MSW Students in the News

Alana Rabby Dowling is a busy mom of 4 as well as a social worker in Saskatoon, working in intimate partner violence outreach. Alana is a survivor of intimate partner violence and is passionate about using her experiences to help others. When Alana is not parenting or working (or studying her MSW courses) she enjoys all things involving art and cats.

Opinion: Education a proactive answer to Saskatchewan's rates of gendered violence

Natalie Compagna is a graduate student in the Masters of Social Work program at Renison University College. She completed a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Dalhousie University. Natalie has previous experience working in Child Protection with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, facilitating community information sessions, and co-facilitates a Gender Sexuality Alliance at the local High School. She is from the Maritimes, but currently lives in Northern British Columbia with her husband and ten year old twins.

GUEST VIEW: Pride Society incorporation equals growth for Smithers

Amanda Lougheed lives in Victoria, BC and is currently working with families in outreach and running a parenting program. She has an interest in mental health and addictions and a passion for compassionate care. She hopes one day to be working in mental health outreach services.

Comment: Addiction is a health crisis, not an eyesore

Cathy Bracken has a BSW from the University of Windsor and has been working in the field of Social work now for almost 27 years. The first ten years of her career was spent as a hospital social worker and the remaining time has been in child welfare. She considers herself to have a special knowledge base and interest in mental heath social work. She is excited to see where the MSW will take her in the future.  

Guest column: The fact is: supervised consumption sites save lives

Elissa Gazel is in her first year of the part time MSW program. She completed her BSW at Memorial University in 2017. She currently reside in Ottawa, and works as an addictions counsellor in a local high school. She chose to write an op-ed titled, Bring back the advocate, due to years of working in group homes, and seeing first had the great work the child advocate has done for children, but also the harm that occurs when untrained, unprepared staff are left to work with vulnerable children. 

Through writing this op-ed, she had the opportunity to meet with her local NDP MPP Joel Harden and talk to him about child welfare policy. They are having ongoing discussions around creating a town hall with local stakeholders and parents to discuss their concerns. 

Cynthia Benoit is a the proud mom of two children.  She is currently enrolled as a Master of Social Work student at Rension University College and completed her BSW through the University of Manitoba.  Cynthia works as Case Management Social Worker for Miawpukek First Nation.  In her spare time she enjoys being a hockey mom and leads and plays the piano for a choral group. Cynthia has been invited to speak with Honourable Elvis Loveless, Member of the House Assembly for Fortune Bay Cape La Hune, Newfoundland, in response to her letter that outlined the following key recommendations:

  • Income inequality must be a priority for the Newfoundland Labrador government as it has key implications for all health policy considerations given the demographics of our population.
  • Increasing the minimum wage rates to a fair wage comparable to a living wage, as in other provinces, would see immediate benefits for the health and wellbeing of low-income earners.
  • Increasing the minimum wage will give greater spending power to low-income earners injecting money directly back into our local economy.
  • Invest funding for diversification in rural areas as our province and people are creative in the development of enterprises.
  • Always consider the social determinants of health as you make policy decisions.

Grief in the Skin

Susan Cadell, Professor, School of Social Work, received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant in 2017 for a project entitled Memorial Tattoos: Inking the Bond. She has done numerous presentations about the research, including in Montreal during Projection Week ( This article from La Presse follows up on that presentation. It is entitled Tattoos: Grief in the Skin.

World Social Work Day!

For the first time ever, CASW hosted a reception on Parliament Hill to celebrate this amazing profession alongside Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, Senator Hartling and Senator Judith G. Seidman… and Renison was there! Susan Cadell, President of CASWE and Kathy Hogarth, Vice President of CASWE.

senator wanda thomas bernard, senator hartling, senator judith seidman, and susan cadell president of C.A.S.W.E. and Kathy Hogarth, vice-president of C.A.S.W.E.

#RealPeopleRealImpact #NationalSocialWorkMonth

Renison’s MSW Student in the News!

Michelle Kakar, one of our MSW students, has written her second opinion editorial this academic year in the Kitchener/Waterloo Record:

Michelle Kakar is expected to earn her MSW degree this Fall 2019. She completed her undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University graduating with an Honours BA in sociology and psychology. She then pursued her Bachelor of Social Work at Renison, graduating in 2017. Michelle is passionate about working with children and adolescents, particularly in the field of health. Her interest in health-focused social work led her to pursuing her MSW in hopes of expanding on holistic approaches in health, with particular interest in mental health intersecting with race, ethnicity, and culture.

Administrative Assistant Gwen Potter interviewed on CBC Radio Thunder Bay about a Friendship Agreement with Orpington, SE UK

Gwen's parents had sent her an article they saw in their local news about a Friendship Agreement between Thunder Bay and Orpington in SE England (where Gwen grew up) commemorating the historic ties between these towns, which began during World War 1. At that time the Ontario government paid for a hospital to be built in Orpington to treat wounded Canadian soldiers in WW1, which was entirely staffed by Canadian doctors and nurses and cared for around 25,000 wounded soldiers brought back from Flanders Fields by train.  The hospital pioneered plastic surgery and treatments for shell-shock. 

Counsellors from Thunder Bay went to Orpington in March 2019 to visit the site of the hospital and renew their bonds of friendship with officials from the town, one hundred years on.

Gwen passed the article on to CBC Thunder Bay and Lisa Laco conducted an interview with her, on their Breakfast Radio Show.

Andrea Daley, Director, School of Social Work says, "This story is about community building [across nations]; relationships; resilience; remembering and's not "clinical social work" but the story is undergirded by many of the principles that guide macro social work ... working in community".

Listen to the Interview

Read about the Friendship Agreement

Related articles: 

Renison Assistant Professor Meg Gibson comments on the autism debate in Ontario: Op-Ed in the Waterloo Record

Debates about Ontario's autism strategy have been centre stage since Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod's Feb. 6 announcement of a new funding allocation. The new allocation introduces direct funding for families to purchase therapies, along with income testing and annual and lifetime maximums. Tempers have flared and lines have been drawn, between parents and autism service organizations who argue that new funding maximums fall short of treatment costs, and Conservative MPPs who state the new allocation will address lengthy wait lists...

Read the full article here

Renison Associate Professor Trish Van Katwyk empowers young people to explore resilience through collaborative art making

In a project that is described by a group leader as “empowering,” Renison Associate Professor Trish Van Katwyk recently published a study that explores the way that youth see themselves in the term ‘resilience.’

Resilience Beyond Risk: Youth Re-defining Resilience Through Collective Art-Making,” used art-making and conversation to explore the ways in which labels that are often applied to young people are understood by young people themselves. The research shows that youth want to define these terms for themselves, to be part of the conversation, and for their perspectives to be seen and heard.   

Read the full article here

 Assistant Professor, Edwin Ng - in the news:

Assistant Professor Edwin Ng, School of Social Work, Renison University College, and his colleague, Carles Munater, Professor Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, have published an article in promoting women in government.  Congratulations, Edwin and Carles.

Op-Ed in the Kitchener/Waterloo Record

Our MSW Field Education Coordinator, Dori Ferr has written a very thought-provoking Op-Ed in the Kitchener/Waterloo Record. Thank you Dori, for your brave words!

AN OPEN LETTER TO DOUG FORD from Ontario Schools of Social Work

To read the complete letter, please click the link:

Please 'pause, consult and reconsider' the closure of the Child Advocacy Office 


Educational institutions often struggle to identify what is the best pedagogical approach to engaging students with academic integrity (AI) content. Developed as part of university-wide research study on academic integrity, Integrity Matters app aims to enhance student academic integrity knowledge and understanding using an innovative pedagogical approach.

Dr. Alice Schmidt Hanbidge, IELA award winner imageproject principal researcher and faculty in the School of Social Work and Tony Tin, project technical lead and Renison’s Librarian, accepted an international academic e-learning award from the International E-Learning Association (IELA). The AI research team developed Integrity Matters, the Foundations for Academic Success App, to introduce the tenets of academic integrity to students for any time, anywhere learning in a meaningful way.

Integrity Matters tri-lingual (English, French, Chinese) mobile app can be readily used and adapted worldwide across post-secondary colleges and universities. Best strategies, from over 1,000 undergraduate student users, for learning this information with mobile technology (m-learning) were explored. Six lessons include diverse student life scenarios, animated videos, interactive exercises and games. Upon successful completion of the lessons and quiz, students are awarded an e-certificate and a digital badge.

Tony and Alice - award winners

To download the free Integrity Matters, Creative Commons 4.0 Licensed app, follow one of the links below.

Apple iTunes

Google Play Store download

Dr. Alice Schmidt Hanbidge, MSW, RSW, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, Renison University College.  Email:

Tony Tin, MA, MLS is Director, Library and Information Services at Renison University College.          Email:

Renison’s MSW Students in the News!

Renison's MSW students make the news with the publication of their Opinion pieces in national and international media. The Opinion pieces were developed as a component of their completion of the MSW degree, and more specifically as a course assignment for SWK 600R –Diversity and Health. Congratulations everyone - impressive advocacy work!

Kristen Veinott has been working in the community as a social worker in Halifax, Nova Scotia for three years, and several years in human services previously. She recently left her position to pursue her Master of Social Work at Renison University College, and soon after was offered a new opportunity. While balancing full time work and part time online studies, Kristen creates space for self-care through yoga and spin classes and time with her dog (a Boxer) in nature.

Battling Bedbugs an issue for Government

Pearl Bocol is a registered social worker with the British Columbia College of Social Workers. She is currently working for the Ministry of Children and Family Development as a Child Protection worker in BC. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing and trains in all forms of dance. While navigating distance MSW education at Renison University College, she tries to balance her serious online presence by flooding her social media account with her sister’s cat. 

Dark Side of the OFW Fairy Tale

Jacquie Marshall is a Master of Social Work student at Rension University College. She earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Renison University College and a Bachelor of Criminology from the University of Toronto and the University of Liverpool. She has worked in the private sector and not for profit sector and is a committed community volunteer. Her interests include social justice in mental health and addictions, trauma and intimate partner violence. She believes in the power of human connection as the basis for social change and hopes that tolerance, freedom, kindness and compassion will lead the way.

The Fruit Machine is Yet Another Atrocity in our Country's Closet

Michelle Kakar is a Master of Social Work student at Renison University College. She completed her undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University graduating with an Honours BA in sociology and psychology. She then pursued her Bachelor of Social Work at Renison, graduating in 2017. Michelle is passionate about working with children and adolescents, particularly in the field of health. Her interest in health focussed social work led her to pursuing her MSW in hopes of expanding on holistic approaches in health, with particular interest in mental health intersecting with race, ethnicity, and culture. She hopes to utilize her knowledge and experience to break the stigma, and support those experiencing mental health issues within her own Afghan community. 

The Interim Sex Ed Curriculum is a Diversity in Health Issue

Jessica Collins, RSW, works as an addictions counsellor while also studying part-time at Renison University College (UW) in the Masters of Social Work program. In her job, Jessica works at in-patient rehabilitation programs supporting individuals in their recovery journey. In the past, Jessica also gained experience providing street outreach and harm reduction. Prior to attending Renison, Jessica obtained a Diploma in Mental Health and Addictions at Canadore College and a Bachelor of Social Work at King’s University College (UWO).

Time to put a face to whom addiction impacts

Sarah Carroll is a Master of Social Work student at Renison University College.  She obtained a Bachelor of Social Work degree from King's University College and a Business diploma from Fanshawe College.  Sarah is passionate about supporting survivors of trauma and their families in navigating the complexities of the health care system.  She has special interest in working alongside individuals within the rehabilitation phase of recovery and enjoys the multidisciplinary approach to care.  She was recently married and now that she's no longer wedding planning she's has been enjoying cooking with her husband and taking trail walks with their dog, Bella.  

Ontario Migrant Workers Face Health Disparities

Kimberly Gariepy is a Master of Social Work student at Renison University College.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts-Advanced Major from Mount St. Vincent University in 2008. She earned her Bachelor of Social Work degree from Dalhousie University in 2010. In November 2018 she will be graduating with her Addiction Studies Certificate from McMaster University.  For the past almost 8 years she has worked as a Social Worker for Mi'kmaw Family and Children Services of Nova Scotia which supports Indigenous families living in Nova Scotia.  Kim is passionate about substance abuse, program development, Indigenous communities in Canada, and working with children. 

Substance Abuse Treatment Needs Flexibility

Rebecca Withers works as a social worker on the in-patient psychiatry unit at the Powell River General Hospital. After receiving her BSW from the University of Calgary in 2002, Rebecca has spent the majority of her 16-year career working in Alberta. However, she and her husband recently moved back to the West Coast of BC to be closer to family. She is the mother of two children and a fierce advocate regarding homelessness and housing issues. In her spare time (of which there is very little now that she has started the part-time MSW program!), Rebecca enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and gardening. 

Use Privilege to Create Change in Powell River

Karis Mitchell is a counselor with Emergency Medical Care in Mental Health and Addictions. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in sociology and gerontology and a Bachelor of Social Work from Dalhousie University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work with the University of Waterloo. In a previous role at a Long-Term Care Facility, Karis identified gaps in services related to psychosocial needs of residents with Dementia. Karis was instrumental in developing and executing training sessions to educate front line staff on best practice approaches to their daily interactions with residents. The training aimed to increase competence and consciousness of psychosocial needs for residents with Dementia and deliver high-quality care. Karis’ passion working with seniors has driven her to focus on policies and education in Dementia Care and interaction with families and caregivers of loved ones affected by a Dementia Diagnosis.

Nova Scotia Needs to Fund More Dementia Training in Long-Term Care Facilities