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March 5, 2015

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Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work held its eighth-annual research forum on Feb. 23. Topics explored included resilience in conflict zones and working successfully with communities. More than 200 people attended the forum. In addition to attending the presentations, participants spoke with Laurier researchers about their ongoing work.

“Exploring the strengths, limits and challenges of working with community is key to our research," said Ginette Lafrenière, associate professor of Social Work and director of the Manulife Centre for Community Health Research.

Projects from research centres as well as individual researchers were presented. Bree Akesson, assistant professor of Child and Youth Studies at Laurier Brantford, presented her work on Social Work education in West and Central Africa. This work was completed with her student collaborators Mark Canavera, Debbie Landis and Miranda Armstrong.

“Developing a research protocol that works for creating a global understanding of social work practice in my goal,” said Akesson. “Presenting to social work students and faculty today gives me a new perspective on my work.”

Akesson’s next project will establish comparisons between her African work and South Eastern Europe.

Eliana Suarez, assistant professor of Social Work at Laurier, presented her work documenting the aftermath of armed conflict in Peru. Her research with Quechua women calls for enhanced recognition of women not only as victims of violence but also as courageous social actors in recovery efforts.

"Social workers must not only help survivors of war to cope individually, but to recognize that communities must come together to rebuild their social lives,” said Suarez. “I was amazed by students’ passion and interest in this work. Students must know that integrating research with the social work practice they are learning is so important."

The Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work was the first in Canada to combine a holistic Indigenous worldview with contemporary social work practice. The school continues to integrate its work in the community. The Social Innovation Research Group (SIRG) and the Manulife Centre for Community Health Research (MCCHR) shared their frameworks for conducting authentic and mutually beneficial university-community research.

“Research Day was a great way to learn about the different types of work happening in Social Work, especially how students can get involved,” said Adria Joel, a student of professor Lafrenière. "Being interactive and talking to people and being able to make a difference is so rewarding."

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