The School of Social Work is proactive in Community Engagement in many ways, including:
Started in 2012, Humanities 101 (HUM 101) course is now run each spring at Renison. A tuition-free university-level program for economically marginalised individuals, HUM 101 is intended to awaken interest in education, increase self-esteem, and serve as a springboard to further community involvement and/or education.
Thanks to a strong partnership with The Working Centre, study groups take place at one of that agency's locations in downtown Kitchener. On Thursday evenings, students attend classes at Renison. There are eleven guest instructors from a range of disciplines: leisure sciences, applied health sciences, social psychology, public health, economics, environmental studies, engineering, social work, communication studies, and education. There are also six TA volunteers, five students from the BSW program, and two KW community members.
Professor Trish Van Katwyk coordinates the course, which has 20 students this year. Financial support for the program comes from The Doris & Ross Dixon Foundation as well as the University of Waterloo, in addition to the many people who contribute their abilities and expertise as volunteers.
Walls to Bridges
Renison University College’s (Renison) Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program and Stonehenge Therapeutic Community in Guelph partnered in 2016 to complete the first Walls to Bridges (W2B) social work course offered through the university. A student noted, “During the last four years in University, I have never had an experience like this. In my social work education, we talk a lot about the value of working WITH people rather than FOR them and I believe this course is a perfect example of putting social work code of ethics into practice.”
This innovative program was offered to students delivered in a residential treatment facility with a population of men and women suffering from chronic and acute addictions who were mostly criminal justice-involved students. Half the students in the class were justice-involved from “inside” and half were undergraduate social work students from “outside”.
Professor Alice Schmidt Hanbidge of Renison, and Cheri Bilitz, PhD student (both nationally-trained W2B leaders), co-facilitated the course where students studied as peers in a for-credit, semester-long seminar course that emphasized dialogue, problem-solving and transformative learning. Group projects with collaborative dialogue aimed to foster egalitarian and collective learning propelled students into social action in the justice and mental health systems. In examining issues of marginalization, oppression, mental health and addictions using circle pedagogy, this pilot course linked personal experience and academic learning with the power of experiential learning to facilitate deep student learning. One Stonehenge student shared, “…class left me feeling empowered to want to be part of positive change in the world around me. I cannot change the past - mine or “the way things have always been done”, but I can continue to advocate, champion and produce changes in our world. I believe that working within the system instead of against the system is the best way to create sustainable and positive changes in our society.”
Overall both inside and outside students determined that their assumptions about each other and the facilitators were rattled, as they realized that we are all more alike than different - reinforcing we can never judge a book by its cover.
Visit the Walls to Bridges website for more information.
BSW students social actions working with community agencies
Bachelor of Social Work students in the Advanced Macro Practice class are rolling up their sleeves and bringing their own social change to the community as part of their final project.
In this class last year, students were followed by peers, faculty, politicians, media personalities and community stakeholders. A group was interviewed on CBC and some of the projects extended beyond the course into research, social service, practicum and community work. Participants in the class were pleased to find out how helpful and supportive others were towards their projects.
Professor Funke Oba says that students are surprised by how much they learn in this class.
Students said it beat any other form of learning they had so far as it was different, scary, experiential and totally awesome at the same time. Many said it forced them to look inward, think critically, and interrogate their own privilege but they also discovered strengths, passion, purpose and inspiration as they enjoyed new found confidence and came away with a can-do attitude.
Advanced Macro Practice (SWREN 422R) examines and compares the strengths, limitations, differential uses, and interconnections of the range of skills needed for community organization, social planning, and social policy practice. Practical applications such as conference planning, proposal writing, and fund-raising are explored and used in their final project, which is to hold an event that supports and raises the profile of different social issues.