Introducing the 2016-2017 SWSU!

Anna StevensonCo-Chair

My Role: Hey everyone! My name is Anna and I am one of your co-chairs for the union. My job on the union is to work with Susanne (your other co-chair) and the rest of the union to act as a liaison betweIMG_4653en you (the students) and the faculty and administration. Also, as a co-chair I help plan and execute events tailored to Social Work students with other faculties and programs! This is my third year on the Social Work Students’ Union and I’m excited for the big plans we have in store! I hope to see you all around campus soon.


  • I enjoy lifting weights after class (RAC > MAC anytime)
  • I’m always listening to EDM (trance/dnb/house)
  • I’m obsessed with cute little pitbulls

Fun Facts:

  • I live with five other girls in downtown (it’s a busy house)
  • I’m originally from Niagara Falls
  • I recently completed my third year placement internationally in Australia and would love to chat with anyone else interested in a similar opportunity.

Susanne NyagaCo-Chair

I’m in my fourth year in the social work program. I have a very diverse personality in the sense that I can spend a whole weekend binge watching seasons on Netflix, or going out with friends and exploring the town. I love adventures and trying new things. I’m also a vegetarian, which I have found has actually opened me up to new and creative dishes. In terms of my role on the SWSU, I am Co-Chair. I was on the union last year as a First Year Ambassador and decided to stay on. In susannemy time on this campus I have been exposed to event planning, public speaking, and project management which are all useful tools when it comes to making this year great. I love to chat and hear from students with new perspectives and ideas so feel free to reach out to me with any questions, concerns or comments. The SWSU is here for social work students, to represent your thoughts, ideas and perspectives, therefore, going in this school year that is exactly what we plan to do.

Jolene TakerTreasurer

Hi there! I’m Jolene (AKA Jo), I use she/her pronouns, and I’ll be the treasurer on the Union this year12010646_10154290373023275_2238755743642377336_o!

I’ll be working with the other members of SWSU to plan and coordinate events for all undergraduate social work students, as well as working with Cristal to plan an event in March specifically for first-year students.

I’m interested in social justice and activism; I love attending rallies, demonstrations, and discussion panels (hello there professors, please take your classes to some of the larger events on and off campus). I’m always interested in learning and hearing new perspectives and thoughts, so please don’t be shy! Say hello, let’s grab a drink and chat. Or forward me articles, blogs, or suggestions for books, movies, and documentaries that you enjoy. :3

Some other hobbies and interests: reading books (Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is my favourite), reading comics and graphic novels, coffee dates, watching a lot of Netflix, playing video games, walking my pug Kiwi, being a magical girl, and drinking tea.

Erin Reeve-NewsonCommunications Executive

Hey! My name is Erin, I use she/her pronouns and I’m the communications executive on the SWSU this year. This is my first year on the Union and I’ll be working to connect with you through social mediame! Feel free to reach out to us via our Facebook page (, Twitter (@RyeSWSU), or email ( I’ll also be collaborating with other members of the Union to facilitate events. I’m particularly interested in Mad Studies and the Mad Pride movement, and would like to complete my placement in a complimentary environment. I love cooking, reading, and hanging out with my cat!

Maral AzimiFirst Year Ambassador

Hey lovelies, my name is Maral and I am in my 2nd year in the Social Work program. I use she/her pronouns, and I am the first year ambassador for the Social Work Students’ Union. What I am here to do? I would love to get to know you better, so please share your thoughts, interests, and experiences with me. I can help you to know your way around the campus and get comfortable. I also can advocate for you and our program by speaking on your behalf. I would love to hear about your comments and suggestions and hold cool social and academic events on how we can help you do better in school while having a social life.maral

All I am trying to say is: I’m here to hold your hand, so you’re not alone :) I am very excited for this year and I am looking forward to meeting with you and hearing from you soon!


  • I love painting (oil, acrylic, black pencil and charcoal)
  • I love to dance, sing, and be out with my friends
  • I love to travel and learn about different cultures
  • I love nature, sunny days, beach, oceans and mountains and emerald green is my favourite colour

Fun Facts:

  • I have two cats that I love so so so much
  • I also speak and read Farsi
  • I am a yogi and been doing yoga for the past 4 years


Cristal HinesSecond Year Executive

Talk to me ! Greetings to the reader! My name is Cristal and cristalI am the Second Year Executive for Ryerson’s Social Work Students’ Union and am responsible for conveying your thoughts, wishes and/or concerns to my team. Thereby we will collectively seek to rectify or meet any pressing matters promptly and effectively! Most importantly – I am here to support you socially, professionally and academically, If I do not have an immediate answer to your questions be assured we will find one. Let’s chat soon xo

Almerinda ColellaThird Year Executive

Hi everyone, my name is Almerinda Colella. I am your third year executive representative for the Social Work Students’ Union. I am a direct entry student and pronouns are she and her.

What I can do for you?almerinda

  • Provide answers to your questions
  • Advocate for our program by speaking on your behalf
  • Respond to any suggestions
  • Hold awesome academic and social events

My previous experiences in college and my workplace can be helpful for those who need support for their placements. If there is anything I can do to support you let me know. Please share your thoughts, interests, and experiences with me, I would love to chat with you. I look forward to meeting you and the chance to get to know you better.


  • I love to cook
  • I enjoy having a good meal or coffee with friends
  • Watching TV shows
  • Dancing and singing
  • Advocating:
    • against stigma and violence
    • for madness and disabilities

Fun Facts:

  • My name means Queen of Men
  • I make awesome cheesecakes

Shawna GorskyFourth Year Executive

Hello! My name is Shawna, and I am super excited to be the fourth year executive for the Social Work Students’ Union for this school year! I am looking forward to helping to plan and run different events, especially a graduation party for the class of 20shawna17. My goal is to be super approachable and resourceful to help my colleagues in any way I can. Also, I hope to keep everyone involved in the union and connected to events and other news. I am currently completing my placement at Children’s Aid Society in the family services department. I think this will be a very valuable experience for me, as I am specifically interested in family violence and child welfare. On my spare time (not that I have very much), you can usually find me in the gym. I am also a huge sports fan, mainly hockey, baseball and soccer, and I love to ski and snowboard. I also have a genuine passion for coffee and exploring different coffee shops around the city. However, ice cream is good too. I hope to one day travel to many different places around the world and continue learning through experience. I am looking forward to getting to know everyone better and having a great year!

“If Bruce Jenner REALLY wanted to become a woman- why didn’t he transition to a woman his own age?”

Written by Emma Coady Södergren

My aunt’s closest friend quoted a statement one of her colleagues had made at work. Everybody around the table nod in approval, and a few agreeing “mhmmms” are heard. Everybody seems to agree that this is a valid question. I close my eyes and take a few breaths. I focus on the fact that some of my happiest times are with these people- my extended family and how loved I am.

I don’t know what my reaction had been if I was studying anything else other than Social Work at Ryerson. One of my aunts chirped in a moment later saying: “I think people are being way too politically correct nowadays.” More approval. My cousin spoke up saying: “This MAY be considered to be politically incorrect, but wouldn’t there be reason to consider transgendered people to be mentally ill?” I am shocked at how many people nodded in agreement. At this point, I am speechless. I put my face in my hands, and my aunt looks at me, waiting for me to speak up. I am a cisgendered female (a term that was coined as “way too politically correct and ridiculous” during the same night) so I cannot speak for the transgendered community. I cannot try to explain to these 25 people looking at me how life is being transgender. I do not know what reality is like for the transgender community and I do not believe there is one singular person on this earth that could account for the whole community.

The part I play in this matter is explaining how I feel about the words and phrases people use and why they have these attitudes and views about the transgender community. Just a minute earlier, the same woman and her husband were saying that they can not identify at all with these people, and have no idea what life must be like for them. How can they turn around a minute later and say that Caitlyn Jenner is doing it “wrong?” It is noteworthy that all of the bodies around this table are cisgendered, straight, white and highly educated. I feel everybody’s eyes on me and I take a long, deep breath. I ask them to explain to me why they feel that people are being too politically correct. My aunt continues to tell me she heard how a white man tried to participate in a meeting for the Ryerson Black Students Group and wasn’t allowed to join. She exclaimed: “If it was the other way around that would be called racism!” I try to argue that white culture does not have a history of oppression, murder, violence and slavery behind them and the need for a sense of community that is safe from prejudice is very important for black people. She counters it by saying: “Well, we’re Irish. They were discriminated against before.” A classic. I should have seen it coming.

I am not saying that all white people have never encountered discrimination. I know that people have, and still do. But trying to compare how Irish settlers were discriminated against for a period of time in Canada when settling is not comparable to the history of the Black community. Does being Irish still to this day limit you in your daily life? Does it limit what opportunities are presented to you? Again, all of my relatives have a post-secondary education and a stable source of income. Many have Masters, and a few have PhDs. I figure at this point, that no matter how much I advocate for what I believe in, I know that it is going to be met with dismissive comments. I feel my cheeks burning and I manage to say: “I do not agree with anything you’re saying, and I find it ignorant.” It’s quiet around the table now, and my grandmother breaks the silence by offering more pumpkin pie.

The quote about Caitlyn Jenner is something I think about almost everyday. Where does this so-called knowledge base and truth come from? Why was it so easily accepted? My family was exercising the power they have, seeing as they are exactly what Western society wants to see from its citizens. They are self-sufficient, hardworking, straight, white, productive people. They fit the mould, and therefore they are given the right to judge those who don’t. I believe it stems from fear. It stems from the rejection of what you do not understand. “Oh they must be mentally ill, because I cannot fathom what is going through their minds right now.” There seems to be a constant pursuit to understand and measure people, and when they cannot, the “others” are written off, in dismissive attitudes, language and behaviour as deviant people, almost as though they are considered to be aliens.

HOW does Caitlyn Jenner’s transition change your life? WHY do you feel the need to criticize it? I cannot understand these ways of thinking, and if I tried to this would end up being a 150-page essay. I guess I’ll leave it at this – I simply do not understand. Caitlyn’s decisions about her appearance and how she wanted to transition can only be understood by her. Nobody else, transgender or not, can explain her choices. It is an individual, personal matter and I believe in subjective experiences that cannot be touched by this categorised way of thinking. Caitlyn waited a long time to transition; a majority of her life will have been spent as a man. It must be an incredible feeling to be able to live your life finally as yourself after so many years, and I congratulate her. Her choice of having a “traditionally” feminine appearance is hers, and she is entitled to it. The fact that she looks younger than she is does not mean that she is doing it for publicity and money. How is this connection even made?

For me, the essence of femininity is that of being courageous, beautiful and strong. All three things I believe Jenner is. For many years now, women have been advocating for our rights and equality, protesting and making change. Acts that require resilience and courage, which I think Jenner is showing by coming out so late in life, and doing it in front of the whole world. As for beauty, I do not believe that there is a “right” kind of beauty. I do not believe in the objectification of women and the unrealistic body image we are fed daily, but women still have the choice to be beautiful in whatever way we want to. If Caitlyn strives towards this body image, let her do so. Who are you to say that her idea of empowerment is not correct? In regards to my cousin’s comment that perhaps she should be labelled “mentally ill” I disagree completely. For starters, what do you mean by “mentally ill?” Who are these people? What criteria do they possess in order for you to label them as such? When I picture living my life living in a body I do not identify with, it seems unbearable. It seems to me to be psychologically torturing. To live with this and survive proves to me that the transgender community are infinitely strong. Do not devalue their lives by labelling an entire community. You are stripping them from their rights to their own emotions and identity and deeming them unfit.

To all those who are close to me: Please be mindful of what you say. You are entitled to whatever opinion you have, but by throwing statements out there like that, you are exercising power over a group of people, and enforcing all the barriers they have against them. What you say at your Thanksgiving table may seem insignificant, but it is here that change starts.

Disablement Issues- From a Feminist Perspective.

Written by Emma Coady Södergren

Throughout the course of our lives, we are constantly participating in a socialisation process. We learn what is appropriate, what is desirable and what is not. This varies across cultures and societies, influenced by history and politics. However, much like how our history and politics shape our current state structure so do our beliefs and attitudes. These unspoken beliefs and attitudes that us as a society possess deeply affect those who are seen as the “other.” Who are the “other” people? What criteria do they possess to be viewed as “them” rather than “us?” How do we categorize these people? What language do we use when referring to “them?”

In a study by Gold & Auslander in 1999 a comparison was made between the media coverage of people with disabilities between Canada and Israel. The findings were quite appalling, suggesting that women who suffer from a disability are dually oppressed (Gold & Auslander, 1999). Gold and Auslander found that in the 3 months they conducted the study, 63% of articles in which the gender was specified were about males, and 37% were about females. While the articles’ placement, size, terminology and length were similar, personal information about the person in focus were different (Gold & Auslander, 1999). When it came to males, their occupation was the main focus of the article whereas when the women were interviewed, their marital status, number of children, behaviour and ethnicity were the main focus.

The study also showed that disabled women were twice as likely to be subjected to physical and sexual violence than women without a disability. If these women chose to speak out about it, they were less likely to be believed than those without a disability. Furthermore, in some cases, the women are told that the perpetrator did them a favour because no one desires a disabled woman (Gold & Auslander, 1999). Moreover, women with a disability have a lower employment rate, minimizing their chances of changing their economic status, due to the negative attitudes and stigma surrounding them. This is a result of sexism and able-ism (Gold & Auslander, 1999). However, this is not a one-way street; women living in poverty have a higher chance of becoming disabled due to malnutrition and lack of healthcare in developing countries for example.

Taking this information Gold and Auslander provide us with, we can see a clear relation between disablement, gender, and complete participation in society. Women’s rights have progressed immensely during the past century, but disabled women are left out of the public discourse. Ignoring the additional dimension of difficulties they face leave them with little to no support. These women face the rejection of their bodies, often reinforced by the media and the stereotypes of what a desirable woman should look like. Hence, these women are facing social, economical and political barriers. How do we move forward and change this? The sexism and ableism women with disabilities face has a long history behind it.

Consequently, it is embedded in our culture today. I challenge today’s discourse regarding women with disabilities. It is not enough to label a demographic as the “disabled.” By doing so, these people are marginalized without anyone to hold accountable for it. How can you defeat the structural challenges you face without the support of your community and society? If and when you receive media coverage, rather than it being an opportunity to promote your political views and thoughts, the reporter chooses to focus on how many children you have and what your ethnicity is.

Additionally, these women have to struggle with their body image. Although it may seem trivial compared to the political and economical challenges, it interplays with our daily lives. To be told that someone who sexually abused you was doing you a favour is horrifying. Everyday, we are surrounded by media and advertisements that tell us all to look a certain way. If you deviate from this, you are not considered to be desirable in our society, something that is internalized in many. I believe that this is yet another subtle way to silence the voices of disabled women. They are not welcomed into the public discourse; rather they are seen as “them.” This dehumanizing, degrading view compresses these women’s identities so that they can be easily labelled.

Now, in 2015, with so many progressive steps behind them, my wish is for women to broaden their horizons. It is important that we continue to focus on gender equality, but the discourse needs to expand to women of all demographics. When I walk past women’s shelters in Toronto, my first thought is that in many cases there are stairs leading up to the shelter. How is a woman in a wheelchair going to access this shelter? These women are marginalized and silenced in too many areas of their lives, and whereas they receive pitiful, sad looks and empathy, not much is done about it. I encourage all members of society to expand their views and thoughts on the lives of disabled women, and start a dialogue. Do not categorize or draw assumptions upon the wishes and lives of these women, but rather invite them into the public discourse.

  • Auslander, G. K., & Gold, N. (1999). Disability terminology in the media: A comparison of newspaper reports in canada and israel. Social Science & Medicine, 48(10), 1395-1405. doi:10.1016/S0277-9536(98)00442-0

[De]Colonizing Sexualities: Queer Histories & Healthcare Accessibility in Ontario

How oppressive is it to hear mainstream media debating about what rights you deserve to have? This was the opening question posed in a video by a trans* activist in Dublin, in a video shown during the introduction of a workshop on inclusive practices for the LGBTQ+ community, held by Rainbow Health Ontario.

The two day workshop took place on March 12 and 13. The first was hosted by Rainbow Health Ontario on March 12 at the Ramada Hotel and was titled ‘Introduction to LGBTQ Health: Inclusive Practices and Language ( The second workshop was hosted by the LGBTQ Parenting Network ( the following day and was called “Queering the Family Tree: Building LGBTQ-Inclusive Programs and Services.”

There is really no better depiction of who has privilege in a context then when a certain group is debating what human rights another group should have. It’s never really as cut and dry as this, especially within an intersectional analysis. But this is a constant challenge the LGBTQ+ community challenge face, an experience well rooted in centuries of colonization and oppression.

The history LGBTQ+ has well been silenced by Western colonization. Speaker Devan Nambiar, the Educationquotes-94 Coordinator for Rainbow Health Ontario, opened his talk on colonization with the example of the Portuguese monarch’s first encounter with the King of the Ivory Coast in the 15th Century. The Portuguese were astonished when the King was female, and there were multiple male Queens to the throne. The Portuguese instructed the King that she could not be a King, but only a Queen. She dismissed the Portuguese and was able to keep Portuguese colonizers at bay for 30 years.

This story is most certainly not an uncommon one in Queer history, a history that has been silenced to suit a heteronormative monosexist Western agenda. In fact, upon speaking to other self-identified racialized attendees, this history was quite common in Indigenous groups within South Asia and Africa.

It is convenient that it is not common now, even moreso when it’s considered appropriate to debate whether trans* identified persons should have the same privileges as anyone else. To add further context, Devan alerted me that homosexuality was outlawed in 1834, yet the term heterosexual only emerged in the 1940s.

???????????????????????????????In the current neocolonized world we live in, homosexuality is outlawed in 70 countries. Devan highlighted that this is important for service providers to know when working with newcomers and refugees who may come from these countries or countries where LGBTQ status is still taboo. He mentioned how coming out or publicly self-identifying is a very Western notion, and that not all LGBTQ+ feel safe doing so, especially when their life was previously at stake for doing so. This relates to what our blog reported back in October about Closeted Activism in the Middle East (

There are subtle moments where you come face to face with privilege, and that moment occurred for me when a self-identified gay cisgendered man expressed that he needed to be careful travelling and identifying himself publicly for fear for his and his partner’s personal safety. As a straight-identifying person, this would never be a thought.

My fears revolve more around being morally policed for my choice in wardrobe and attitude as a cisgendered woman, or being blamed for any potential sexual violence imposed on me. Although I may be anxious travelling as a sex-positive feminist, my anxiety has never been based on who I may bed that evening. Heterosexual privilege is complicated by gender, and further complicated by race and ethnicity or able-bodied status when it comes to who can freely express their sexuality.

The following day, intersectionality was further dissected while looking at family practice, pluralism, and colonial practices. In Ontario, queer parents often had their children taken from them through custody cases, as family court judges deemed them unfit to parent.

A lot of change occurred in the 90s, including a family court decision recognizing same-sex couples as “spouses,” and allowing lesbian non-biological parents to legally adopt their children.  This led to the constitutional addition of protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation to Bill C-38, Canada’s civil marriage bill in 2005, allowing same sex marriages across the country.

Poster Designed by the LGBTQ Parenting Network. Visit their website to order copies.
Poster Designed by the LGBTQ Parenting Network. Visit their website to order copies.

This continues to be a struggle for Trans* parents. Devan said that transparents are finding the same resistance today that lesbian couples found in the seventies. According to Rachel Epstein, LGBTQ+ parenting activist, educator, and researcher, and workshop facilitator for the day, approximately 45% of Canadians still believe that LGBTQ people  should be denied the right to parent. “That’s pretty profound. When we walk into your services, we don’t know if you are one of those people.”

That’s when everyone started talking about tokenism among service providers, that posting a rainbow in the waiting room at your workplace was not enough to render your agency inclusive. Someone from the workshop referred to the need to “back up the rainbow.” As well meaning as posting a rainbow sticker might be, if there is even one prejudiced staff member, this could create an exclusionary atmosphere for the service user.

The relevance of having properly trained staff in both social services and healthcare became apparent when Rachel informed everyone that former generations of LGBTQ people still carry the impact of historical discrimination. Barriers to accessibility are still encountered by LGBTQ communities “That’s why you, as one of those service providers, you must go out of your way to make LGBTQ people feel comfortable,” said Rachel.

The workshop not only increased my awareness about the unique challenges the LGBTQ communities face, but also educated me on the unique challenges LGBTQ people face depending on what stage of life they are in. For elders, many are finding that they have to go back into the closet just to survive in Senior homes, where a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seems to take effect. If their sexual orientation becomes disclosed, they risk alienation and their personal safety.

For children, the main concern is being accepted at home and social alienation when they begin school. This video about Dyson, The Princess Boy, was shown to us, and I had to share it here because it was beautifully put together and is incredibly heartwarming, minus the part quoting a Fox News opinion. 

For parents, heterosexism is constantly an issue, especially when it comes to intake forms that ask about who is the mother and father to their children. Transparents expressed fear of walking in public while being a pregnant male. Among youth, heterosexism within schools was also a major concern, and new issues were brought to the surface. We were shown a video where multiple youth shared their perspective on the issues they faced, and one affirmed that coming out of the closet was antiquated and that it shouldn’t be necessary, that sexuality should be accepted as fluid. This is a pretty basic summary, because this analysis becomes further complicated when intersectional analyses are applied.childNO

According to the research findings Rachel presented, children from LGB led families exhibit:

  • Increased awareness & empathy towards social difference
  • Higher self-esteem & better mental health than children from heteronormative families
  • Less likely to apply gender values and stereotypes to others
  • Lived in more egalitarian households with shared parenting and housework and parents spent more time with their children
  • More likely to be sexually explorative, though no more likely to identify as LGB

After seeing these findings, I recalled the video where the person brought up how oppressive it feels for someone to debate about how many rights you should be entitled to all because of your LGBTQ status. The fact that children from LGB led families are studied on the basis of who their parents bed is oppressive. It points to how LGB parents must prove they are not corrupting their children’s mental and emotional wellbeing, when heterosexual parent led families aren’t put under the microscope on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Despite the blatant display of heteronormative privilege, it’s great to see these positive results. In fact, it appears children from LGB parent led families may be better adjusted emotionally and more mentally stable than their heterosexual parent led peers. In all honesty, what standard would LGB parents have to fulfill anyway? Perfect families don’t exist.

For heterosexual parents to expect more from LGB parents is simply setting them up to fail. Instead, it appears that children from LGB families are more well-adjusted when it comes to gender and sexuality than children from heterosexual led families. Yet, CAS will not be investigating the homes of those who perpetrate violence against LGB children and youth, nor will be any study be surveilling heterosexual parent led families to scrutinize their parenting skills on the basis of their sexual orientation.

lgbt youth
From the ‘STOP Bullying’ Pinterest Page

Both workshops placed emphasis on what constitutes sexual identity and gender identity. Most of us know that sex refers to the biological identifiers of gender – genitals, hormones, anatomy and genetics – and that gender is how one expresses and identifies oneself, including if this means expressing as androgynous and/or nonbinary.

Simply put, gender is between yours ears and sex is between your legs, but even this may be problematic. Sexuality can also be distributed between two categories: sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. The two are not mutually exclusive. For instance, although sexual orientation may be heterosexual for a cisgendered female, her sexual behaviour may include bedding other cisgendered women.


This interprofessional workshop provided invaluable insight on the next steps required to provide inclusive practices across the province, as well as speaking to the difficulty of advocacy work in suburban and rural parts of Ontario. It provided a great networking opportunity for professionals to connect and work together in creating better services across Ontario. This workshop helped me restore my faith for a more inclusive Ontario, hopefully leading us to the day where no one will have to face barriers just to be with the person they love, irrespective of their gender identity and expression.*

Here are a few concluding tips for anyone planning to work with the LGBTQ communities

  • Advocate for your agency to implement more inclusive language practices, most importantly on intake forms. Intake forms are the first impression a service user has of your agency. Let service users identify themselves by providing a blank space under gender, and on certificates that ask about the user’s parents. For example, where it would ask mother and father (because forms were heteronormative), you would switch it to parent and parent
  • Advocate for all staff to be trained in LGBTQ+ inclusiveness. This will create a welcoming space and decrease barriers that LGBTQ people face in health and social services
  • Always ask, don’t assume. Always ask someone what pronouns they prefer to go by.
  • Avoid using the word homosexual and homosexuality. It refers to the criminalization and medicalization of LGBTQ People.

Here’s another great resource Devan shared with me on the dangers of social work being colonial by being overreaching with wanting to ‘help’.

‘Save us from the saviors,’ say LGBT Indians, sex workers (video)

Support Love

Sara Moscatel is a third-year social work student focusing on sexuality, gender, anti-colonialism, and settlement concerns for Portuguese-Canadians. When she’s not dedicating herself to something, she can be found at home eating and bingeing on Netflix with her partner.


Second Year SWSU Event: How to Survive Placement 101

After two years of learning Social Work theories, practices, and social policies, third year brings the welcome introduction to placement. Placement brings with it mixed feelings: there’s anxiety about implementing theory into practice, fear of being with service users for the first time, but excitement to finally see what the field is like. That’s why second year Social Work Student Union Reps decided to hold an introduction to placement event.

“We wanted to hold this event to give students a chance to ask other upper year students who had already been in placement, what it was really like for them,” said second year rep Anna Stevenson. Michael Friedman, another second year rep, mirrored this sentiment, “We really wanted to give people that had been through the placement process a chance to tell others about how they found the experience.” Them, along with fellow second year rep Erica Francis organized the event hoping it would put their colleagues at ease going into third year.

The event consisted of a panel discussion with four fourth year students and faculty member Jennifer Clarke on Monday March 16th from Noon to 3pm in the Layton Lounge of the Oakham house. The event was intimate and provided audience members space to air their concerns and ask for tips on how to balance work, school, and placement.

Professor Clarke spoke first about the unique challenges posed by placement. “It’s intimidating. For the first time, you [might] have a caseload.” She spoke about how students now enter the power dynamic as a placement student as they learn about an agency’s policies and work with another staff member, their field instructor.

Although with power, there are great feelings of uncertainty when practicing as a professional for the first time. Because of this, Clarke told students to not shy away from asking for more supervision and to ask questions, “Don’t just go through the motions. This is your learning.”  She reminded students to not take on tasks that they feel may be too large when they are only there twice a week. “If the task is too large to take on during twice a week and you don’t share that with your field instructor, you will receive a bad evaluation if it is left incomplete. So talk to your field instructor and be open with them.”

Clarke also highlighted the importance of creating your own structure at placement. By setting up your own structure, this helps keep you organized and prevents you from becoming overwhelmed. She really stressed that you must remember that you are only their twice a week. “Learn to say no sometimes, because you have to put yourself first sometimes,” Clarke said.

Once you’ve created structure and started integrating yourself well into your placement, Clarke moved onto thelol topic of self-care: “How do we help others if we don’t deal with our own traumas?” Making self-care routine was essential, no matter what your routine may be. Self-care can help facilitate the transition between the role of student, placement student, and employee within the various roles you may play in your life. It will also help you stay grounded and provide more balance on your life. Journalling came up a lot as a suggestion among Clarke and other fourth years, as it provided the space for you to reflect on your learning, your mistakes, and your successes. It also helps you sit with your discomfort. But, as Clarke said, we all have our own self-care practice.

Review from the audience was mainly positive. “I found it really informative,” said Katie, a second year social work student. “I like how her [Clarke’s] points were all connected. It’s very useful.” Katie is still waiting to hear back from the field office, who is often busy away matching third and fourth year students at this time. “I’m really anxious…I’m not really sure about what I want to do yet. I’m nervous, but excited.”

“[This was] Very informative, it will help me out later on because I’m in first year!” said an amused Ruth Ambrocio. “I hear all my friends talking about placement, and I don’t know what I want to do!” Ruth expressed that she said this has been the first time ever hearing about self-care, and that third year seems like it’s going to be stressful, mainly when it comes to balancing your own stress and engaging with clients within the same timeframe.

Erica Francis, second year student and Social Work Student Union member found the workshop crucial. “In second year, we are like chickens with our heads cut off! We’re asking third years, we’re asking fourth years. It was great to have a faculty member here with prior experience as a field instructor and in social work.” Erica identified that she needed to work on her own self-care routine, or at least find the time to. “It’s so hard to find the time!”

After a quick break where students got to grab fruit and snack sandwiches, Anna presented the fourth year panel for the second part of the discussion forum. Here, the floor was open for audience members to pose questions so that a flowing dialogue would ensue. Hearing from peers who have recently gone through, or are still going through, placements was great because their experience is relevant and recent.

Client32The discussion that ensued surrounded helpful tips, self-care practices, and reflections. The panel consisted of fourth year students Caitlin Keating, Carolyn Tulini, Cathy Huynh, and Anna Ho. “We did have quite a few fourth years who wanted to be a part of our panel, so many that we actually had to turn a couple away!” said Anna. According to second year reps, there were up to 10 fourth year students who volunteered, however, time constraints would not allow all a fair amount of time to speak.

The fourth year panel reflected on what they wished they did more of. “I wish I was more assertive. In third year I was a shy little mouse, but it helped prepare me for fourth year. As time progressed, I found my voice, which helped me in fourth year,” said Carolyn Tulini.

Caitlin Keating shared a similar sentiment. “I wish I knew that you can ask to do what you want, and there is power in asking. I know students feel pretty powerless in this position.” Caitlin also suggested not being too fixed about placements. She commented that she went into a placement she thought she wouldn’t like, but ended up liking it. She noted that it differed than her expectations.

Other fourth year students highlighted that filling in the ‘additional comments’ section on placement forms was really important. This section of the application allows students to mention any of their preferred agencies or express other skills they have or want to learn.

When it came to dealing with conflict, Anna Ho suggested: “Conflict resolution skills are very important. Power dynamics are at play when dealing with conflict as a student. This is why dealing with conflict strategically and constructively is crucial.” Conflict can take many forms and within various relations. Placement students might encounter conflict with service-users, staff, supervisors, partner agencies, or with client family members.

Conflict can be mitigated and handled, depending on how it is approached. Anna suggested, “Using the positive sandwich wpid-man-in-shadowapproach is helpful. That is, starting and ending the conversation with a positive statement and placing the issue in the middle of the sandwich. Your faculty consultant will also be available to advise you if needed.”

If you weren’t able to make it, you missed a great forum. This was a great chance to really quelm any anxieties by providing the opportunity to speak directly to fellow students and faculty. “I can’t speak for everyone, but the attendees that I spoke to said they really liked the idea of connecting students with the comfort offered by those who have been through the placement process,” said Michael.

“I believe that a workshop or informational session similar to our event would be very beneficial to second year students in the future. I do believe that this should be something that the union, or the faculty looks to recreate each year so that students can continue to be welcomed to a more intimate setting,” said Stevenson. Personally, I wish I had an event like this to prepare me for third year. Hopefully next year’s Social Work Union holds this again for second years.

Sara Moscatel is a third-year social work student focusing on sexuality, gender, anti-colonialism, and settlement concerns for Portuguese-Canadians. When she’s not dedicating herself to something, she can be found at home eating and bingeing on Netflix with her partner.


Client-Centred, or Client-Shaming? My Experience with CAMH’s Emergency Medication Services

As a BSW student we have heard of plenty of cases and experiences of collaborative and oppressive services at the structural level. Anti-oppressive practice is an approach that is constantly talked about and we are encouraged to apply to our placement and theoretical experience. I have been fortunate enough to receive a placement that I believe skillfully demonstrates what anti-oppressive practice can be in the practical setting, However, placement has recently had me encounter a service that claims to practice many of the characteristics of Anti-Oppressive Practice such as collaboration and advocacy, yet in reality provides extremely problematic client services.

A few weeks ago at my placement I went with a client with mental health struggles to access the emergency medication services at CAMH. As a result of a previous conflict between the client and their psychiatrist they have been unable to refill the prescription for their medication, and has been off of them for over a month. A staff member at my organization called CAMH after this information was disclosed to make sure they still had emergency medication services. After we received a confirmation and the paperwork we needed, we made our way over in the hopes of getting a small amount that could help until they obtained a new psychiatrist or even get a temporary one through CAMH.

Once we arrived, the client had to fill out a form while a person behind a giant glass divider pressed their forehead against the partition and yelled for her to change something if she did it incorrectly. At one point a doctor placed a form on the counter and the client picked it up thinking it was theirs (it had their first name on it) where it was snatched out of their hand from under the glass. The client was already extremely emotional from the decision to come here and was also prone to be distracted due to their increased symptoms. These actions made them feel they were being penalized for a mistake and already heavily surveyed in a building that claims to enforce a client-centre approach.

From there the client was given an initial assessment which I was not permitted to accompany even though the client asked for my presence. We then were led to a waiting room where at least three other people at a time were also awaiting services. We waited for approximately an hour where two other people waiting far longer than us were asked to leave without receiving any care. I began to wonder how many people are actually seen per day and how many end up leaving despite the fact that they required an emergency assessment. Eventually, we were seen by a second worker and were led to a small grey room that can only be described as something from a cop show.

There were four chairs separated by a long granite table and a surveillance camera installed just above where the worker sat so it was angled directly at the client. I sat at the same side as the client in case I was needed as well as general support. The client was posed several in-depth questions:

“What exactly are your symptoms?”                                                                                                                       “Can you give examples?”                                                                                                                                     “Can you be more specific?”                               “Any others you can think of?”                                                                                                                                 “Are you sure?”                                                                           “How many times a day?”                                                                                                                                “Can you give a more accurate number?”  

Every time the staff member asked a question, she would first look at me to answer for the client. The worker proceeded to condescend the client, telling her to, “Stop fidgeting and look up.” She asked invasive questions, made assumptions about their concurrent disorder, and made wildly inappropriate judgement about their sexual activity and then made a vague conclusion that they would see what they would do and left us for another hour in this room.

After waiting yet again, a third staff member came in and asked the client many of the same questions that were previously asked by the two previous staff members. It was at this point that I wondered what would happen if a client had symptoms that made them unable to endure this long of a wait or could not fully answer many of these in-depth questions. If people are unable to answer all these, are they forced to go untreated like the people we saw in the waiting room?

lonelyAfter waiting another hour after the third line of questioning, a staff member came to inform us that because the client would not be given medication because they were not considering self-harm or harming others. The client was redirected to their general physician instead.

This completely goes against the notion of preventative care that could often assist clients so that they never get to this point. Instead, a neoliberal Band-Aid solution is used so clients with only severe symptoms can be treated. This complex system is unaccessible and difficult for clients seeking services in it’s effort to weed out the less severe cases and is disempowering to those in crisis.

We left CAMH feeling defeated, my client wasted half their day, shaken by the heavy questioning and judgement, and still coming home empty handed. I left feeling earful of organizations like CAMH, organizations that receive most of the funding by presenting themselves as a collaborative client-centred space yet continue to practice the archaic neoliberal policies that have made mental health services near impossible to access.



Easing Anxieties: Social Work Student Union’s Fourth Year Event

The event was called “Easing Anxieties: A Casual Social for BSW Students and Supports”. The purpose of the 2event was to ease anxieties about graduating from university and acknowledge the issue of post-grad blues. Social work is such a broad field and many graduating are not sure what they are going to do after. This event provided an opportunity for students to comfortably chat with other students, alumni and current community workers. The event highlighted there is more than one path after graduating from the BSW program.

Guests from various backgrounds attended the event to share their experiences and knowledge with 3rd and 4th year students:


Rega Chang, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Outpatient Social Worker at Humber River Hospital

Jennifer Poole,:Madvocate and Associate Professor at Ryerson University, School of Social Work

Kristen Bellows, Madvocate & Young Ones- Breaking Barriers Organization, Peer Support Facilitator and Educator

Tania Jivraj, Research Assistant, Disability Studies

John Devenish, Assessment and Referrals Coordinator, Adult Protective Services

James Holzbauer, Assessment and Referrals Coordinator, Adult Protective Services

Mark Freeman, Executive Director of the Self-Help Resource Centre and Editor-in-Chief of EVERYBODYHASABRAIN

Talena Jackson-Martineau,:Program Manager, Margaret’s Housing and Community Support Services Inc.

Wincy Li, Career Consultant, Faculty of Community Services, Ryerson University

Genevive Weigel,

Karen Arthurton, Sessional Instructor, Ryerson University and research collaborator with St. Stephen’s Community, House re: Sexual exploration and cyber-bullying

Lisa Barnoff, Director and Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Ryerson University

Henry Parada, Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Ryerson University

Brittany Waters, Administrative Manager, Wychwood Open Door Drop-In Centre

Verlia Stephens, Coordinator of SOY HEAT, Supporting Our Youth, Human Rights, Equity and Access Team, Instructor for the Assaulted Women and Children Program at George Brown College.

Graduating Peer Discussion Group:

Before students and guests began to mingle, the Graduating Peer Discussion Group was announced. The group is a safe space for students to address any and all topics related to graduation. The group will be beneficial to the social work community during this transitional time in students’ lives. Participation is not limited to fourth year students, all years are welcome. The group will have the support of Professor Jennifer Poole and Mark Freeman, the Executive Director of the Self-Help Resource Centre.

4th Year Representative Caitlin Keating is the organizer of this group and can be reached at

Ryerson Alumni Association:

Ryerson Social Work Alumni are currently in the process of trying to start an Alumni Association within the next few months. There are currently 45 members and they are still recruiting. If interested, contact Peter Haastrup at

The Social:

After food and introductions, guests and students began to mingle. Many guests spoke to students in small 8groups and took questions as they came up. Some guests were able to speak to students individually and offer guidance and advice unique to each student’s situation. It was difficult to get to all guests within the time of the event but those I did speak to were extremely helpful in easing the anxieties fourth year students feel before graduating…

The first guest I spoke to was Rega Chang, a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Outpatient Social Worker at Humber River Hospital. Chang offered a large group of eager students a change to hear about her experiences and offered advice about doing hospital social work. Chang described this job as “landing in her lap”. It started out as a super short time contract which has turned into a career.

4Chang offered advice to those who wish to go into clinical social work. Being a hospital social worker requires a Masters degree. They also generally require 5 years of experience. Her advice was to do your community-based work early in your career and to enjoy it. Most people may be eager to get right into clinical work after graduation but Chang described how she holds a lot of responsibility in her job and would have never wanted this much responsibility as a new graduate. When speaking to her individually, she advised me to not do my Masters right after my BSW. She told me my pay would be affected since I would have no job experience and hospitals would not hire me without work experience. Chang also touched on AOP saying that she does use it in the clinical setting by bringing it out “artfully in certain avenues in own way”.

The second guest I spoke to was Tania Jivraj; a research assistant in the disability studies field. We 5talked about our shared interest of disabilities and how we find it to be such an interesting and rewarding field. Although we only spoke briefly, what she said really resonated with me as a social work student. Tania has taken a number of disability courses that she seemed to really enjoy. She told me how during those classes she thought, “this is social work”. This reminded me how social work is so different to each and every one of us and that we all have our own passions within the field.

Finally, I spoke to Karen Arthurton, an instructor at Ryerson and research collaborator with St. Stephen’s Community House re: Sexual exploration and cyber-bullying. I had the pleasure of being taught by Karen in second year transformative social work. Throughout the night Karen spoke to students individually about their plans and students in groups seeking guidance.

8During the event Karen told students to “do what feels right”, the bottom line is passion and you should follow yours. She spoke to those who have not found that passion yet and how you won’t know what you love until you do it. The things you don’t like are just important as those you do; even if you had a placement you did not enjoy this year that is important because you know it’s not something that interests you. She told students they had time and did not have to figure it all out today, tomorrow or next week. In regards to continuing education, Karen reiterated we have time. She worked for 15 years before returning to Ryerson to complete her Masters. Her final advice was                                                                                              to use the supports available to us.


As a student, I found this event to be a success and very helpful. Students seem very engaged in the conversations they were having and guests were happy to share their stories with students. Their stories and advice were honest and came from a place of sincerity. I spoke to students who attended and many found the event to be very supportive and informative; some have even changed their plans following graduation.


Thank you to event organizers, guests, students who attended, the Ryerson Field Education Office, Ryerson staff and the Social Work Students’ Union for making this event a success.


Alyson Rogers is a third year social work student at Ryerson. Her academic interests include disabilities, feminism, VAW and criminology. Alyson is currently doing her third year placement with the Adoption Council of Ontario. Outside of school she enjoys going to concerts, watching the Leafs and volunteering at Holland Bloorview Kid’s Rehabilitation Hospital. Follow her on twitter @arnr33