Yukon College and Ryerson University partner to study Northern social work practice

Dr. Cyndy Baskin, Dr. Susan Preston, Janice Wiens and Dana Jennejohn
(L-R) Dr. Cyndy Baskin, Dr. Susan Preston, Janice Wiens and Dana Jennejohn

WHITEHORSE—Bachelor of Social Work instructors Dana Jennejohn and Janice Wiens and Drs. Susan Preston and Cyndy Baskin of Ryerson University have been awarded a $75,000 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant to study how social work is practiced in the small and remote communities of Canada's North.

“There is a lack of contemporary research on the realities of northern social work practice and how social workers relate to their work in the North. We want to address this gap,” said Wiens.

"It is not just that clients face different challenges in the North, northern social workers often have to be creative in supporting clients face those challenges. There is a different kind of network of agencies compared to what you might find in a southern city," said Jennejohn.

This project builds upon a smaller pilot research project the three academics recently completed. The $18,000 pilot study interviewed a small group of social workers practicing in Whitehorse and was funded by the Yukon College Faculty Research Fund and Ryerson University. The SSHRC-funded project is seeking to interview social workers practicing across Yukon.

"As we have begun to share our pilot study findings, we're discovering they overturn the traditional script of social work research. What many perceive as challenges to working in the North - small communities, bumping into clients when running errands or at events, knowing each other - are actually seen as strengths by Northern social workers. They help build stronger connections to clients and a broader picture of a person's life," said Preston.

In conducting the pilot study Wiens, Preston and Jennejohn found that Yukon social workers are keen to share what they are doing well. The hope of everyone involved is that the experiences of Yukon social workers can be beneficial to other social workers in the north and the south.

Alongside growing the social science research capacity at Yukon College, both the pilot and SSHRC-funded projects have benefited students. Seven social work students have been employed as research assistants by the two projects thus far - six from Yukon College BSW program and one graduate student from Ryerson.

Jennejohn, Preston and Wiens will present their pilot study findings and discuss next steps at Understanding Northern Social Work Practice in Yukon Territory, 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 10, at the Whitehorse Public Library (Fireweed Meeting Room). Doors open 6:45pm.

Those wishing to learn more about the Bachelor of Social Work program at Yukon College, in partnership with the University of Regina, can attend an information session at Ayamdigut campus on February 13 or March 13, at 12:00 p.m. in A2101 or visit yukoncollege.yk.ca/programs/social-work/.

For further information, please contact:

Janice Wiens

Instructor/Coordinator, Bachelor of Social Work
School of Health, Education and Human Services
Applied Arts

Dana Jennejohn

Instructor, Bachelor of Social Work
School of Health, Education and Human Services
Applied Arts

Michael Vernon

Communications Coordinator
College and External Relations