“Renison gets it” – How Lavorn Hunt Thrives in Renison’s Online Community

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Photo of Lavorn Hunt. She is wearing hoop earrings and a vibrant pink top. Lavorn Hunt (pictured right) did not want to study online. The 2021 Social Development Studies (SDS) grad and current Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) student knew that online classes would fit into her life more easily than in-person classes, but she was skeptical that it would give her what she was looking for.

Lavorn attended college right out of high school and worked as an Admissions Officer for the next 13 years, but had always wanted to pursue Social Work. She had a Marketing Diploma and a Social Service Worker Diploma, but really wanted to earn her BSW degree and affect change at a community level. After doing some research, Lavorn found SDS at Renison and the lightbulb went off. When she saw the flexibility of the program, and the wide variety of courses, Lavorn thought to herself, “Renison gets it!” Not only would SDS link her to the BSW program, it was also flexible enough that she could manage a full time job and life commitments while still pursuing her dream.

Her journey began part-time in 2014, long before the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated online learning. Lavorn says that her resistance to online learning meant that she came in with lower energy. She was pleasantly surprised, however, by the culture that was created online by the professors. From the format of the courses to teaching approaches and discussion  - each element was framed in a way that helped to cultivate the engagement that Lavorn was seeking. She was also able to digest the material on her own without the influence of her peers at first, which she said she came to appreciate because each student could form ideas and bring their own perspective to discussions. Lavorn also liked that she could log off if needed, “there were times when mentally and emotionally I couldn’t connect,” she says. “It was great to have the flexibility to log on and off when I needed to.” The flexibility extended to the types of courses available as well – Lavorn says that taking courses like Arab Culture have been very important in changing and shaping the way she looks at the world.

Though her coursework has been largely online, there have been some in-person opportunities as well. Lavorn, who lives in Ajax, recounts making the drive in early 2020 (pre-pandemic) to go to an event that she had been invited to by one of her professors. She says that along the way there were many such invitations, another way that she could connect with classmates, meet professors, and engage with university life as an online student.  

Now a BSW student, Lavorn is planning to pursue a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at Renison. She is most interested in affecting change at a community level, rather than an individual one. She envisions opening her own practice where she can create community programming, and perhaps get involved with policy work as well. This vision is, in part, due to a shift in her perspective of what Social Work means. “In my younger years I was around a number of Social Workers who worked at an individual level,” Lavorn explains. “SDS opened my eyes to possibilities beyond the individual, to how communities and policies/practices contribute to the health and wellbeing (or lack thereof) of the world.”

I asked Lavorn if she had any advice for someone considering pursuing Social Work, as she was over 15 years ago. “Do your internal work,” she responds immediately. “Be willing to critically evaluate yourself, your blindspots, your biases, and then allow that to permeate into how you show up in the world. Social Work focuses on helping and doing good, but if we are not self-aware, we can do tremendous harm.”

This article was originally published as part of the 2022 edition of Renison Reports

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