As a FIFSW community and global society, we have been challenged by COVID-19, economic uncertainty, and a racial reckoning, which has laid bare many of society’s long-standing social and economic inequalities.
During the past year, our community has achieved several successes. Yet there are several more we need to work towards, which we can only realize together. In this summer letter, I provide several important updates regarding fall semester classes, summarize some of our past successes and share some goals for the upcoming year.
Online fall classes
Our main priority as we plan for the fall is to protect the health and wellness of our social work community – our students, faculty, staff and community partners. We are now able to say with certainty that all MSW and PhD classes will take place online (except for the ITR fall intensives). There is therefore no need for students to be in Toronto for fall classes. The online course delivery will include a combination of asynchronous (i.e., recorded lectures with no scheduled class time) and synchronous (i.e., scheduled class times, live discussions, and/or real-time lectures) learning opportunities. The Faculty is deeply committed to creating an innovative and engaging online learning experience for all of our students. We are also working on social and mentorship experiences that will be available to students during the academic year.
The Indigenous Trauma and Resiliency (ITR) one-week intensive classes is the one planned exception for in-person classes in the fall. This one-week in-person intensive will follow public health guidelines related to physical distancing, group size, and use of appropriate PPE as required. Relevant information will be communicated to students before any such in-person experience occurs. Students in the ITR Program will be provided with more information during the summer. Please contact Mel LeBlanc (email@example.com) with any ITR questions you may have in the interim.
Looking back over the past year our FIFSW Community has:
- Developed a FIFSW 5-Year Strategic Plan
- Launched the Centre for Research & Innovation for Black Survivors of Homicide Victims (CRIB)
- Funded four Dean’s Faculty Network Awards
- Received the first President’s Impact Award — Professor Barbara Fallon was awarded this honour this year — the first for a social work scholar
- Been allocated two Canada Research Chairs (Tier 2)
- Created the endowed Lee Wu Kee Ming Chair for a distinguished Indigenous full professor scholar
Students experience and support
- Received a renewed gift of $225,000 to the ITR program from the Fu Hui Education Foundation, which will be matched
- Created a new International Student Coordinator role
- Increased our international student admissions by 300 percent
- Dispersed emergency COVID-19 funds to support students in need
- Increased summer and fall course and practicum flexibility to support COVID-19 uncertainties
- Raised funds for our new Student Leadership Academy, created to support 10 second-year MSW students in developing critical skills needed to emerge as social work leaders
- Increased student communication — 5 community-wide update meetings; monthly Dean office hours for students, faculty and staff; and weekly Associate Dean, Academic Student Digest
Diversity and equity
- Prioritized diversity and excellence as necessary paths to increasing our Impact
- Continued to emphasize student diversity and successfully recruited more diverse faculty, and postdoctoral fellows
- Facilitated ongoing staff, student and faculty diversity and inclusion workshops and conversations
- Redesigned our website
- Significantly amplified our national and global profile by extending our communications and media outreach by approximately 300%
As the FIFSW community continues to learn and grow, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow with you in my new role as Dean. We have been flexible and resilient in the face of change. However, there are lingering questions as to what the Winter semester will hold as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Working together, we will address these uncertainties. I will continue to communicate with you, soliciting your input, suggestions, and wisdom.
In the upcoming year the FIFSW community will:
- Deepen and amplify many of the gains that FIFSW achieved in year 1
- Continue to operationalize other aspects of our 5-Year Strategic Plan
- Recruit for the Lee Wu Kee Ming Chair for a distinguished Indigenous scholar
- Map and address curriculum gaps, especially with regards to incorporating intersectional and anti-racist frameworks with the newly formed Curriculum and Innovation Committee
- Launch the FIFSW Online Clinic
I wish you an enjoyable and safe summer, and look forward to you being in touch with me and the FIFSW community.
Dean & Professor
Sandra Rotman Chair in Social Work
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto