(Updated July 12, 2021)
Fall 2021 update
Fall classes and co-curricular activities
We have made a difficult but informed decision to deliver FIFSW classes online during the fall semester. However, there will be a few exceptions for some classes in our ITR program and PhD program.
Although vaccinations are increasing and caseloads are currently in decline, public health experts anticipate that some restrictions on gathering size limits and physical distancing will remain in place in the fall. Social distancing requirements combined with the small classroom spaces in our building will likely impede our ability to have in-person classes.
While our fall classes will be online (synchronous and asynchronous), we are prepared to deliver a high-quality learning experience. Additionally, we are committed to developing as many in-person co-curricular activities as possible following public health guidelines to ensure you have opportunities to meet and engage with your fellow students, instructors, and staff.
MSW Practicum II
Each partner agency determines the format of each practicum. Therefore, you are advised to make your practicum choices carefully as you will be required to commit to your practicum and field instructor — whether the practicum is fully remote, entirely in person, or a combination of both — until April.
In the fall, we will communicate the format of our winter classes to ensure you have ample time to plan for that semester. If public health restrictions are lifted in the fall, we intend to be fully in person in the winter.
Public health experts are optimistic that Canada’s vaccine rollout will remain strong and that case numbers will continue to decline and stay low. Our vaccination program gives us hope that the fall semester will mark the start of many more positive changes to come. While vaccinations are not mandatory, we encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so.
We continue to recognize the weathering effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students, faculty, and staff. Your collective safety and quality academic completion remain our highest priority. Please continue to prioritize self-care and support for your loved ones and each other as we anticipate a good 2021-2022 academic year. Please be in touch with any of us with your questions.
July 12: Follow up email from the Academic Leadership Team
Dear FIFSW MSW Students,
We heard you at our community meeting on July 7, 2021.
As we stated then and reaffirm now, your success represents ours at FIFSW. We are all committed and banded together to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and provide you with a high-quality academic experience that prepares you for the critical work that lies ahead to support individual, societal, and community uplift.
Following are several action steps we have taken or are taking to respond to the essential and diverse needs expressed during our community update. (Please note that separate follow-up is taking place with PhD students.)
- Targeted cohort meetings
We recognize that the needs and information sought by students can vary depending on their location within the program. As a result, we are planning meetings to be held later this month for each cohort of students, including incoming students, returning students, and international students. Invitations to these meetings will be shared shortly.
These targeted meetings will allow us to respond to your questions in smaller groups that are more focused. We also plan to have cohort meetings that are organized around fields of studies, as you suggested.
- Responding to questions about incidental fees
Incidental Fees, which are determined by the Provost’s Office, cover the costs of services and programs not otherwise funded by your tuition. These services and programs include university-operated student services (such as career centres, Hart House and mental health care) as well as student societies (such as the Graduate Students Union) — all of which have continued to operate during the pandemic and will increase in-person activities as restrictions lift. We will invite a representative to our upcoming students’ meetings in July to provide more detailed information and answer any questions you have on these fees.
- Fluid feedback mechanism to address challenges with online classes
We recognize that while many students are satisfied with their online classes, some are not. Some students experiencing dissatisfaction with their online courses may not feel comfortable coming forward. This leads to missed opportunities for possible improvements. To address this, we are creating a portal to be launched in the fall for students to register feedback to instructors. We also encourage you to write kudos to your instructors when your classroom experience is going well. Our instructors, including field instructors, also saddled by COVID-19 and its impact, are trying their best to provide you with the highest academic experience possible. We will provide you with more information on the portal when it is launched in the fall.
- Student mental wellness supports
As mentioned in the meeting, FIFSW’s On Location Accessibility Advisor Hannah Jackson can help direct students to available mental health resources and work with you to create flexibility in your academic experience. U of T’s Accessibility Services team, which she is part of, works to provide a level playing field for students with disabilities through individualized solutions that meet the accessibility needs of registered students. You may reach Hannah via email at email@example.com or by phone at (416) 978-7759.
Last year, U of T launched Navi: Your mental health wayfinder. Navi, short for navigator, is a chat-based service that acts as a virtual assistant for students wanting to learn more about the mental health supports available to them at the University of Toronto. Click here to learn more about this tool.
UTGSU, in partnership with the School of Graduate Studies, has also developed a hub of mental health resources on campus tailored to graduate students. Click here to view the Graduate Wellness Directory.
Last spring, we created a page on FIFSW’s website that lists mental health resources offered by U of T as well as other organizations and agencies. Click here to view the full list. We will continue to add to this list of recourses as new information becomes available. Your feedback and suggestions are also welcome.
- Increasing student engagement and community building opportunities
In addition to a number of in-person and online social events and activities we are planning for fall (coffee and chat, pizza and picnic in the park, mentorship and training), there will be a student engagement and community building meeting on Wednesday, August 11 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. All students will be invited to this event. At this community event, we will share ideas and discuss how we can build community in the fall term and beyond. Your Graduate Student Association will provide updates about the association, and we will share how different student affinity groups can be created. More details along with the invitation to this community-building event will be sent closer to August.
To champion and operationalize further co-curricular programming and activities informed by your feedback, two work-study positions have been submitted for posting from August 16 to August 20 through the U of T Work Study website.These two positions will utilize the feedback received from the engagement session to act as community ambassadors to actively plan, develop, deliver, and evaluate events and activities to create capacity for building a more connected network and community. If you are looking to become a community leader within your different student cohorts at FIFSW, please review and apply for these positions when they are posted.
- Addressing concerns about being competitive in the job market
We are in the process of devising ways to collect robust post-graduation student satisfaction and employment data. From self-reported data we have seen that many of our students who graduated this spring have secured employment. Given the concerns current students have expressed, this fall we would like to plan an information session with a panel of graduates from the 2020-2021 academic year who can share their experiences securing employment after having spent over a year learning remotely. Alumni and employers who have hired recent graduates would also be invited to join this session.
- Financial need
For students experiencing financial hardship, we wanted to provide a reminder that the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) provides emergency funding in the form of emergency grants and loans. For details on this support as well as opportunities from provincial and federal governments, please visit: https://www.viceprovoststudents.utoronto.ca/covid-19/funding-opportunity-directory/
The Faculty also has awards that are needs-based. Information on these opportunities are available here: https://socialwork.utoronto.ca/current-students/financial-support/
We have compiled answers to the questions raised at the Student Community Meeting to address other questions and concerns. Please find the FAQs attached. You may also read them online. We welcome further questions and feedback at upcoming meetings or via direct contact with faculty and staff.
Please be in touch with any of us based on your inquiry. We look forward to your ongoing feedback and working collaboratively with you to ensure a successful fall semester.
Dean & Professor
Ph.D. Program Director
Important building notice:
In light of the rapidly changing COVID developments, the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work building at 246 Bloor Street West is closed to the public until further notice. Deliveries cannot be received without advance notice. Mail to FIFSW should only come through Canada Post. (No couriered packages, please.)
NEW: Introducing Navi
U of T has launched a Student Mental Health Virtual Agent to help students navigate mental health supports at the University of Toronto. Navi (short for navigator) is an anonymous wayfinding tool that is available 24/7. It can currently speak to 48 broad topics related to mental health including: stress, anxiety, loneliness, harassment, discrimination, bullying, academics, career, sleep issues, accessibility, coping techniques, abuse, eating disorders, how to get involved, health care access, and more. Click here to learn more.
- Division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research FAQ
- Government of Canada Travel Advice (COVID-19)
- Ontario Ministry of Health
- Toronto Public Health
- Peel Public Health
- Public Health Ontario
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- World Health Organization
- CAMH: Mental health and COVID-19
Members of the FIFSW community who have questions, are encouraged to contact appropriate faculty member below:
Master of Social Work:
David Burnes, Associate Dean, Academic, and Associate Professor
Eileen McKee, Assistant Dean, Field Education
Lin Fang, PhD Program Director, and Associate Professor
David J. Brennan, Associate Dean, Research, and Professor