Graduation celebrations will be held Friday, June 14, for 17 students who have completed the bachelor of social work program in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Offered through a partnership with the Nunatsiavut Government and Memorial University, the unique, fully-accredited, four-year program was designed to reflect Inuit culture and values, and to prepare graduates to practise in both Inuit and non-Inuit settings. Its the first time the program has been offered in Labrador.
Nunatsiavut President Sarah Leo and Dr. Gary Kachanoski, Memorial Universitys president and vice-chancellor, will bring greetings during the celebrations. They will be joined by other members of the Nunatsiavut Government, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorials special adviser to the president for Aboriginal affairs, faculty and staff of the School of Social Work (including the dean pro tempore), members of the Labrador Institute, community elders, and families and friends of the graduates.
Our partnership with Memorial University on this initiative has proven to be very successful, said President Leo. There is a tremendous need throughout Nunatsiavut for social workers who have cultural and/or traditional Inuit connections. Our involvement in this initiative shows our commitment, as a government, to building healthier communities through programs and services aimed at addressing the day-to-day challenges faced by those in need. I want to congratulate all of the graduates and those involved in the delivery of this program on a job well done.
The ceremony will include the lighting of a kudlik (traditional Inuit lamp), drum dancers, and a keynote address from the clerk of the Nunatsiavut Assembly, Mary Sillett. There will also be a valedictory speech, a presentation of scrolls and a pen ceremony.
Memorial is very proud of this collaboration, said Dr. Kachanoski. Working with the Nunatsiavut Government and our community partners to create this unique program and offer it to Inuit students in Labrador is a great example of Memorials commitment to establishing partnerships which will ultimately benefit the province. We are very proud of these graduates, who are now in a unique position to employ the knowledge gained from Memorials social work program, along with traditional Inuit knowledge, to assist people in their own communities in Labrador.
The event will be held at the Lawrence OBrien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, beginning at 11 a.m. A reception will follow at the Northern Cross Community Church.
In 2009 the Nunatsiavut Government contracted Memorial University and its School of Social Work to deliver a fully-accredited, four-year Bachelor of Social Work degree program in Labrador. The programs design emphasized the standardized social work program of study with traditional Inuit knowledge and cultural norms interwoven into the courses and teaching methods. The Labrador Institute, Memorials presence in Labrador, was closely involved with program planning and delivery, ensuring that local instructors were involved in offering courses whenever possible.
Ultimately, program graduates would return to Nunatsiavut to work with fellow Inuit, developing a culturally-relevant path to healing and health.
In 2012 the program received national attention, winning the Changemakers Initiative: Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning Award for its innovation, social impact and sustainability. This ground-breaking collaboration was selected as one of the top entries pertaining to career education and workplace learning in Canada.
Fundamental to the program model is collaboration, information sharing, knowledge building and problem solving. This new approach is historically significant, demonstrates Memorials commitment to maintaining meaningful partnerships with Inuit, and acknowledges the vital contribution of traditional Aboriginal knowledge, values and practices to social work education. The program has developed best practices for similar partnerships between Aboriginal groups and schools of social work. Elders have been involved in the program, sharing traditional knowledge and supporting student learning.
Many of the students had to juggle family responsibilities and overcome obstacles in order to complete the program. Many indicated, however, that they were able to participate in the program mainly because it was offered in Labrador. Students also shared the desire to help make changes in the region, and felt that completing this program, unique to Labrador Inuit, would give them the skills required to help people in their own communities.
A total of 85 students graduated at Memorials spring convocation with bachelor of social work degrees, 17 of whom were graduates of the program offered in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.