Phyllis West, Ph.D., MPH, MSW

  Office Location: G 126
  College: CHHS

Social Work


I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Governors State University’s Department of Social Work where I teach graduate and undergraduate courses. I also coordinate the BSW Triton Program, and am the faculty advisor for the Social Work Student Organization (SWSO).   I teach the foundation practice courses, human behavior, diversity and a social work health care class.

I have a diverse academic and professional background. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia where I was very active in the community. Sparked by my early years of volunteerism emphasized by my sorority's theme “Serving with a Global Perspective” (Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.) I joined the Peace Corps in 1990. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I served as a logistic health coordinator in Liberia and Sierra Leone, West Africa where I coordinated a mass vaccination campaign for women of childbearing age, mothers, and infants in 11 villages. It was in these countries where I discovered the importance of combining public health and social work to address health disparities among impoverished communities.   

After returning from West Africa, I served as a Peace Corps Recruiter for one year. In 1992, I moved to New Orleans where I earned a Master of Public Health and a Master of Social Work degree from Tulane University. After graduation, I returned to Chicago and served in several positions as a therapist providing individual, family and group therapy to children, teenagers, and adults working on issues of substance abuse, child welfare, HIV, an array of mental health challenges, childhood sexual abuse, rape and gang violence.   

In 1996, I worked at the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) as a Health Education Supervisor where I was responsible for the coordination, development, implementation and evaluation of health education programs and initiatives in South Suburban Cook County.

At CCDPH, I was promoted to the position of Assistant Health Officer.  I provided leadership for the strategic planning, implementation, assessments and evaluations to address health disparities in South Suburban Cook County for 1.2 million people, while collaboratively servicing the 2.4 million people in Suburban Cook County.  Common health concerns I worked on included: infant mortality, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments which were even more pervasive in African American communities.  

After receiving several disturbing reports about the number of infants born with crack cocaine in their system, I decided to return to graduate school to develop more skills to better serve struggling communities. I earned my Ph.D. from The University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration (2008), and was one of the most highly funded Ph.D. candidates at The University of Chicago due to my research on mothers in the criminal justice system.

My academic and professional background provides me with the tools to train future social work and public health leaders. I am passionate about working with students at a state university because of the mission to provide access to an affordable quality college education.

GSU students are energetic and intellectually curious. Our students are from diverse racial and geographic backgrounds which makes every class unique and exciting. I am fortunate to work with civically engaged students who are global citizens and seek to become community leaders. GSU students genuinely seek mentorship and understand their moral obligation to make this world a better place. Therefore it is essential for their academic training to include team work, self-care, and work/life balance.  It is an honor to work with GSU students. My favorite quote I share with students I mentor is “I am because we are, we are because I am” by John Mbiti.

Link to Dr. Phyllis West CV