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Graduate of unique Nunatsiavut Bachelor of Social Work program rises above challenges
Laura Woodford

The obligations of studying, deadlines and field placements are often a juggling act for any student but when you’ve been out of high school for over 25 years and you are a single parent of two teenagers who works weekends, the obligations can multiply.

That is what Tracy Saunders from Goose Bay, Labrador faced as she worked towards becoming one of the first-ever graduates of the unique Nunatsiavut Bachelor of Social Work program. 

In 2009 Nunatsiavut Government contracted Memorial University and its School of Social Work to deliver its fully accredited four-year Bachelor of Social Work degree program in Labrador. The program’s design emphasized the standardized social work program of study with traditional Inuit knowledge and cultural norms interwoven into the courses and teaching methods.

Like many in her class, Tracy was inspired to take on this program to help her try to make changes in Labrador communities.

“I loved that I was able to connect things I had experienced or my family had experienced to relocation, residential schools and personality traits that could be connected to culture.”

Given her obligations, Tracy had to prioritize and compromise with schoolwork.

“At one point one of my parents was having major surgery away from Goose Bay and on the same day I broke my ankle! Life doesn’t stop, so it was sometimes scheduling, self-care, parenting, and family obligations all in one day!”

Tracy did well with her studies, all things considered.

“I am proud that I was able to complete the program. I had a huge amount of support from a lot of people, and I am truly grateful for that.”

The uniqueness of this program is something that Tracy attributes to her determination to persevere despite the obstacles.

“The opportunity to be part of a program that was unique to Labrador Inuit and was offered within Labrador was a huge influence on my decision to apply. With my obligations I would not have been able to consider a program of this length outside of Happy Valley. I feel that the university and Labrador Institute worked towards giving us the best university experience even though we were not on campus.”

Albert Einstein’s quote has motivated Tracy from the beginning: "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."

“Its been my personal motto for times when I wonder if anything else can go wrong, i.e. computer has crashed 7/8th through a paper, or I was feeling anxious about schedules vs. self-care. It reminds me I can work with the opportunity or give up. After awhile it was a case of I have worked too hard to get here to give up now!”

May 27th, 2013

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