Please submit any information you would like shared in the e-newsletter to



March 2021 - School of Social Work E-Newsletter


UBC Okanagan
School of Social Work Newsletter

Message from Director, John Graham


It’s been a busy time for everyone and exciting things are happening! We are finalizing the recruitment of two new colleagues: a Canada Research Chair in Substance Misuse Treatment Research, and an Assistant Professor Teaching Stream with expertise on Clinical Social Work with Indigenous communities. The School’s commitment to research intensity is creating more robust community impacts, greater amounts of funding, and further learning opportunities for our graduate students.


Our MSW Program applicant pool has increased exponentially over the past 5 years, and this year we have seen an increase of 25% in applications. Given our current size and caliber of students, we select students who are a genuine fit with a clinically oriented program. These applicants, in turn, will graduate and contribute substantially to the human and health service delivery systems that so dearly need to recruit tier-one MSW clinical graduates with sound judgement, and strong emotional and intellectual intelligence.


Dr. Brian Rasmussen, a long-standing associate professor in our School will be retiring July 1, 2021. Brian is a very experienced clinician, a master teacher, a substantial contributor to the School and broader community, and a very well respected internationally renowned scholar who has published well, is well cited and well regarded. I will miss Brian terribly: I have relied on his sound judgement and steady hand since my 2016 recruitment to UBC. We will be celebrating Brian further, over the next several months.


As with any organization: everything depends on the quality of people involved. We have made enormous strides over the past 5 years, and I am proud of the accomplishments our colleagues are achieving.


John Graham, PhD RSW
Professor and Director


Welcome Back Event


This year the School of Social Work hosted their very first virtual Welcome Back Event on January 25th, 2021.


The goal of the event was to provide students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to reconnect after the Winter Break. In the first half of the virtual one-hour event, the attendees were randomly divided into breakout rooms where they were given the space to socialize and play games. The latter part of the session was focused on small group discussions around ‘Productive Online Learning Environments’.


The event was received well and some great ideas were derived from the small-group discussions!

Faculty Profile - Dr. Judy Gillespie



Dr. Judy Gillespie is the Principal Investigator of a SSHRC Insight Grant: Enhancing Evaluation Methodologies in Multisector Community Change Initiatives: The Role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems, with Dr. Jason Albert, Indigenous School of Social Work, First Nations University of Canada as the Co-Investigator.


Born and raised in northwestern Alberta, Judy completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work through the University of Calgary. After graduating Judy returned to her northern roots and began professional practice, first in child protection and then as a mental health clinician.


With a long-standing interest in community and its role in well-being, Judy made the decision to complete a PhD in Urban Planning at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning. “I was interested in the more ‘macro’ aspects of social work – particularly environmental justice, community organizing, and social policy and felt planning would be a good fit.” Her studies complemented her existing social work knowledge base with an increased appreciation of place and the role of place in well-being. “It gave me an increased awareness regarding how profoundly our well-being is shaped by our experiences of and connections to a whole range of places.”


Dr. Gillespie began teaching in the UBCO School of Social Work in January of 2001. Her research interests encompass the role of community in child and family well-being, understanding how professional practice shapes and is shaped by and in place, and interprofessional child welfare practice.


Her current research examines multisector collaboration to address social and structural factors impacting the well-being of Canada’s Indigenous children and families and to enhance the resilience embedded in Indigenous cultures and traditions. Judy is leading a SSHRC funded study investigating the role of Indigenous knowledge in evaluating the impacts of these multisector community change initiatives. “Myself and Dr. Jason Albert investigated the state of existing knowledge in this area and, not surprisingly, we found a huge gap in the knowledge base. We strongly believe the knowledge needs to come from and be relevant to the communities that are doing this work.” While the COVID-19 pandemic has posed some challenges to the research, it has not stopped it. “The pandemic has forced all of us to innovate; our community partners are figuring out ways to do this and we feel incredibly privileged to be on this journey with them.”




PostSecret and the Pandemic: Struggles, Successes, & Strategies
with Frank Warren.



Frank shared the most extraordinary secrets and inspiring PostSecret stories. Key areas of discussion were community building, reducing stigma, the rise in anxiety, loneliness, depression, and grief. Over 330+ students, alumni, and community members viewed new pandemic-related postcards that Frank has received.


Our first-year Foundational student, Sasha Waters, was a fantastic moderator for the event, and audience participation hit a record high for alumni UBC events,


A special thanks to the alumni UBC team Sarah Neely, Krista Stokell, Marcy Anderson, Christina Harley, and to our own Stephanie Laing for the planning and facilitation of this fantastic event!


CASWE-ACFTS Student Delegate - Josee Kreese


The School of Social Work is pleased to announce that Josee Kreese, current M.S.W. Program student was selected to act as the School’s Student Delegate this year for the Canadian Association for Social Work Education/Association Canadienne Pour La Formation En Travail Social.


Josee will be representing our School in the General Assembly, during the Congress Conference held virtually this year in Edmonton, AB, and will have the opportunity to vote at the CASWE-ACFTS Annual General Meeting (AGM).


Our School is an institutional member of CASWE-ACFTS and the School’s Director and the School’s Field Education Coordinator will also be attending the conference, voting in the CASWE-ACFTS AGM, representing the School.



Society for Social Work Research Conference

Dr. Shelly Ben-David and Dr. Sarah Dow-Fleisner at the 2020 SSWR Annual Conference


The most significant and prestigious academic conference in our discipline is the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR). The 25th Annual Conference was held virtually, January 19th - 22nd, 2021. Getting a paper accepted at this conference is difficult: submissions are great, presentations are few, and standards are high. This year’s conference included successful presentations by a few of our own exceptional students and faculty (see below). Well done, colleagues!



Dr. Shelly Ben-David, Assistant Professor:

Shimizu, R., Bessaha M., Ben-David S., Moore K, Rodwin A., Munson M. (January 2021). Recovery among Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness. Poster presentation, Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference – Social work Science for Social Change, San Francisco CA, January 20-24.


Dr. Sarah Dow-Fleisner, Assistant Professor:

Dow-Fleisner, S., Struik, L., Belliveau, M.*, Thompson, D., Janke, R. (2021, January). Tactics for Drawing Youth to Vaping: A Content Analysis of e-Cigarettes Advertisements. Oral presentation at the 25th Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work and Research, Virtual, United States. [CIHR funded]


Dow-Fleisner, S., Gregoire, N., Woodmass, K., More, J.*, Wells, S. (2021, January). Measuring Organizational Health in Canadian Indigenous Child Welfare Agencies. Oral presentation at the 25th Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work and Research, Virtual, United States. [SSHRC funded]


Harris-Gendron, S.*, Dow-Fleisner, S., van Donkelaar, P., Mason, K. (2021, January). Assessing Quality of Life in Survivors of Brain Injury from Intimate Partner Violence: A Scoping Review. Poster presentation at the 25th Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work and Research, Virtual, United States.

*MSW student/former student


Jessica Renfrew Frigon, BCYC and recent MSW student:

Renfrew Frigon, J., BCYC, Chau, S., PhD, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, UBCO. (January 2021). Addressing the Racial Inequity and Social Injustice of ‘Well’ Siblings in the Context of Eating Disorder Treatment in Social Work. Presentation, Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference.


Student Profile - Manije Irani


After a decade working in and with U.S and Australian armed forces in Central Asia, East Africa and the Middle East, international student Manije Irani decided it was time to turn her attention to healing work. She returned to the U.S. and completed an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of Northern Arizona. Although Counseling work was very rewarding, Manije felt there was more she wanted to do.


Living on the Colorado River Indian Tribe Reservation in rural Western Arizona, Manije was struck by the many obstacles her clients faced in accessing services, which were often inconsistent, nonexistent, or in many other ways just out of reach. Bringing these concerns to her supervisors she was often told “We’re not social workers”. That was a problem she could fix and she began searching for an MSW program focused on rural and Indigenous populations.


The MSW Program at UBC Okanagan seemed like the perfect fit and she was thrilled to be accepted to the 2020 Foundational Track Cohort. Though her Social Work journey is just beginning, Manije is looking forward to a future working to help improve the quality, consistency and accessibility of care for people in rural communities.


Dr. Sarah Dow-Fleisner: The Impacts of Covid-19 on Adolescent Development


High school students are particularly prone to being affected by the changes that have been brought on by the pandemic. See the full article here

Ph.D Student Profile - Monique Walsh



Ph.D. Student Profile – Monique Walsh

Monique Walsh is a doctoral candidate with the University of British Columbia Okanagan, under joint supervision of Dr. John Graham, Director of the School of Social Work, and Dr. Mike Chiasson, Professor of Management Studies.


As she discovered through her own research journey on how learning is enacted during collaborative processes, the exploration of boundary construction is an appropriate, although arguably questionable place, to begin a study of collaborative practice. By understanding the different actors and their learning experience in collaborations, Walsh’s research hopes to extend knowledge on the co-production of learning and position the practice of collaborative processes as performing boundary construction.


Walsh is the Executive Director of a non-profit organization that supports primary care providers in the Thompson Region of British Columbia with their pursuit of fostering a collaborative medical community. She is a Certified Professional Facilitator and holds a Masters in Adult Education.


Alumni Corner


The Alumni Corner feature is a new, and exciting addition coming soon to the School of Social Work Newsletter. Starting in Fall 2021, our excellent Alumni Engagement Committee members, and MSW Program alumni, Lauren Gaudet, will be interviewing other various MSW Program alumni working in their chosen field of social work.


Lauren Gaudet BA MSW RSW, Lauren Gaudet Counselling