J.D. Leslie Graduate Award - 2022

Shane Clark - Master of Social Work (MSW)

Shane Clark, this year’s recipient of the James D. Leslie Graduate Award, is a shining example of success in online learning and a devotion to lifelong learning. Shane graduated from Waterloo’s online MSW program in 2021.

Shane Clark
Shane is “the type of person who gets caught up in the energy of learning, both through contribution to, and sharing of, knowledge, insight and change.  In [Shane's] case, and [their] community’s case, learning is healing. Learning is growing and breaking the bonds of subjugation, it’s about empowerment and innovation, freedom…”

Shane is a trans nonbinary queer white settler, living and working on the unceded and unsurrendered traditional lands of the Wolastoqiyik people.

They chose the Waterloo MSW program because of its health focus; with the intention to practice with the queer and trans population. Learning about health policy, practice, knowledge mobilization and leadership in the health sector was very important. Since graduating, Shane has made that intention a reality by opening Rebel Heart Counselling offering services in person and remotely in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

Online learning fit very well with Shane’s learning style, as it allows students from all over the country and in various stages of their careers to participate and learn from each other. “The kind of life and career experience that comes with being part of a diverse group enriches the content and aim of the program.”

They say the program is “Way more flexible and the opportunities for learning from a variety of people are endless. It also allows people to stay in their own communities while they obtain their degree and the community benefits directly when they go to work there after. It’s a huge step towards accessibility and overcoming financial and geographical barriers.”

Secret to Success

Shane’s secret to success is “Having a clear purpose as to why I was there and making every assignment meaningful to me. I went into the program with the attitude that my learning was more important than my grades. I had a great prof who said ‘knowledge is useless without action’ and she pushed me to find the ways I could use the study in a tangible way – she said that having a Master’s is a privilege and a responsibility, and as a part of a marginalized group, I understand my responsibility to use what I’ve learned to fight for liberation.”

During their studies, Shane had a number of hurdles to overcome such as “money, time, energy, mental exhaustion, institutional barriers, time zones, group work, finding a practicum, and oh – a global pandemic!”, but says it was worth it.

Shane’s advice for fellow students:

“Make it meaningful. And try to let some things go while you’re doing this intense program, if you can. And if there is something missing from the program – a perspective, opportunities for social connection, advocacy efforts for an issue important to you – make some noise and do something!”