Site Accessibility Statement
Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
February 8, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Research Forum Slides

February 23, 2015

Please note: The slides below are from the 2015 Research Forum.  Slides for the 2016 Research Forum will be available in February


Youth Recidivism: A Qualitative Study of Risk and Resilience.

Jesse Near (MSW, RSW, BA) is a graduate of the Wilfrid Laurier University MSW Program and was the recipient of the Gold Medal of Academic Excellence at the October 2014 convocation.  Prior to obtaining her MSW, Ms. Near received her BA in Psychology from the University of Waterloo in 2003, and graduated on the Dean's Honor List from the BSW program at Renison College (University of Waterloo) in 2006.  

Jesse is a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) where she has worked in a secure custody setting with male youths since 2006. In addition to her work with the youths, Jesse us also involved in a number of committees through the MCYS including her participation in the development of clinical newsletter, program evaluation and research implementation. Jesse also works part-time as a fee for service therapist working with youth, adults, couples and families. Jesse’s thesis research was informed by resiliency theory and used a qualitative methodology to explore what makes youths in trouble with the law successful in avoiding reoffending. The research question arose from her experience working with youths who repeatedly reoffend and return to custody despite prior involvement with the youth justice system that has attempted to assist them. The findings highlighted structural and societal level barriers that influence whether a given youth will offend and/or reoffend or not


Entering Precarious Job Markets in the Era of Austerity Measures: The Perceptions of Graduating Social Work Students

This research emerges from the researchers’ common interest in understanding Master of Social Work students’ perceptions of the job market upon graduation. To address financial crisis and a slowing global economy, many states adopt austerity measures to mitigate budget deficits. Studies reveal that the boundaries of austerity budgets introduced by federal and provincial governments, in response to anticipated worsening economic conditions, have led to underemployment. This study presents an overview of findings from a qualitative research project conducted in March 2014 at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Social Work. The research team used critical and interpretive approaches to frame the study. Data was collected from 74 MSW students through three focus group discussions and an online questionnaire. Results were analyzed thematically. The study asked students what they thought about employment after graduation, and how they were preparing themselves to enter and navigate the labour market. In this presentation, we will highlight three major findings that emerged from our analysis including what participants are looking forward to post-graduation; what they are concerned about; and, what creative strategies they are employing to bend austerity boundaries to make them their own and create new frontiers of social work practice. The findings have implications for the ways in which social work students are dealing with austerity measures at the micro level; and further, how graduate curriculum and policy are developed.


Examining the Values and Tensions of Feminist Research within a Framework of University-Community Collaboration: Five Case Studies

Many feminist scholars strive to produce research that is meaningful to both academic and community audiences. This panel seeks to contribute to those ambitions by answering a fundamental question: how do feminist values contribute to sound university-community partnerships? In order to respond to this question, research projects of the Social Innovation Research Group (SIRG) and the Manulife Centre for Community Health Research (MCCHR) are used as applied case studies. SIRG and MCCHR are housed at the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University. Over the past two years, SIRG and MCCHR have engaged in chaotic and textured feminist research within the community. Through carrying out research on sex trade work, research on the post-shelter experiences of women who have experienced domestic violence, a project dedicated to ending violence against women and girls in rural and remote areas, a project contributing to ending gendered violence on university campuses, and a bystander training program, MCCHR and SIRG offer a framework for conducting authentic and mutually beneficial university-community research. These case studies honour the idea that public intellectuals have a role to play in creating spaces for overshadowed voices to be heard and to contribute to healthy and authentic debates on the limits and merits of feminist praxis when working with vulnerable women. The panel also offers provocative insights into the strengths, limits and challenges of carrying out such research informed by a community development model as opposed to a focus primarily on knowledge generation.


Leadership Practice and Organizational Culture in Children's Services: Exploring these Influences during System Transformation

Children’s mental health agencies in Ontario are facing unprecedented change with the current MCYS system transformation and shift to lead agencies. Effective leadership is critical to adapt to these complex changes, given the recent government focus on accountability and efficiency. However, most leadership research has been conducted in the business sector and there is a gap between social work leadership literature and practice. The purpose of this research study was twofold: to explore how senior directors and supervisors in children’s mental health and child welfare agencies are practicing leadership; and how this is being influenced and shaped by organizational culture. The impact of external changes, such as system transformation, as well as leadership satisfaction and development, were also explored. A qualitative research approach, using a multiple case study design, was employed. One child welfare and two children’s mental health agencies in southwestern Ontario participated in this study. Multiple data collection methods were used, including observations of meetings, semi-structured interviews with senior directors, focus groups with supervisors, and extensive reviews of agency documents. The data from each agency was analyzed separately, and then compared across agencies to discover emerging themes. Summary documents with key themes were sent to each leadership and supervisory team, to include their feedback. Key findings emerged in four areas: current leadership practice; influence on organizational culture; adapting to change in the external environment; and leadership development opportunities


A heart-based Sufi mindfulness spiritual practice employing self-journeying

Spiritual Psychology is the study and practice of the art and science of the human evolution of consciousness. The heart occupies an important place in Sufism and is considered to contain the divine spark that leads to spiritual realization. Fethullah Gülen’s action-oriented Sufi methods described in his book series “The Emerald Hills of the Heart” provides the basis for a heart-based therapeutic intervention through self-journeying, which is the objective of this thesis. These self-purification and mindfulness-related transpersonal methods generate a form of treatment that is culturally sensitive. Through my reflections in this research, I transformed my personal experiences into a transpersonal narrative by writing 80 poems in 80 days, and this output, along with Gülen’s teaching methods, techniques and spiritual practices formed the source of my intellectually generated data, and the basis for the new therapy model. It took two forty-day periods in two different cultures—Canada and Turkey— to reach the necessary divine knowledge for discovering the innate power of the spirit. The journey involved seeking freedom from the ego, or the lower self, in order to reach self-awareness and a conception of how to use the self. I also categorized seven different levels of development of the soul, representing the levels or stages of the self, ranging from absolutely self-centered and egotistical to pure spiritual human perfection. My examination of the two forty day periods revealed the seven categories of thankfulness, purity of intention, reflection, patience, truthfulness, trustworthiness and presentation. From these I developed a model for ten weeks of therapy for a specific population. This thesis presents my journey in Fethullah Gülen’s Sufi path and an emerging model for a heart-based Sufi mindfulness spiritual practice. In this research, I propose a faith/spirituality-based model of heart-centred psychotherapy rooted in the spiritual philosophy, psychology and discipline of Fethullah Gülen’s practice.


Social work education in West and Central Africa: Implications for child protection

The focus of this study is to better understand how social workers and related professionals are trained and educated to engage in social work practice as related to child protection, in the West and Central Africa region. During Phase 1 of the research, documents were collated from 13 countries across the region and phone interviews were conducted with relevant individuals. Phase 2 included field visits to five West African countries in 2014—Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal—during which the research team conducted 42 semi-structured interviews and 27 group discussions with 253 individuals. To date, this is the first comprehensive mapping exercise for the region of universities and institutions that engage in social work education activities. Findings indicate that there is tremendous variability in the social work training available in each country ranging from relatively short diploma programs to PhDs. A core challenge for training and professional development is that formal social workers’ job descriptions and legal mandate are unclear in most countries in the region. Another key finding from this research stems in large part from the lack of clarity around roles and inequalities in education and training levels. As a result, the relationships between government and non-government social workers demonstrated various forms of tension in each of the countries where fieldwork was conducted. Finally, the relevance and adaptation of training curricula to cultural contexts varies across the region but are generally perceived to be inadequately adapted to local realities.


An Exploration of Employment Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence in the Region of Waterloo

A qualitative applied social policy research study was undertaken to generate recommendations that could improve employment services available to women who have survived domestic violence residing in the Region of Waterloo. This study was accomplished by determining which employment services aligned with the needs of a survivor as they began to seek employment. In-depth interviews were conducted to collect information from six survivors and six social service providers delivering employment services. A thematic analysis was then used to analyze the data and assign meaning to reoccurring descriptive patterns or emerging phenomenon in relation to the focal research question. It was found that the survivor community operating in this geographic area has developed a high level of resiliency, which has enabled this population to successfully access available employment services to aid their employment search. It was also determined that governmental agencies, large-scale non-for-profit establishments, community-based associations, and other partnering organizations mandated to deliver employment services within the Region of Waterloo have designated significant financial and human resources to support individuals through their employment search journey. Overall, it was recommended that social service providers: integrate additional ongoing support activities into their service-delivery models, provide specialized training to front-line workers, and promote their services on an increasing basis to generate public awareness and foster a more inclusive community.


Resilience and social ties: The missing pieces of post-conflict interventions?

Purpose: The resilience of individuals and communities in post-conflict zones has not been examined, nor given equal prominence than their suffering. Consequently, psychosocial interventions in post-conflict often are not responsive to local realities and ill equipped to foster local strengths and participation in the social repair process. Informed by preliminary community consultations as well as trauma, resilience and structural violence theories, this study examines the resilience of Indigenous Quechua women in the aftermath of the armed conflict in Peru (1980-2000). Methods: A total of 151 participants were evaluated for their exposure to war violence, current life stressors, resilience and post-traumatic stress related symptoms using a cross sectional survey design. Findings should be interpreted with caution, due to limitations in the content validity of instruments, use of individual explanations of distress (such as PTSD) for collective experiences of violence, use of non-Indigenous frameworks to examine Indigenous resilience, and other methodological concerns. Findings: Post-traumatic responses and resilience emerge as distinctive, but often simultaneous processes. Resilience appears hindered by indicators of structural violence, such as poverty, illiteracy and sexual violence- and enhanced by social participation. Using case vignettes, it will be examined the cultural meaning of social ties, and the importance of continuous social participation and political engagement for the resilience of participants. Implications: The notable resilience of Quechua women calls for enhanced recognition of women not only as victims of violence but also as courageous social actors in the reconstruction of post-conflict societies. The latter also pointed to the combative nature of resilience a neglected area of research. Hence, how resilience is conceptualized is central to resilience -building interventions with survivors of war and overall social work practice.


Partners or competitors?  Exploring the interrelationships among stakeholders in the governance of community development projects in the kenyase community

This study adopted a mixed method to investigate the nature, causes and effects of conflicts as well as identify conflict resolution mechanisms among community development stakeholders in Kenyase. Data for the study were collected from the field using interview schedules, Focus Group Discussions and questionnaires. Findings from the study show the existence of competitive relationships among the stakeholders. The study further found stakeholder conflict to be associated with the retardation of the total development of the community, potential of delaying community development projects and leading to project cost overrun. The need for appropriate mechanisms to be put in place to address stakeholder conflicts is indicated by the findings. Also, the management of stakeholders’ expectations and the adoption of conflict avoidance or preventive approaches such as partnering, relational contracting, and stakeholder management among others would promote stakeholder collaboration.


Students, instructors, and structures, oh my!: A polyvocal analysis of the context of social work research training

This presentation focuses on the third of three studies in a program of research dedicated to exploring Master of Social Work (MSW) students’ engagement with learning and doing research at the Faculty of Social Work, WLU. This study explored the institutional context (including both practices and texts) in which graduate social work research is taught, learned, and conducted. The authors adopted the practice of polyvocality in order to represent the voices of FSW research students and faculty members in their experiences of teaching/learning/doing research, as well as the voices found in documents produced within the faculty of social work where decision-making about research curriculum was recorded. This concurrent triangulation design sought different but complementary data from survey findings, focus groups, and a review of institutional documentation for the period of 2003-2013. The findings suggest that within FSW both faculty and students construct research as a separate entity. Four possible factors contribute to such separation: issues related to the (changing) identity as a school; issues of research fit with the profession of social work; issues of sharing research among faculty and students and issues with supports available for research in a professional school within academia. We interpret the findings in the light of neoliberal influences on higher education. We also raise questions about the extent to which schools of social work should value a more creative and comprehensive approach to research training that problematizes how knowledge is produced, promotes social change, and aims to encourage research training within a professional school.


Attitudes Towards Couple Therapy

Intimate relationships are an integral part of our lives, and often couples experience distress over the course of their relationships. Although relationship distress is common, many couples significantly delay seeking out professional resources such as couples therapy. This research study intends to examine what factors contribute to the delay in seeking help and whether there is a negative stigma associated with attended couples therapy. This study encompassed a mixed-methods approaching, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Data was collected entirely online from Wilfird Laurier Graduate students using a web-based program 'Survey Monkey'. Data is currently in the analysis stages at this point, early trends are consistent with the hypotheses suggested and qualitative data is revealing a deeper message about how couple therapy is perceived. Results are suggesting that couple therapy and relationship issues are internalized as a negative characteristic associated with one's identity.