Welcome to the Faculty of Social Work.
“It’s Social Work’s time to shine.”
Dr. Ellen Perrault, PhD, RSW, appointed Dean, July 1, 2020
The week Ellen Perrault was selected as Dean of the University of Calgary Faculty of Social Work wasn’t exactly a great one in Alberta. CBC reported the number of Covid-19 cases in Alberta had jumped to nearly 3,000, while the NY Times reported that the price for oil (May contracts) actually dropped below zero.
In the midst of this Ellen remains typically upbeat, “Well my ancestors were farmers,” she says. “They knew that if you don't plant a crop in the spring, you won't have anything the next year. Whether it’s raining or dry, you still need to plant your crop and do the hard work to ensure a bountiful future.”
As the new Dean of Social Work, Perrault will be tasked with bringing in a beautiful crop from what many would suggest could be a harsh environment. However, she believes that societal shifts and experiences from the pandemic can guide the faculty to transition into the future and become stronger in the process.
“Covid-19 is uncovering the critical need for social workers,” says Perrault. “I think it’s also creating new opportunities to build new hubs of community connection and action in education and research. If we’re guided by the values of social work, and we take a compassionate, collaborative approach, I really believe we’ll be able to look back at the last five years with pride at how the faculty and the social work profession really flourished.”
“Social workers are trained to create positive change in these times of uncertainty,” says Perrault, “I believe social work will help society recover from the pain. What a great opportunity to move from, ‘Oh and we have social workers…’ to having a leadership role in rebuilding the community to be ready for the next crisis.”
Perrault also believes that the global pandemic has created an important crossroads for the profession. “We either provide leadership now, or our profession will not survive, and other professions will take over.” Perrault points to troubling trends in the erosion of social work roles in several areas: nurses supporting family members in hospitals, child and youth care workers in child welfare, psychologists moving to provide more mental health interventions, business sector professionals and planners taking on community leadership, NGOs struggling with international development, and public and health policy analysts advocating for a fair society.
“We need to step up” says Perrault, “because what other profession, than social work, will work towards equity for the poor, the homeless, and the marginalized? What other profession is going to ensure the bigger systems are supporting the microsystems? What other profession is going to create new knowledge in these areas so that we can move forward? What other profession will work towards the common good and wellbeing of society while ensuring communities, families and individuals are thriving? It is social work’s time to shine.”
Article: by Don McSwiney, Faculty of Social Work