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More than just a class – a life experience

Go to Jeff Black profile

Jeff Black

McMaster School of Social Work Alumni, BSW 2013, MSW 2014

"I am a graduate of McMaster’s MSW: Critical Analysis of Social Work program. When looking to pursue a MSW, I was immediately drawn to McMaster’s program. While I am passionate about front-line practice, I wanted to be engaged in a program that valued research and offered the opportunity to complete a thesis project. McMaster’s MSW offered the challenge of critically examining the role of structures, systems, and policy and their intrinsic link to social work practice in the field. My experiences in this program pushed and assisted me to locate and ground myself theoretically within social work literature, and I was tasked to find new ways of conceptualizing and problematizing the world around me. The small class sizes offer an opportunity to truly engage with your fellow students and professors, creating a supportive environment where I was challenged to reach a higher level of critical reflection, expression of self, academic writing and other forms of non-traditional academic performance."

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Allyson Ion

“The program is structured to give students a solid foundation in theories, methodologies, and scholarship in social work and social justice while at the same time enabling students to be involved in and explore their additional academic and community interests. Completing a PhD is a self-directed, independent, and intense course of study, but doing it in Social Work has created opportunities to connect my project back to larger School and community conversations about social change, equity, and our shared visions for a better world. I have very much appreciated the opportunity to take part in School and community events and to connect with faculty, community partners, alumni and staff; these opportunities have been very motivating and inspiring. I entered the PhD program feeling very supported by faculty and staff and have continued to feel a part of the Social Work family throughout my time in the program.”

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Amberlynn Palmer

BA Sociology, BSW2014

Youth at Risk Development Program Worker at the John Howard Society of Hamilton, Burlington and Area

“My work is always changing and unpredictable, which challenges me to think and respond differently every day. I use the theory I learned in my program, my experience from placements and my critical thinking skills to creatively address barriers at-risk youth experience, while emphasizing the importance of community. Respect and dignity are core values in my line of work.”

photo of Lori Lawson

Lori Lawson

MSW in Critical Analysis, School of Social Work, McMaster University2013

"Hi my name is Lori Lawson; I am a graduate of McMaster’s School of Social Work’s MSW program in 2013, as well as a BA/BSW in 1989. Although it took me 21 years to return to McMaster, I feel it was the perfect time for me, both personally and professionally. I completed the program in three years as a part-time student,while I worked full-time. I enjoyed making the connections between what I was learning in my courses and my experience in the field. The Faculty was extremely approachable and helped me make sense of the many issues influencing social work. Initially, it was very daunting to think about writing a thesis; however, the course work is structured to help students prepare and build information for their thesis. My thesis advisor was amazing and helped guide me in my area of interest. I would recommend this program to anyone who wants to challenge themselves and take a critical look at the issues impacting social work."

Go to Mary Vaccaro profile

Mary Vaccaro

PhD Student

"I found the structure of the program to be designed in such a way that the readings, classroom discussions and assignments of each course acted as building blocks for the thesis component of this program. Throughout the course of this program, I felt tremendously grateful for the support of my thesis supervisor and the many other faculty members who challenged me to be creative and use methodologies and methods that I felt most connected to in my research. By using feminist and participatory action research methods I was able to design a project I felt intimately connected to on an area of social work practice I was passionate about. Completing a graduate level thesis opened up opportunities to engage with service users and service providers in new ways, present my findings at conferences and work on completing academic publications. I have been fortunate enough to have held a range of positions since graduating including roles on research projects, on case management teams, as a teaching assistant, in program development at women-serving agencies and as a field instructor for students."

photo of Sarah Adjekum

Sarah Adjekum

PhD Student

Mental Health Crisis Worker at Hamilton’s Good Shepherd Barrett Centre, providing support to adults experiencing distress or mental health crises via a crisis hotline and short-term bed-stay program “Our primary aim is to empower our guests and give them the tools they need to have control over their lives. They are incredibly resilient; often having a secure safety net can prevent them from falling into crisis again. I am intimately aware of structural barriers that can impede positive life outcomes and passionate about eradicating these barriers and empowering individuals to realize their full potential.”

Go to Priya Verma profile

Priya Verma

McMaster School of Social Work Alumni, BA Psychology, BSW, '05

"It is a great School with a solid educational foundation that really has paved the way for my future."

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Share what you're doing now!

We would appreciate you taking a few minutes to share your reflections looking back on the program and to let us know about the kinds of work, professional and academic opportunities you have pursued since your time in the School of Social Work at McMaster University.

The BSW Alumni Job Survey form

What professional/ academic opportunities you have pursued since completing your BSW?

This summary picture of graduates’ career paths will be used in several ways:

  • it will be of interest to students currently in the program who (as you may remember yourself) are always keen to know about the directions and possibilities that open up for BSW graduates.
  • it will be integrated into the materials that the School prepares for regular program reviews, for example: the professional re-accreditation review undertaken by the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work; and the Undergraduate Program Review conducted by the University. As you would imagine, these various external reviewers are all interested in knowing about BSW graduates’ employment, professional contributions, further study and research/writing.
  • it will also help us internally – in the School and in the university – to reflect on curriculum directions and future program needs.

Based on the information you provide, we will generate a summary of our graduates’ work and studies (without, of course, any individual or identifying information).

Launch BSW Alumni Job Survey Form

Alumni News & Views

Inquiry into Anti-Oppression

In the fall of 2006 we enrolled in Inquiry into Anti-Oppression: Facilitating the Dialogue (or '4Q' as we Mac students like to call it). This course gave us the opportunity to act as facilitators for groups of students taking Social Work 2BB3 - Social Welfare: Anti-Oppressive Policies and Practices in Social Work. Within 4Q we worked to problem solve, share our critical moments, and learn together by engaging in dialogue within our intimate class setting about situations arising from our facilitation groups.


When 4Q came to a close,

we knew that we had shared something beyond just taking a class together; we had truly learned from each other and with each other. So we did not hesitate to agree when our professors encouraged us to share our experiences at the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work conference at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

After an enormous amount of worry, stress, and laughter we managed to put a proposal together for a panel presentation entitled"Facilitating Anti-Oppressive Dialogue through Personal Inquiry: A New Model of Learning for Social Work Practice."

Our concept of a new learning model in social work practice was well received, and may be implemented within other schools and social work agencies. We felt that we had made many accomplishments after it was over and done. 4Q was more than just a class for us, it was a life experience and we were glad we were able to share it with others. Now that we have completed our presentation, we are working towards submitting the presentation as a paper to various social work journals, so hopefully you will be able to actually experience our presentation in greater detail...

The 4Q participants and where they are now…

  • Kristina Balogh: Children’s Aid Society, Hamilton
  • Aida Carlos:  MSW program, Ryerson University
  • Jennifer Fortino: BA/BSW, McMaster University
  • Terri-Ann Henry: MSW program, York University
  • Leslee Lovelace: Family Service Worker, Leeds and Grenville Family and Children Services, Brockville
  • Megan Neil:  MSW, Kings College, University of Western Ontario
  • Meaghan Ross:  Sexual Violence Response Coordinator, Office of Equity Services, McMaster University
  • Amanda Semley:  Catholic Children’s Aid Society, Hamilton