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Social work PhD student awarded Universities Without Walls fellowship

By Laura Woodford and Brad Norman

For the past three years, the Universities Without Walls (UWW) fellowship has linked together outstanding academics, policy makers, and community members through a national interdisciplinary learning and mentorship program.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the fellowship aims to develop the next generation of HIV researchers in Canada. Among those offered this exclusive fellowship for 2011 is a Memorial social work PhD student Zack Marshall.

The opportunities provided by this fellowship are considerable for Mr. Marshall. He points out the value of being connected with so many people from across the country.

"It's a great opportunity to learn and also be mentored by people with real expertise and experience," he said about the program.

The program first came to his attention after meeting previous UWW fellows through his work in the community. When an email list he subscribes to spoke of a webinar being offered to provide information about the application process, he jumped at the opportunity.

The webinar connected him with Francisco Ibáñez-Carrasco, program manager for Universities Without Walls, who addressed his questions and concerns regarding the fellowship and looked over his application beforehand to provide feedback.

"I felt very supported throughout the application process," Mr. Marshall recalls.
One of the main focuses of Universities Without Walls is to allow collaboration amongst its fellows, bringing together a diverse range of specialties, including bioethics, microbiology, sociology, epidemiology, and social work. Mr. Marshall is excited about the level of interaction they'll get.

"It's great," he said. "We have webinars every other week to connect us all."
In addition to these webinars, the fellows will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face next summer, when they'll all assemble in Victoria for a one week learning institute. This will provide the fellows with the opportunity to sharpen their skills as they are mentored by experts in the field.

The group will also come together this November for the annual conference of the Ontario HIV Treatment Network in Toronto. The time in Ontario will allow a few days for the fellows to meet and get to know each other while discussing their individual research ideas.

Of the 12 individuals offered this fellowship, Mr. Marshall is the only one coming from an Atlantic Canadian university. This will offer him the opportunity to showcase the great research being done in this region. His research focus will be in the area of HIV and LGBTQ youth and will be supervised by Dr. Brenda LeFrançois of Memorial's School of Social Work.

Along with his dedication and hard work, this fellowship is sure to advance Mr. Marshall's contribution to HIV research and social work related issues.