2011

Vol 2(2): Autumn 2011

Top Story

A DYNAMIC START TO THE ACADEMIC YEAR

Classes have started and students are eager to begin learning, and what better way to ease them along — and answer some of those inevitable questions that have been building up all summer — than with a vast array of orientation activities.

They’re wondering about everything from courses and professors and schedules to the logistics of daily life and just where they can find a good, cheap lunch on campus. And all of those questions are important.

2nd year MSW students can remember all too well how confused they felt when they started only one year earlier. That’s why members of the Graduate Students Association organized an orientation day geared to make 1st years feel more at home. Students got the chance to ask some of those burning questions of 2nd years who were eager to contribute their own experiences. Later in the day, they broke up into small groups to tour the campus, led by 2nd year MSW students.

There was also an orientation event for PhD students where they too had the opportunity to have their questions answered and meet key Faculty members. PhD students also participated in a workshop about the kinds of jobs that are available to them.

And that’s not all. There were workshops on using the library, on writing at the graduate level, on preparing for practicum placements and working interprofessionally in the health sciences. And there was real fun to be had too, at a meet and greet pub night. There, students devoured pizza and introduced themselves, swapping stories and sharing interests.

1st year MSW students spent two thought-provoking days at an Introduction to Social Work Conference. Sitting at round tables that encouraged discussion, they listened to a wide array of speakers on subjects as diverse as linking theory to practice, the challenge of putting theory and policy into practice, social justice, the latest theories of neuroscience and psychodynamic theory.

Dean Mishna welcomed the students, emphasizing that students are encouraged to be open to all of the theories during their years as students, so that when they start working as social workers, they can pick and choose the approach that works best for their client.

The two day conference for MSW students drew to a close on a strong note. Students listened closely as writer and human rights activist Marina Nemat described her experience of being tortured and imprisoned as a teenager in Iran. Her story struck a powerful chord with the crowd of aspiring social workers and inspired some challenging questions.  Nemat’s memoir about those horrifying years, Prisoner of Tehran, was just nominated as one of the top ten books in CBC Radio’s 2012 Canada Reads: True Stories competition.

The conference ended with a presentation by Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Executive Director of the Canadian Roots Exchange Program at U of T’s Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives. She spoke about her experience travelling with small groups of young people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, through the Canadian Roots Exchange to Aboriginal communities across Canada.

What’s Going On

EXPANDING THE MIND – AND COURSES – AT CONTINUING ED

Mindfulness meditation may be an ancient art but these days we understand its enormous benefits in terms of the latest discoveries from neuroscience about how the brain works.  Courses explore the vast number of ways mindfulness can be applied from promoting learning in schools to the burgeoning new field of mindful organizational leadership.

Learn how the principles and skills of Solution-Focused Coaching can change how you deal with conflict, improve performance and productivity in the workplace and help students establish and maintain learning goals – and that’s only a sample of the courses we’re offering to meet your needs, both personally and professionally, in this innovative new program.

Start spending your Sundays with us. You’ve asked for it and we’re responding. We’re offering something new – a series of Sunday workshops. The first three workshops, which take place on November 20th from 9 am to 4 pm, cover subjects as diverse as: what new brain research means for you, enhancing your client’s motivation to change and staying compassionate and effective in a high stress work environment.

Learn more at Continuing Education.

POWERED BY LEARNING

The Summer Mentorship program, which encourages Aboriginal and black students to pursue a post-secondary education, gives students an opportunity to see what a huge difference an education can make to their lives.

Terry Gardiner (Outreach and Alumni Mentoring Coordinator) and Cheryl Mitri (Seneca College faculty member and counsellor) organized the Faculty’s participation in the program which is sponsored by the Faculty of Medicine. Gardiner and Mitri, both Faculty alumni themselves, focused on providing students with an experience that empowered them by emphasizing the benefits of lifelong learning.

EVERBODY NEEDS A BUDDY

When 1st year MSW student Lara Awoleye got the e-mail from her new buddy, 2nd year MSW Christine Mitchell, she couldn’t believe how similar they were – they were both mothers — and as they communicated over the course of the summer, Awoleye‘s anxieties about starting school began to lessen.

That’s the power of a wonderful new mentoring program launched this summer by Outreach and Alumni Mentoring Coordinator Terry Gardiner, which matches up 2nd and 1st year students. It’s an inspired idea that really works – and it developed directly out of feedback from 1st year student cohorts.

Awoleye uses Mitchell as a general sounding board. “A lot of what we talk about is logistics,” says Mitchell, who has two buddies. “How do I find this on campus, how do I go about doing this, what is this course or professor like, very practical information. Everybody needs somebody to talk to that they know will listen. When I was starting 1st year, I had the same fears. This  program is filling an enormous need.”

Mitchell is the co-founder of a group for students who are parents which has grown out of the buddy program.  Awoleye and Mitchell haven’t just gained a buddy.  Now they have an entire network of people they can turn to.  And it’s all because of this amazing program.

IMAGINE WE ALL WORK TOGETHER

The Imagine Clinic is an extraordinary place. Every Saturday, it provides much-needed healthcare for the most underserved people in our city. Entirely run – and founded — by students, it is designed to give students experience working together on interprofessional teams.

Anyone who walks into the inner city clinic is seen by a team consisting of four students, from social work, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, as well as four professionals from each discipline who volunteer as preceptors.

“We can’t work in silos anymore,” says Cheung, a former nurse with interprofessional experience. “By working together and sharing information, we create a cohesive and cooperative environment that best serves the client’s needs.” The clinic opened for its second year at 168 Bathurst Street on October 15th.

IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO CONNECT

Susan Blight, Academic Coordinator at U of T’s First Nations House, understands how important it is for all students to feel a sense of community. The more connected students feel, the more likely they are to stay in school, something that is particularly important for Aboriginal students.  Blight aims to decrease that sense of isolation. Each Monday from noon to 4 she is at the Faculty in room 430 providing academic and financial counselling to Aboriginal students and information on Aboriginal subjects to anyone who drops by. This is a new initiative at U of T and ours is the first Faculty that First Nations House has connected with in this way.

NOW WE’RE TEACHING ARTS AND SCIENCE UNDERGRADS

Associate professor Ramona Alaggia is teaching “Gender and Violence” at the Women and Gender Studies Institute. “This is part of an integrated curriculum effort across all three campuses,” says Alaggia, “to highlight the important work that needs to be done, both locally and globally, in the area of violence against women and children.”

Assistant professor David Brennan is teaching “Sex & the Epidemic: Social Work, HIV & Human Sexuality” through University College’s Sexual Diversity Studies program.  The course, which is intended to give students a sense of how the HIV epidemic and sexuality are influencing the way social services are provided, will be hands on and community-based (with guest lecturers from the human and social services).

NEUROBIOLOGY WORKSHOP ATTRACTS OVERFLOWING CROWD

The room was packed for this stimulating Nov. 4th workshop as Dr. Dennis Miehls, associate dean and professor at Smith College School for Social Work, familiarized participants with the latest theories in neurobiology, focusing on implications for clinical practice. This successful event was co-sponsored by the Factor-Inwentash Chair in Children’s Mental Health, associate professor Ramona Alaggia, and the Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Chair in Child & Family, professor and dean Faye Mishna.

FALL CONVOCATION

Fall convocation ceremonies for MSW, PhD and Advanced Diploma in Social Service Administration students take place at 6 pm on November 10th at Convocation Hall, followed by a dinner reception for graduates and their families at the Gallery Grill in Hart House.

WHY IS RESILIENCE SO IMPORTANT?

Frequently misunderstood and misused, resilience has the potential to dramatically change the way we understand and support individuals, families and communities who are dealing with adversity.

Dr. Michael Ungar discusses “Resilience in Children and Youth: Implications for School Settings” in a talk at Victoria College, 2nd floor Chapel, 9:00 am to noon on Nov. 25th.  Co-sponsored by the Factor-Inwentash Chair in Children’s Mental Health, associate professor Ramona Alaggia, and the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Chair in Child and Family, professor and dean Faye Mishna.

Recently in Honours and Awards

BEST OF THE YEAR

Congratulations to professor Marion Bogo who just received an award for the Best Conceptual Article of 2011 published in the Journal of Social Work Education. Bogo received the award on October 29th at the Council for Social Work Education’s annual conference in Atlanta for “Field Education as the Signature Pedagogy of Social Work Education,” by Julianne Wayne, Marion Bogo and Miriam Raskin.  This award recognizes innovative conceptualization, important and timely content that adds significantly to social work education.

What’s New in Practicum

DO YOU WANT TO HELP SHAPE THE NEXT GENERATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS?

Well then, consider becoming a field instructor and have a direct effect on the educational experience of our MSW students. Field instructors find that there are many benefits – and it’s not just that working with students makes them feel young again — they grow as social workers themselves and learn a great deal through professional development workshops. Contact us today at practicum.fsw@utoronto.ca.

EDUCATIONAL SUPPORTS KEEP FIELD INSTRUCTORS LEARNING

An October 7th workshop offered helpful hints to field instructors on reviewing beginnings and setting up learning contracts with students; an October 21st workshop considered the role played by power and authority in the field instructor/student relationship; a November workshop will focus on evaluation in field education; the January 2012 workshop’s subject is resolving conflict; and in March  2012, field instuctors learn how to prepare students for professional autonomy.

THIS FUND IS STRENGTHENING TIES

The Bertha Rosenstadt Trust Health Fund supports research at organizations that provide a minimum number of consecutive placements for our students. It is supporting research projects relevant to social work education, training and practice at ten partner organizations: the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), George Hull Centre, Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital, Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto Rehabilitation Centre, Toronto East General Hospital, University Health Network and Women’s College Hospital.

According to Colleen Kelly, Discipline Chief — Social Work at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Adjunct Lecturer at the Faculty and alum, “The Bertha Rosenstadt Trust Health Fund has been extremely helpful. It’s helped us to hire U of T research students,  put together papers and disseminate our findings. “We’ve used the funds to research clinical supervision, evaluate a model of hospital partnership  as well as CAMH’s social work mentorship program.”

Recent Events

ALUMNI KICK OFF THE ACADEMIC YEAR IN STYLE

This popular event at Club Monaco was organized by alumni Myda Kavazanjian, Eileen McKee (Assistant Dean of Field Education), Cheryl Mitri and Melissa Popiel. The relaxed and easy-going mood was set by our good-natured group of models. People wandered the store (which was closed for this exclusive event), shopping at a discount, striking up conversations, renewing old friendships and making new ones.

Participating in events like this made many of them feel more connected to the Faculty.  One alumna brought her entire clinical team, explaining that it was a good way to spend time together while doing something just a little different.

It was a warm night and people spilled out of the store onto the front steps. They stood talking on the sidewalk as they said goodnight. It’s a sure sign of a good party when people just don’t want to leave.

ART MEETS RESEARCH AT NUIT BLANCHE

Talk about a creative way to get your research out. At this year’s Nuit Blanche, Toronto’s annual all-night art extravaganza, some 7,000 people passed through an art installation and exhibit illustrating professor David Hulchanski’s recent report (“The Three Cities Within Toronto”). This much publicized report points to the troubling trend of growing polarization in our city. The Oct. 1st event featured a giant map of Toronto created by installation artist Mitchell Chan, as well as posters, reports and questions for the public – all of it geared to promoting discussion on the pressing topic of our increasingly divided city.

PROMOTING MEANINGFUL CHANGE IN OUR COMMUNITIES

The 5th cohort of the 2011 Creative Institute for Toronto’s Young (CITY) Leaders program graduated on October 7th. This innovative leadership development institute involves youth in community organizing, social activism and civic engagement, by urging them to embrace challenge, promote change and exercise leadership. The Faculty has partnered with the Capacity Building Unit of United Way Toronto to support these future leaders of tomorrow.

THIS PLAY WAS PART OF THE RESEARCH

The performance used themes, transcript excerpts and images from arts-related focus groups — in one arresting scene, a door keeps shutting on a job applicant. A lively Q & A followed. “We tried to tap not only into things that can be expressed in words but in our bodies too,” says Sakamoto, “not just to have a theoretical discussion but instead to show how tacit or implicit knowledge operates in the workplace and how it is often the reason that skilled professionals from other countries aren’t hired.”

Vol 2(1): May 2011

Top Story

TRANSFORMING LIVES

The Summer Mentorship Program in the Health Sciences gives promising Aboriginal and black Ontario high school students the tools and support necessary to pursue post-secondary education and careers in the health professions.

The program, which is sponsored by U of T’s Faculty of Medicine, targets groups who are under-represented in the health sciences. These are students who are not realizing their academic potential and are often on the verge of dropping out. Over four intense weeks, participants explore university life as they work with mentors, receive career education and gain hands-on experience shadowing people in the health professions.

But most of all, they begin to believe in a different future for themselves.

Last summer, during two days at the Faculty, co-ordinators Terry Gardiner (Outreach and Alumni Mentoring Co-ordinator) and Cheryl Mitri (Seneca College faculty member) arranged for students to meet with faculty, work collaboratively on case studies and shadow social workers at various onsite locations.

For Gardiner, a program like this is particularly valuable because it changes how students approach learning. “It makes it meaningful for them. This program doesn’t just show them what university feels like, it allows them to experience it directly for themselves.”

Mitri, a former high school drop-out, knows the program first hand. She went through it as a 24-year-old single mother. Suddenly finding herself surrounded by mentors and role models who cared deeply about her success completely galvanized her.

She returned to high school, was nominated as Valedictorian, received a number of scholarships and went on to receive her Honours BSc and her MSW at the Faculty. “Gaining an education allowed me to take control over my life. The program made me feel for the first time that I had the power to navigate my life in meaningful ways.”

Mitri tells her story to motivate others – people come up to her after she speaks or send her letters saying she’s inspired them to go back to school. Gardiner says that the students never imagine that a professor or social worker would look like them. “But then they see me,” says Mitri, “and think, if she can do it, I can do it. When they know someone believes in them, it can literally move mountains.”

What’s Going On

CONTINUING ED COURSES ARE RESPONSIVE AND RELEVANT – THEY’RE ALSO BOOMING

As Continuing Education continues to respond to the needs of learners with relevant and effective programming, attendance is increasing significantly across the board. A new workshop in Custody Evaluation, created in direct response to an announced change in hiring trends, was sold out.

New courses are being introduced into the Mindfulness program in response to a surge in popularity. Mindfulness, an emerging field in social work that is increasingly being recognized for the positive results it produces in front-line services, private practice and personal well-being, is attracting people who are taking the courses for personal and professional development simultaneously.

One of the most successful courses is also one of the oldest in Continuing Education —  Solution-Focused Counselling — which focuses on a results-oriented technique developed with private practitioners in mind.

LEARNING HOW TO STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD IN A COMPETITIVE JOB MARKET

Students fine-tuned their resume, cover letter writing and interview skills in three recent workshops sponsored by the Alumni Mentoring Program.

In workshops on February 8th and March 14th, alumna Lucky Kalsi from U of T’s Career Centre showed students how to frame their education and experience to meet the specific requirements of social work positions.

Alumnus Geert van der Veen, a social worker in children’s mental health, encouraged students in a March 14th workshop to employ information interviews to seek out career opportunities and expand professional networks.

What’s New in Practicum

NEW WORKSHOPS ADDRESS A COMPELLING RANGE OF DIVERSE ISSUES

The Practicum Office is committed to providing relevant and memorable professional development workshops that enable our field instructors and students to grow and learn. A May 17th workshop on “The Complexity of Affect Management and the Impact on New Social Workers” is designed to provide beginning social workers with the tools to develop and integrate strategies to control their emotional reactions in working with clients.

Recent practicum workshops have addressed such crucial issues as how to resolve conflict (Feb. 9th) and how to create a positive learning environment for LGBTQ students (an interactive training session on March 24th).

Recent Events

RBC CONFERENCE SHINES SPOTLIGHT ON WHAT CONSTITUTES CIVIC LEADERSHIP

Gordon Nixon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Bank of Canada, delivered the keynote address at the 2011 annual RBC Conference on April 27th, speaking on “Reflections on Civic Leadership.” Other thought-provoking sessions at this year’s successful conference – “Civic Engagement and Economic Development in Canadian Cities” – delved into such pertinent issues as “Civic Governance and Social Inclusion in Ottawa” and “Civic Engagement and Civic Leadership in Toronto’s Future.”

STUDENTS DISCOVER HOW THE ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS CAN HELP THEM

Tracey Nelson, Manager of the Central Ontario Branch of the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW), explained to students the importance of post-graduation membership and accreditation in the OASW at this March 22nd workshop. Benefits and services provided by the organization, which advocates on behalf of Ontario social workers, include insurance, professional development, employment resources and networking.

INSIGHT INTO THE EXPLODING WORLD OF CYBER COUNSELLING

Lawrence Murphy’s March 21st one-hour workshop at the Faculty introduced some of the key technical, practical and ethical issues involved in providing online counselling. Murphy, one of the very first practitioners to offer Internet counselling (see www.therapyonline.ca) and a co-author of the first ethical code for online practice, teaches courses in cyber counselling at the Faculty (two of which are funded by Bell Canada). Therapy Online provides training to e-counsellors worldwide.

WHY IS RESILIENCE SO IMPORTANT?

Resilience is an important concept with huge implications. Frequently misunderstood and misused, resilience has the potential to dramatically change the way we understand and support individuals, families and communities who are dealing with adversity.

Research, stories of resilience and the ways policy and practice can promote resilience were explored in a February 16th workshop at the Faculty. “Pathways to Resilience” was co-sponsored by the Factor-Inwentash Chair in Children’s Mental Health, associate professor Ramona Alaggia, and the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Chair in Child and Family, professor and dean Faye Mishna, with Reaching IN…Reaching OUT, an evidence-based resilience promotion program for young children.

A recently completed research and knowledge exchange project conducted by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, led by Reaching IN… Reaching OUT, provided the framework.