer with agencies that serve older adults. Prior to moving to Georgia, I served on the Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee in Durham County, North Carolina, for four years. Annually, I participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s for the Alzheimer’s Association and the Kidney Walk for the National Kidney Foundation. In addition, I donate blood regularly as a silver-level American Red Cross VIP Lifesaver. I am a supporter of local farms and I belong to a CSA (that is, community-supported agriculture). I also participate in various local and national service projects with my sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
My favorite book is “The Thing Around Your Neck” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I traveled to Nigeria in 2011 and 2012 and became interested in Nigerian literature. This book was the first of her writings I had the pleasure of reading, and I related to the cultural and geographic references. I do not have one favorite movie, but I enjoy watching movies with my eldest brother, who is the biggest movie buff I know.
Proudest moment at UGA?
One of my proudest moments at UGA was the day I was given the key to my office. I am a first-generation college student from a small, rural town in North Carolina, and growing up I never imagined myself as faculty at a major university. I am happy to be here. My proudest moment, however, was participating in the UGA New Faculty Tour. I had the unique opportunity to see UGA’s far-reaching impact throughout Georgia. In addition, the tour motivated me to consider how my own research, teaching and service agenda reflects the mission of the university.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Mentors have played a major role in my personal and professional development. At UGA, I have the opportunity to mentor young adults, especially first-generation college students like myself, who are navigating a university system for the first time.
Originally published Nov. 16, 2014