The Students’ Union (SU) is holding a by-election for several different positions, one of which is the Faculty of Social Work representative. The Gauntlet sat down with Nik Jarvis to talk more about her platform and what she plans to do if elected into the position.
As a fourth-year social work student, Jarvis is determined to bring more inclusion to the faculty and lift up marginalized voices in her classes. A major platform point of hers concerns bringing “Indigenous and anti-colonial education” to the program.
Given the country’s history with social work being closely tied to colonial and religious institutions, Jarvis said that there should be more of a focus within the program based on different non-Eurocentric approaches to social work.
Jarvis said that as someone who is a psychiatric survivor, she has been through the system as a client and understands what changes to social work education could do for people in the future.
“That’s why I wrote in my platform that we need better and different education to do right by our clients,” she said. “Because all of this purely academic stuff doesn’t allow us to connect ourselves to the people that we’re supposed to be serving.”
Although changes to curriculum are not simple, Jarvis said that she plans on creating sustainable opportunities for advocacy within the Bachelor of Social Work program.
“So, I want to strengthen our ability to connect to students,” she said.
Another concern of hers is to help social work students avoid burnout both in classes and in the field. Jarvis explained that within her cohort specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic hit students hard — many of whom struggled with their mental health showing signs of burnout, according to Jarvis.
While this is the first time in a few years that the Faculty of Social Work representative position has been contested, Jarvis said that this past year was particularly weak for student representation, as the faculty club — the Social Work Student Association — basically disappeared.
“That is going to require changes to the structure of the program from the faculty so that we have the time and the emotional ability to do it,” she said.
Jarvis wants to remind students that although the coursework can be overwhelming, there are resources available for students who require it to avoid this burnout. She said that the changes she wishes to advocate for in the social work program will help future social workers become more productive and proactive once students have started their careers.
“[We need to be taught] what it feels like to do this work without being burnt out so that we can advocate for the labour changes we need as a field later on,” she said. “And we can strengthen ourselves later on.”
Jarvis’ platform centres around some pretty big changes specifically with the way the social work program is taught. It is an ambitious platform and work that probably won’t be completed within her term, should she get the position. However, Jarvis’ focus on student mental health is definitely attainable and needed, especially after such a difficult transition to online learning last year.
Online voting in the SU by-election will take place Oct. 13–15 and can be done through the myUofC Student Centre. Voting begins at 9 a.m. on Oct. 13 and closes at 4 p.m. on Oct. 15. To learn more about Nik Jarvis and her campaign, check out her and the other candidates’ platforms online. All undergraduate students registered for the Fall 2021 semester are eligible to vote.