It has been almost 6 months since the COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic changes and challenges in how we live and work. Our resiliency and stamina have been tested. There are still challenges and future uncertainties ahead, but with patience, collective care and grit, we will eventually return to a new normal.
In the midst of these changes, we can all find reasons to be grateful. For me, welcoming a new cohort of students is one of them. Our students are driven by mission-driven passion to make changes in the world and are being called upon to address increasingly complex societal problems and inequalities. COVID-19 health disparities and horrific incidences of police violence have laid bare that many of these social and health inequalities are rooted in systemic racism.
To help support our new students to be more effective social workers in an increasingly complex and diverse society, this year the Diversity and Equity Committee — building on the summer diversity workshop that all new students are required to take — have introduced two new modules during orientation. On day one, Assistant Professor Ashley Quinn and Associate Professor Tanya Sharpe conducted two simultaneous modules on anti-Indigenous racism and anti-Black racism. We are grateful for their contributions.
Additionally, all incoming students were sent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) content during the summer. At the Introduction to Social Work Conference, new students worked in small break out groups facilitated by second-year students and alumni to discuss this content. Much gratitude to all our facilitators as well!
FIFSW is a community of continuous learners. As such, I would like to share these materials with all of you in the hopes that the conversations held among new students will continue outside orientation, to permeate classrooms, practicum settings, dinner tables and workplaces. The discussion questions and a list of DEI content, including the materials that were made available to students, can be accessed HERE.
As a reminder, this year the newly formed Curriculum and Innovation Committee will be mapping our curriculum to identify important gaps, including those that exist with respect to anti-racist content. The Committee’s feedback will include proposals to better integrate new content and processes that reflect diverse perspectives and ways of knowing. I look forward to reporting back on their actionable recommendations.
I would like to encourage you to reach out with any recommendations or suggestions you may have. I look forward to connecting with you again soon.
Dean & Professor
Sandra Rotman Chair in Social Work
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto