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Last week Nicole Peters started a petition on change.org to discuss the appropriateness of paying for parking at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) for Secwempec students.
The fourth-year TRU social work student was inspired by the October 2019 announcement of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) to grant free tuition to local Indigenous students and decided to choose a social action research route for the final social policy assignment. At UNBC members of the Lheidli T’enneh Nation can now earn an undergraduate degree at no cost. It’s a common misconception that all Indigenous students in Canada get free tuition (CBC, 2019). The Northern Promise Partnership was described as “a meaningful response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to make education more accessible for Indigenous people” (Nielsen, 2019, para 2). UNBC’s Prince George campus is Lheidli T’enneh territory.
Instead of focusing on the free tuition, Peters in the petition asked TRU to stop charging Secwepemc students parking fees. The campuses of Thompson Rivers University are located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwepemc Nation within Secwepemcul’ecw. By eliminating parking fees for Indigenous students, TRU can strengthen its efforts to indigenize its campuses and promote reconciliation.
The petition in one week received more than 400 signatures and gathered media attention that resulted in both Kamloops Matters and Kamloops BC Now writing articles about the petition. Unfortunately, the media coverage also resulted in many inappropriate comments that the online community expressed towards the petition. Nicole shared with Doug Herbert from CBC Daybreak Kamloops: “[People are] posting comments that are just blatantly racist. Some of the things that are being said [are] awful. Christopher Foulds wrote an op-ed in Kamloops This Week and wondered why “people who would otherwise not even think of uttering such offensive garbage face to face find the courage behind the social media screen to vomit forth the most vile filth imaginable”?(Foulds, 2019)
It is incredibly disappointing to read comments that show disrespect, lack of awareness, and inability to engage in meaningful conversation. It is critically important that those who post online will not hide against their screens and use inappropriate language to allow meaningful dialogue to occur. Online commentators should engage in open dialogue, ask questions, stay curious and learn about challenges that Indigenous People face in Canada instead of posting hurtful comments. When I connected with Nicole we discussed some ways to move forward, and we need your help:
- Please share/sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/thompson-rivers-university-stop-charging-secwepemc-students-parking-at-thompson-rivers-university-80b6116b-7ec6-47c9-923f-1e0968cb5788
- Please help Nicole to find an organization (e.g.TRUSU Equity Committee) that can take this petition to the next level. It is incredibly overwhelming and discouraging when voicing concerns to receive disrespectful responses.
Please feel free to add other ways to promote respectful dialogue that values diverse opinions and allow the exchange of ideas using social action writing tools (petitions, op-eds, letters to the editors). Students should feel safe to express their views in public and not being silenced when they raise points that they are passionate about researching. Having diverse voices helps to create adequate, accessible, affordable, acceptable social policy in Canada for groups who historically have been excluded from the decision-making process.
Last academic year I had an honour to work with Rayell Sellars-Sarnowski on SOCW 4900 Directed Studies Course: Developing Professional Self-Identity in Social Work. TRU School of Social Work and Human Service provides a unique opportunity to students to select a topic and design the course that can strengthen their research and expand their knowledge (the course should cover topics that require in-depth exploration of the issue outside of regular courses). We work with Rayell on creating course learning objectives and selecting readings that can enhance the development of professional self-identity. Rayell participated in all aspects of course design and contributed many ideas that I incorporated in the final version of the course outline.
The course critically examined the role and the contributing elements of professional social work identity development process. The course aligned with the core learning objective for social work students to develop professional identities as practitioners as outlined by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education: Standards for Accreditation. This objective also involves social work students developing the ability for self-reflection to develop an awareness for safety in practice. Due to the sensitive nature of exploring individual identity, self-care and support systems were established before an in-depth exploration of the following. Foundations such as intersectionality, and pedagogical influence were explored to deconstruct identity. Especially for populations that face discrimination, historical and contemporary, context were applied to conceptualize the influence on identity. By conceptualizing these aspects students had the opportunity to form their own professional identity separate from dominant discourse. Many frameworks that capture various facets of identity were introduced to aid in students establishing identity. This process allowed to deconstruct the pedagogies taught within education institutions and discern how they impact self and beliefs.
Rayell met all the key learning objectives and at the conclusion of the course, were able to:
- Understand professional social work identity components and implications to practice.
- Develop identity and find relevant supports to develop identity.
- Understand how pedagogy and power influences professional identity development processes for social workers.
- Ensure safety in the process of establishing identity.
- Achieve a well-grounded professional self-identity that positively strives to maintain the Canadian Association of Social Work Education: Standards for Accreditation learning objectives.
I have asked Rayell to share the experience of taking the course to encourage other students to take directed studies courses and receive one on one mentoring and preparation to advance their studies and promote social work research. Thank you Rayell for all your work and for being part of this directed studies experience.
Reflection on Directed Study – Developing professional self-identity in social work By Rayell Sellars-Sarnowski
Participating in a directed study gave me the opportunity to develop a framework that would enable me to unearth identity’s role in social work. The basis of the course topic prompted by various antecedents I was experience within the program. These antecedents were related to the intertwining cultural complexities that form my intersectionality. I identify as a Secwepemc-Tsilqhotin woman, who was raised on traditional Secwepemc ne Esk’etemculucw territory.
Being raised on the reserve Esk’et, I was gifted with a very unique perspective of the world. I was blessed to grow up with knowledge of my culture, healing practices, and language. I was custom adopted as a child by my grandmother and provided with a safe, nurturing home. I also have a very large family, and was wrapped by supports and the community. I was provided with a very wide support circle from a young age, and given the tools and caring to strengthen my own resilience. I was very sheltered from the outside world, being surrounded by other Indigenous people until I was 11 years old. When I was 11, I transferred from Sxoxomic school in Esk’et to a catholic private school in Williams lake. Transitioning from a predominantly relevant culture to another was a culture shock, and since then I have been fascinated by the differences in discourse. Later in my teen years, I faced traumas that were detrimental to my holistic wellbeing. I became isolated and turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms. However, despite the hardships my family, community and friends came together to support my holistic wellbeing. Again, strengthening the resilience that I had been fostering since I was a young child.
This journey prompted my interest in the helping profession, as I understand it has with many others. I entered the human services diploma, successfully completing this, then moved on to the bachelor of social work. Within the BSW I noticed that I was questioning my reality, my perspective on life, and generally gaining a new one or trying to. As many of the course work involved questioning dominant discourse, I became more interested in societies perspectives and how they were created. Myself and another student started to focus on how social work discourses impacted our positioning as Indigenous students. Stemming from this, I began to question how is the program supporting students to shape their identity after losing it? It is heavily acknowledged that you will learn “more about yourselves than you want to know,” and that dominant discourse needs to be untangled to understand how it affects our clients. However, I felt that the program lacked supports for students having identity crisis. Especially to support those like myself, with complicated intersectionality’s. Acknowledging my own identity disconnection, and others, I began the process of enrolling in a directed study.
The process itself of entering into a directed study was not as daunting as it may appear. I hope that in the future there is more information on directed studies, I just heard about it from another student doing it and decided to try to supplement those identity development needs. If I hadn’t put myself out there by participating in extracurricular BSW club events, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. Upon discovering this, I was instantly intrigued and decided I was going to do it. Research and confronting gaps within structures is where I thrive. The directed study was an opportunity to utilize and grow those skills. I was pushed to do in-depth research at the library and start discussions with other students and faculty. The process allowed me to approach the topic of identity development utilizing a flexible approach. I wasn’t only able to take the appropriate amount of time to analyze my identities, I was also able to apply appropriate lenses to my work.
I was constantly applying Indigenous approaches in my other class papers, but in smaller scales. In this course I was able to view the entire picture of my Indigenous identity and the various ways it would impact my wellness. Not only was I able to more thoroughly utilize and Indigenous approach, but I was able to apply theories and concepts I truly associated with, such as strengths perspective, a structural approach, trauma-informed practice, decolonizing theory, and systems theory. I was able to weave these together, among many other concepts, to fully understand my approach to social work. By creating my own course outline, I was able to choose what mattered to me as a unique individual to be included in the content. Not only was this project about simply identifying how to manage identity development, it grounded my own knowledge and unique perspective of the world, to allow for my practice to become even more effective.
This was truly an opportunity not only for professional identity growth, but for personal identity growth as well. I believe truly digging into our unique world perspectives is a benefit to our practice as social workers who continue to have the need to understand the complexities of the unique individuals we serve every day. Not only do we have the duty to our clients, we have it to ourselves to truly grant ourselves with holistic wellbeing. It is a beautiful moment when you begin to understand your identity. I think in social work we become obsessed with the idea of controlling who we are as professionals, we lose touch with our true self, who has such a love for being in the helping profession. When we lose touch with our individuality we succumb to robotic helping, and lose meaningful connection to those we serve. These are the types of realizations and connection to practice that can be created in a directed study. How passionately I feel about a connection to identity, is only an example of what type of work can be done in this opportunity. If this sparks an idea about what you would study, I highly suggest exploring it in this manner.
“As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself everyday.” ― Agatha Christie
The Mitacs Globalink Research Internship is a competitive initiative for international undergraduates from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, India, Mexico, Tunisia, United Kingdom, and Ukraine. From May to October of each year, top-ranked applicants participate in a 12-week research internship under the supervision of Canadian university faculty members in a variety of academic disciplines. More information about Mitca Globalink Research Internship can be found here: https://www.mitacs.ca/en/programs/globalink/globalink-research-internship
Recently I got very exciting news, that all 11 projects I have submitted for funding has been supported by Mitacs Canada so I can train 11 students, 1 from each of the participating country to help me with my research in summer 2020.
If you know a third year undergraduate social work student from the following countries: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, India, Mexico, Tunisia, United Kingdom, and Ukraine who will be interested to visit TRU from May-August 2020 for a 12 week all-expense paid internship ask them to apply before September 18th and select one of the projects that I supervise from the list on Mitacs Canada Globallink website. https://globalink.mitacs.ca/#/student/application/projects
Next summer can be busy but it is very exciting as I can get more help to complete some of my research work. Please share this message with your networks and it will be fun to have social work students from around the world to visit Kamloops in May-August 2020 so we can do research together at Thompson Rivers University and strengthen global social work community.
Here is the list of project to apply before September 18th deadline:
TRU School of Social Work and Human Service students will share their research at the Congress 2019 in Vancouver.
Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov
May 26, 2019
Six TRU School of Social Work and Human Service Students are invited to share their research with the National Social Work Community at Congress 2019 in UBC Vancouver on June 3-6.
Everyday TRU social work students will have an opportunity to share their knowledge. On Monday, June 3rd TRU students will attend the Student Committee Meeting 1 (click on each link to find out the time and location of the sessions) and share their views on the future of social work curriculum with other students across Canada. TRU students who attended Congress 2018 in Regina commented how satisfied they were to learn that TRU is among very few Schools across Canada that offer unique electives, such as Trauma-informed practice, International social work and the Directed studies courses that students can in collaboration with faculty design the course to suit their educational needs. TRU students also have the opportunity to practice their presentation skills regionally and internationally by attending, for example, BC political science regional conference and International Social Work Conference in Dublin.
TRU Social Work faculty and students will come together and listen to the first keynote given by the Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard, a social work educator from Nova Scotia, and later will participate at the reception and first reunion opportunity where all TRU students, faculty, alumni and friends are invited to attend during the CASWE reception.
On Tuesday morning TRU student and CASWE student award winner Jill Coulter will share the Emerging Research on Culturally-Safe Sexualized Violence Response Services for International Students. Jill will apply an intersectional feminist framework and an Anti-Oppressive, community-based participatory action approach to discover how to provide culturally-safe sexualized violence response services to international students in higher education institutions. TRU encourages students to conduct undergraduate research and recognize their work through the Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP). Jill’s research includes an online survey and small focus groups with female and LGBTQ+ International student research participants from the three largest international, regional groups at Thompson Rivers University to discover what kind of SVRS international students would like to have available on campus.
On Tuesday during lunchtime TRU student Lanette LeWarne will share the poster to document the Neglect and the Overrepresentation of Indigenous Children in Care. Lanette’s research examines the definition of neglect within BC’s Child Family and Community Services Act (CFSCA) and its implications for Indigenous families living in poverty. Lanette recommends that a definition of neglect needs to be more extensive, includes the categorization of areas of neglect and recognizes structural issues that support assessment and investigation of neglect that is more effective in determining structural and individual risk.
On Tuesday afternoon TRU student Shauna Middleton will share research that demonstrates the Inadequacy of Suicide Prevention in Canada’s Arctic. Shauna’s work is a call for transformative action. Shauna found that suicidality among Indigenous peoples in Canada’s Arctic regions is a critical health issue that needs to be addressed immediately. The presentation will discuss the historical and contemporary contexts that have exacerbated the problem of poor mental wellness and lack of self-sufficiency among northern Indigenous communities and offer recommendations for action in solidarity with Indigenous peoples as experts through the Truth and reconciliation Calls to Action and culturally appropriate community-based services.
On Wednesday Shauna will go back to TRU to attend the convocation. We wish Shauna and the spring 2019 graduates all the success in the future. Keep sharing your knowledge and promote social work values in all your activities. For those students who will stay at the Congress they can attend the CASWE AGM, student committee meeting 2, and Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov’s presentation on reforming social services CIDA funded project and the second reunion opportunity to celebrate 20 years of Canada-Ukraine partnership in social work education.
On Thursday morning Rayell Sellars-Sarnowski and Tiffany Gray will run 1.5-hour session and share their ideas on Bridging social work pedagogy. Rayell and Tiffany already attended Congress in 2018 and now will help conference participants to bridge the gaps within western pedagogies and indigenous ways of knowing within social work. Rayell and Tiffany, through open dialogue, will discuss anti-oppressive, cultural competency, and Indigenous approaches within social work program. They will offer critical reflection and constructive feedback on how to improve social work education and to address the further “prioritization of western knowledge that continues today in Canadian universities.” Their suggestion includes the creation of relationships and reciprocity in challenging the hegemonic ways of being which have the potential to build solidarity and further social justice work, eliminating essentialism and honouring differences. The authors also suggest utilizing Self-In-Relations reflexive dialectical method or un-learning as a guiding principle in meaningful practice.
Carmen Saiad Shirabad, who also attended the CASWE conference in Regina, will share research on Transformative Action through Positive Social Work on Thursday afternoon. Carmen will be critically analyzing the common deficit-based approaches found within social work. Carmen suggests that adopting a new perspective on social work based on positivity, strengths, and social supports can be fundamental in producing a creative generation of social workers who can implement transformative actions towards successful social justice.
TRU social work students will voice multiple concerns related to different areas of social work practice, policy, education and research and provide ideas on how to implement changes that are consistent with professional values. If you are attending the Congress 2019, make sure you visit student’s presentations and support TRU social work students to promote social justice through transformative action.
International Social Work Conference in Dublin: TRU is represented on both student and faculty levels!
Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development held in Royal Dublin Society, in Dublin, Ireland from 4th to 8th July, 2018. It is the largest and the most recognized international social work conference where up to 2,500 practitioners, researchers and educators from around the world join together to explore the latest developments in social work and social development. SWSD 2018 Scientific Programme explored “Environmental and Community Sustainability: Human Solutions in Evolving Society” in the context of the UN Goals for Sustainable Development, 2016 – 2030.
This year I had the honor to join the TRU Professor Emerita, Dr. Jeanette Robertson, and TRU social work student Ani Dingamtar to be part of the TRU team and share my research on using memoir assignment in teaching international social work course with global social work community. I also was invited to share my current research on mapping Schools of Social Work around the World in the second presentation during the conference.
Here is a brief photo report from the conference:
I was fortunate to attend a major international social work conference with my student. It was even more meaningful to be the only social workers who were born in Ukraine: I am from Western Ukraine and Ani from Eastern Ukraine. As an individual life member of the IASSW from Ukraine, I hope one day there will be stronger Ukrainian presence at the international events but for now, I will keep raising the concerns Ukraine face while being at war with the neighbouring state to maintain its current borders. I am thankful for TRUSU funding that allowed Ani to offset some of the conference course and my annual professional development fund that partially covered my participation at the conference.
International Conferences allow me to connect with social workers from around the world. It is also a reunion opportunity where I meet my colleagues from both Canada and internationally that I admire and learn from every day to keep inspiring my students.
Thank you all for your inspiration, ideas, connection. Already looking forward to the next 2020 conference in both Rimini, Italy and Calgary, Canada. Hope by 2022 the unity will be restored!
Sasha Kondrashov, PhD
This year TRU School of Social Work and Human Services set a new record for bringing 8 social work students to share their research and interact with other students across Canada at the Canadian Association for Social Work Education Conference (CASWE). Usually, Schools of Social Work across Canada send up to 2 students to represent them at the National level. However, due to exceptional activism, strong research preparation and financial support from the TRUSU Conference Grant, five TRU students were selected to share their research with social work educators across Canada and three other TRU students joined them to learn about innovations in social work education across Canada. Together with 5 faculty members many of whom presented their research at the conference, TRU was visible at every conference event.
Here is a photo report on some of the many events both TRU students and faculty participated at the CASWE 2018 Conference in Regina.
On the first photo the annual TRU dinner celebration where Faculty and Students shared a meal together. Unfortunately, Dr. Bala Nikku and Dr. Silvia Straka were unable to join and one of the students, Jenna Skokberg, left earlier but the rest of the faculty Dr. Wendy Hulko, Dr. Rebecca Sanford, Dr. Sasha Kondrashov as well as the Dean of Academic Partnership & Development from Nicola Valley Institute of Technology Tim Dueck and 7 students stayed till the end.
TRU students and faculty in addition to attending all conference events also visited the Justice for Our Stolen Children protest camp on the lawn in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building and show support to the protesters by listening to their stories and participating in the camp evening activities. Both TRU students and faculty shared their research during multiple oral presentations. TRU students, Catherine and Carmen, completed a comprehensive literature review and offered a number of recommendations on harm reduction strategy for BC fentanyl crises during the harm reduction roundtable organized by the Social Policy and Advocacy Committee.
Graduating TRU students, Teresa and Jessica, attended the Disability Caucus and presented their research on transportation options for disabled people in Kamloops
Jenna and I had a pleasant discussion with the dean of University of Calgary, Dr. Jackie Sieppert, about the upcoming 2020 International Social Work Conference that will be held in Calgary and hope we will have a strong TRU international presence there too.
Students and faculty supported each other during presentations. I was extremely happy to see such a welcoming crowd during my presentation on the unique Social Policy assignment I use to inspire students in Canadian Social Policy course. Special thanks to the EDSW Associate Dean Dr. Jane Hewes and Director of the School of Social Work from Dalhousie University Dr. Judy McDonald for your presence.
Overall, I had a lot of fun and hope we will be able to bring even more students from TRU to 2019 CASWE conference at UBC Vancouver. Having an experience sharing knowledge and being part of the National social work movement opens new doors for many TRU students in preparing them for the professional career. TRU Faculty of Education and Social Work, School of Social Work and Human Services always takes a leading role in driving social work student research that will benefit the development of social work education in Canada and around the world.
Here are some more fun photos from the CASWE 2018 conference
As next year I took an additional role for being a CASWE member of the nomination committee, after having experience at the EDSW nomination committee, I will keep inspiring more TRU students to attend CASWE and share their exceptional research with others. See you in Vancouver!
Sasha Kondrashov, PhD
Contemporary Social Policy Concerns in Canada: Social Work Responses.
Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov
Faculty of Education and Social Work
Thompson Rivers University
Recently I had the honour to present with my social policy students at the British Columbia Political Studies Conference in Thompson Rivers University. I had an extremely successful year teaching Canadian Social Policy course where 60 students completed current research on social policy concern in Canada and two students decided to share their exemplary work with conference participants on an early Friday morning presentation. Jeffrey McNeil was a wonderful chair of the session and welcomed everyone to the panel and provided detailed feedback to all participants.
I had an opportunity to share about the course assignment in a presentation Social Policy Concern paper: Social work students’ responses to a contemporary concern in Canadian social policy. The assignment is used in teaching undergraduate social policy course that allows students to design individual research in the area of students’ interest to address specific social policy concern. The procedure on how students complete their multi-part assignment was discussed, including the selection of social policy concern using the 6A criteria for researching existing piece of Canadian legislation: availability of services, accessibility of services, the acceptability of services, affordability of services, appropriateness of services, and adequacy of services. I shared the examples of social policy concerns selected by students and implications for social work practice in addressing current Canadian social policy concerns.
After my presentation, Saima Farooqi shared her research on Availability of Legal Status for Stepparents in Alberta in a Parental Role for Children Under 18 Years in Blended Families. Saima emphasized that stepfamilies are increasing in number in Western societies. Remarriage and cohabitation are a rising phenomenon. Blended families are fast becoming an important family structure that results in complex relationships. Adults and children are challenged by the ambiguous roles that they may encounter in the new family dynamics. Canadian policy has also failed to recognize the current reality of multiple parents and parenting legally. The Family Law Act of Alberta lacks in defining and stating rights and roles of stepparents living in blended families, albeit child support obligations are outlined. Also, there is much literature and research providing support for ex-partners and their children, but there has been less focus on blended families, their systematic rights, roles, and expectations. The objective of Saima’s presentation was to contribute towards understanding the influence of social perceptions on blended families, and the significant issues faced by stepparents in blended families in their day-to-day lives regarding their rights, roles, and expectations. Based on a critical perspective, the Ms Frooqi presented proposals to overcome limitations in Canadian policy to create availability of a structural framework that acknowledges and appreciates blended families as a norm in our society. She also discussed the policy implications for needed changes in Alberta Family Law.
The final presentation in our panel was given by Rayell Sellars-Sarnowski on Inappropriate criteria for registration of status Indians. Rayell shared with the audience that the adverse effect that the Indian Act has had, and continues to have, on Indigenous peoples is palpable. Ms Sellars-Sarnowski provided insight on how inappropriate the policy is, an in-depth exploration of the implications that Indian status, as defined in the Indian Act, has on Indigenous peoples in Canada. The inappropriateness references the use of ‘Indian’, and the exclusion of Métis and Inuit peoples from Indian status. The Indian Act also inappropriately provides the government with the right to unethical management of status Indians, due to delegated authorities that exclude Indigenous leadership. While it can be seen that there is a need for revision to the Indian Act and Indian registration, many who are uninformed about the issue may be resistant to the changes. Registration concerns should be taken into consideration by the government of Canada to end the systemic oppression of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. This discussion may ensure that Indigenous status could transform into appropriate and beneficial legislation. It could potentially be the beginning of equity for Indigenous peoples in Canada.
After all presentation, the audience had an opportunity to ask questions. We had a lovely discussion, and some students in the attendance expressed interest in taking social policy course in the future as they also want to make a difference in social-policy making process. I want to thank Terry Kading for supporting our panel and encouraging TRU undergraduate students to share their research. Thank you also to everyone who came to our early Friday morning session. I hope Saima and Rayell will continue advancing their research and policy advocacy work and will present in the future conferences as everyone who was present commented on their excellent research topics and persuasive arguments in using social work lenses to influence Canadian social policy. I was extremely proud of my student work and hope more social work students keep challenging existing inequalities within Canadian social policy outside of the classroom. The assignment will be continuously used in the future offering of the course as a tool to ignite student interest in current Canadian social policy concerns.