Q & A with Erin Sugrue (MSW, PhD 18’ Alumni)

Dr. Erin Sugrue, PhD, LICSW is an assistant professor of social work at Augsburg University. Prior to receiving her doctorate, Dr. Sugrue worked for over a decade as a school social worker in the Edina Public Schools and did on-call social work at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Her research and teaching interests include school social work, child welfare system reform, race and racialization in social work practice, and clinical social work as social justice practice. Dr. Sugrue’s study on moral injury among educators was recently published at the American Educational Research Journal and was highlighted in the news site Education Week.

Photo of Erin Sugrue

What are you currently doing now and how has the program prepared you for your current work?

I'm currently an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at Augsburg University in Minneapolis.  I love my job.  So much of what I learned and experienced in the PhD program helped prepare me for this job.  In terms of coursework, we are a teaching university, so the course we take on teaching in higher education was extremely helpful.  Our program is very theory-driven, so theory courses I took gave me a good grounding for teaching.  Additionally, I continue to be engaged in multiple scholarship projects, thus the research skills I learned and the connections and relationships I built while in the PhD program have been critical in helping me keep a focus on both research and teaching.  The most interesting part of my work is working with the diverse and dedicated students at Augsburg, at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  I love social work and I love social workers, so it's thrilling and inspiring to me to work with students who have such rich life experiences, diverse perspectives and interests, and who are so dedicated to our field.

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a PhD program at the UMN SSW?

For future potential PhD students: Keep in mind that this is a research degree, not a practice degree.  If you don't want a job in academia or in a academia- adjacent research institute, then I wouldn't pursue the PhD -- a practice degree it is not.  That being said, if your goal is to teach future social work students and/or research important social issues and work with like-minded colleagues, the pain and suffering of completing a PhD (and there is pain and suffering!) is definitely worth it.  I am really thrilled to be working where I am and in a field that I love.

What was your overall experience in the PhD program at SSW?

The PhD program was very challenging in many ways, but I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to pursue my doctorate.  It is truly a privilege to get to study, write, discuss, and teach on topics about which I care deeply.  I am grateful for the variety of research skills I developed and the grounding I gained in social theories. I also appreciated the ability to attend so many national conferences, which allowed me to meet other social work scholars, present my own work, and learn about all the interesting research going on in our field. Finally, I loved the relationships I built with other PhD students, especially my cohort -- we've seen each other through some rough times and we are each other's biggest cheerleaders and supporters.

Tell us something fun about yourself!

I used to be a folksinger (kind of)! I was in a folk duo in college in the 90's (think Indigo Girls mixed w/some Ani Difranco & Dar Williams). In my early 20's, I used to play the open mic scene in Boston and then when I came to the U of MN for my MSW, I would get coffee shop gigs around the Twin Cities.  My MSW classmates were some of my loyal fans at the time (social workers are so supportive)!  Now my kids will sometimes sing harmonies with me!