The Power of Student Journalism

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Ryerson University has one of the best journalism programs, with many graduates going on to work for large publications such as the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail.  With such an incredible program, it comes as no surprise that our campus has two school newspapers: The Eyeopener and The Ryersonian.  Student newspapers offer journalism students an amazing opportunity to write features, conduct interviews, and be an editor, practice photography, report on events and everything that goes with the operations of a newspaper.

While student newspapers are an excellent source of learning, this learning cannot come at the expense of the subjects of their stories.  There have been a few incidents lately that have raised some red flags as they have gone beyond students simply learning how to be journalists and waded into the territory of having serious and negative impacts on peoples’ lives.  As the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”.

I’m all for student learning; as a social work student, I complete two placements where I’m able to learn social work skills necessary for my career.  I appreciate having a space to try things out, make mistakes and be able to try again.  I have and will continue to make mistakes throughout my placement and career.  This is why I can appreciate the position students working and writing for student newspapers are in; we are all students and everyone is learning.  I become less understanding of this when mistakes are made that are based in pure insensitivity and carelessness.

This type of mistake occurred during the coverage of the Ghomeshi trial this week.  When I arrived on campus the afternoon the trial began, I learned that one of the school newspapers had tweeted the names of the victims whose names are under a publication ban.  While this is a mistake by a student who is learning, this could have serious and negative consequences for those women.  There’s a publication ban in place for a reason and tweeting their names is an invasion of their right to privacy and anonymity in the public’s eye during a sexual assault trial.  I don’t know the legalities of breaking a publication ban but I’m assuming there are consequences.  While these students may say “oops”, delete the tweet, take it as a lesson learned and carry on, that tweet could impact those women in negative ways.  Our student media may have just disclosed the sexual violence someone has experienced to a family member, friend, colleague, boss, neighbour, etc.  This is further complicated in that Ghomeshi yields a lot of power due to his celebrity which means a high profile trial.  Consequences from that tweet could reach far and wide in that persons’ life; this cannot simply be treated as a beginners’ mistake.

This semester, I experienced a student error that could potentially have serious and negative impacts.  I was recently interviewed for a story on unpaid internships by one of the student newspapers.  I discussed my experiences of having a disability and completing a lot of unpaid placement hours; when asked what my disability was, I disclosed I have a brain injury as I did not want it to be misconstrued or misrepresented.  I’m not sure what happened between my interview and the publication of the article but the newspaper printed that I have mental health issues.  How would I disclose this in an interview if that is not a lived experience I have?  Fortunately, the newspaper edited the online version and printed a correction but that’s a pretty big mistake.  Considering the stigma attached to mental health issues and that my experiences were presented as representative of students with lived experience, I’m extremely lucky I have not had any negative consequences thus far.  I was extremely concerned considering I have been very vocal about men’s rights and issues groups which often discredit feminist and women’s voices by claiming they are “mentally ill”.  These types of mistakes cannot be brushed off as expected errors in learning; they need to be addressed and there needs to be some accountability.  While the Editor of the newspaper apologized several times, I still have not heard from the reporter who interviewed me and wrote the article.

This year, I’ve had a lot more interactions with campus media as I began co-organizing the Ryerson Feminist Collective.  We have been interviewed on a number of topics including our initial solidarity with U of T event, the men’s issues group at Ryerson, meninists, body hair, self-love for racialized and immigrant women, our Take Back the Campus event, masculinity, the RSU, etc.  I’ve had some really great experiences with student journalists at Ryerson; great interviews, great questions and discussion, well-written articles and no one has spelt my name wrong yet.  Student journalists have been very respectful about my safety concerns regarding some of the issues I have been interviewed about and have waited after events to interview me when I would be most comfortable.  I’m still friends with Dylan Freeman-Grist, who wrote the amazing first article about the Ryerson Feminist Collective when we formed in September.  A student journalist I recently met even helped me with this blog, which I really appreciate.

Student newspapers have made errors that could have negative impacts and this needs to be addressed but I also want to talk about the student journalists who are doing amazing work.  This is who should be recognized for their work and contributions to campus life.  The students working at both campus newspapers work very hard at their jobs (I hear they are on campus until 2:30 am some days) while taking full course loads, working outside jobs and still managing to have a social life.  The stories are always interesting and they are always reporting on current student news.  The work of these journalists should be recognized and highlighted for other students to learn from to avoid mistakes that could potentially be harmful.

While mistakes in student learning are inevitable, errors that can be extremely harmful need to be addressed.  This can be done by having those who make mistakes take accountability for them and also having a good understanding of the power student journalists hold.  What you write could change someone’s life and I think this is an important lesson to take into any field, including journalism.

Job Hunting Tips

Photograph of a woman looking at the career section of a news paper

Looking for a job can sometimes be as much work as having a full time job. There are a few tips and suggestions which can make this process a little less painful.

First, apply for everything. Even if the position is one in which you aren’t completely sure that you qualify for. It’s great practice to tailor your resume and cover letter which will make it easier to do in the future. Also, you never know who else is applying and perhaps you are more skilled than you think. I have noticed that sometimes organizations create a wish list for a job description and will accept other skills if they feel the person is a fit with their organization.

Try not to get discouraged if you don’t receive feedback from your resumes. There are many other people who are also looking for work and you never know how many people have applied for the same position. I recently had an interview, months after sending in my resume, it was a small organization and had received hundreds of resumes. This can make it time consuming for the organization to sort through and get back to applicants. If it is a job that you are particularly interested in, you could always follow up with an email.

Once you have heard back and are scheduled for an interview, PREPARE. Don’t get too stressed about the preparation, but ensure that you know about the organization. Spend time going over their website and get to know their history and mission. See if you can find any other information about the company online.

Think about questions that could be asked of you in the interview. While it seems easy to talk about yourself, it isn’t always that easy if you are feeling nervous. There are many sites online which can offer you sample interview questions and suggested answers. It can be helpful to review the questions, but instead really think about how you would answer those question and practice if necessary.Here are a few of questions which I have noticed in many of my recent interviews.

  1. What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
  2. What is your greatest strength/weakness?
  3. How do you react to stress/conflict?
  4. Why are you interested in working for this organization/leaving where you work now?

It is also a good idea to think of questions that you would like the answer too. Remember that interviews are a two way street and you need to learn if you are interested in the job. Here are a couple of questions worth asking.

  1. What would the day to day responsibilities of the position look like?
  2. What is the organizational structure?

Don’t be afraid to ask the more difficult questions as they may impact your decision.

  1. How flexible is the pay range?
  2. How much room is their in the organization for upward mobility?

Try to view the process as a learning experience and even if you say something you regret in an interview don’t judge yourself too harshly. The worst that can happen is you won’t hear back.

Change Bad habits

It is important to remember that there is always something you can be doing to change your current situation. The first step is recognizing what you might be doing (or not doing) that is stopping your career advancement. This week I blog about common habits of individuals that often become a brick wall in their career.summer job

Speak up: Employers like people who bring new ideas and contribute to growth of the company. Speaking up also shows that you not only care about your job but also about the organization you work for. Therefore, providing your input is a great way to express to your employer that you are capable of much more than doing assigned tasks. This demonstration can lead to bigger and better opportunities within your organization. It does not matter if you are a new graduate or a current full-time Ryerson student, you can develop these skills in any environment. If you are someone who does not like to participate in class discussions, start by speaking up in class.

Take the initiative: No employer has the time to babysit a worker. Employers are looking for quick learners and those who can help the company grow. If you are not able to handle small tasks and constantly approach them for help; they may find your irritating and not assign you additional opportunities. The best way to win confidence of an employer is through taking initiative and getting the task done before you are asked. Learn from your university experiences. Be the type of employee who is always one step ahead of the employer. This will lead often lead to better working environment and possibly a promotion.

Be positive: No business is perfect. No matter how intelligent or efficient you are at your work, there will always be a difficult time when you not able to perform your best. Employers look for individuals who are not willing to give up. Employers often promote people who are passionate because individuals in management positions are expected to represent the organization in a positive manner to their clients and public. One of the ways to be positive is by smiling, greeting your colleagues on regular basis and participating in team meetings. You may feel that you are forcing yourself at first but this will change as you make effort to change your old habits.

Remember, change is a process. It does not happen overnight. Work on your behaviour everyday and learn from your experiences. Getting a promotion takes more than just showing up for work on time. It requires an individual to go above and beyond expectations. Ask for feedback and learn from your mistakes.

My Placement: The Adoption Council of Ontario

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During the 3rd and 4th year of Ryerson’s Bachelor of Social Work Program students complete a practicum in the field.  Being in third year, I started my first field placement this semester. I have been extremely fortunate to have a great placement where there is lot’s to do and learn.  I’m currently doing my placement with the Adoption Council of Ontario.

The Adoption Council of Ontario is a non-profit organization that provides outreach, education and support to all of those touched by the adoption process including adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents and adoption professionals.  They deal with all types of adoption including public, private, international and relative.

So far my placement has been with the AdoptOntario program which is for families interested in adoption.  The program supports the connection between prospective adoptive parents and children waiting to be adopted in the foster care system.  A large piece of this program is technology.  AdoptOntario is made up of two inter-related websites; the public facing site and the professional site.  The public site provides educational resources, information and events about adoption, information on the course required to become AdoptReady, a photolisting site of waiting children and clinical support for both families and adoption workers via phone and e-mail.  The professional site provides an Adoption Resources Databank that host families and children waiting to be adopted.  This databank has a matching tool used to connect families with children.  Each month an e-mail with new potential matches is sent to the adoption workers of both families and waiting children.

My placement thus far has included training, participating in webinars, creating profiles for families and children on the databank, administrative tasks for accounts (eg. unlocks, renewal, sign up), participating in clinical coordinator meetings, speaking to adoption workers and prospective parents and preparing for the upcoming Adoption Resource Exchange.  It is a very busy placement with little down time and I love it.  There are many learning opportunities that my placement has allowed me to participate in.  For example, I will be present at a best practices round table which will include all of those involved in the adoption process.

The Adoption Council of Ontario is a not for profit organization that runs on the generosity of donation.  During the Adoption Fun Walk, ACO’s annual fundraiser, an anonymous donor announced that they will be matching donations made up to $10 000.  This means that if you donate $5, it becomes $10.  Adoption Council of Ontario does amazing work with one simple goal in mind; all children should have a family forever.  If you plan on donating to an organization, cause, etc. I really encourage you to consider donating to Adoption Council of Ontario.  Your donation will be doubled and goes towards a goal of every child in Ontario having a family.
Donations can be made here: https://www.donationaid.com/aco-donate

Sources:
Adoption Council of Ontario Website- www.adoption.on.ca
AdoptOntario Website- www.adoptontario.ca

 

Social Justice Week At Ryerson

the flyer for the events for social justice week

Like many Ryerson students and alumni who don’t live near campus or who work during the day, I wasn’t able to make it to as many Social Justice week events as I would have liked, but what I did experience was profound.

I attended the entire day of workshops, lectures and performances on Thursday, October 9. This day was hosted by the School of Social Work and the School of Disability Studies. In the morning, I attended skills workshop entitled, New Media and Innovative Organizing. There were three panelists for this workshop. One focused on writing and narrative as a form of activism, another on digital story telling and the third on photographic voice as a research method. I think sometimes, activists get stuck on one kind of organizing and while I have seen the power and usefulness of marches and demonstrations, there is something so beautiful and subversive about using art as a way to speak back to the dominate narrative. however, this is not to say that it is easier. Issues with funding, research methodologies, soft vs. hard research and ways in which each panelist had dealt with these issues were discussed.

In the afternoon there were issues tables to discuss ways to practically start organizing. I attended a table hosted by some former members of the Social Work Anti-Oppression Coalition. These students organized when they were in the program to change the program and to work on unpacking their privilege. It was exceptionally powerful and sad to hear that this coalition no longer exists. The main speaker for this table discussion stated that the main reason for the success of the group was because they came from a place of love. This resonated with me. Winnie Ng, the holder of the CAW-Sam Gidin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy who organizes social justice week has said the same. I was lucky enough to be able to take Leadership for Social Action with her a couple of summer’s ago, in which she stated that social change starts with the heart, then moves to the hand. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha said the same recently at a poetry slam; loving is a revolutionary act.

The final event of the day was a dance performance by Spirit Synott, an internationally renowned dancer and a group of Ryerson dance students. The performance, titled Dare, was beautiful and well choreographed considering the group collectively created the piece in a week. Sprit, who uses a wheelchair and the dancers highlighted the barriers faced by those who use mobility devices. This was highlighted even more by the fact that Spirit and the group could not rehearse at the dance studios as they are inaccessible. I hope recordings of this performance is viewed by the president of Ryerson University and changes are made to the inaccessible nature of our campus. Beyond that, I hope that everyone who attended social justice week, takes something away and collectively we work to make our campus a welcoming space for all bodies.

Five Tips for Applying to Graduate Programs

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If you are nearing the end of your undergraduate program you might be thinking about graduate school. While, the application deadlines may still be several months away, it’s a good idea to start thinking about your application now. Here are five helpful tips to get you started.

1.  Start Now.

It’s never to early to begin looking at different graduate programs. There are many to choose from and it’s best to do your research early so you aren’t scrambling later. Also, most applications require letters of recommendation. Start asking for those soon. The more time you give people to prepare, the more likely they will be to write you a glowing letter of recommendation.

2.  Write up your academic CV.

Academic CV’s are different from general resumes. Many graduate applications require you to have them as part of the application package. The sooner you start your CV, the better. You have probably done lots of things which would look great on a CV, but unless you write them down, they could be forgotten. Having it written out will also give you an idea of where you might need to fill some holes. Here’s a helpful blog to get your CV started.

3.  Know why you want to go to graduate school.

This sounds obvious right? Most graduate school applications require a personal letter outlining why you want to attend their graduate program. This is something you should think through very carefully. Your personal letter including why you want to attend graduate school are the part of the reasons you will be accepted. Academic standing, research plan and CV aside, the admissions committee want to get to know you.

4.  Get first hand advice.

If you don’t know anyone who attended the graduate program that you are interested, then ask around. Perhaps one of your current professors has a connection. If not, most graduate programs also have open days. All graduate programs also have staff who are able to meet with you or chat over the phone. These connections can provide you with valuable information and networks for your time in the graduate program.

5.  Get assistance editing your application.

No matter how great your application is it needs to be edited. As with any piece of writing, it will improve with feed back and constructive criticism. It’s very easy to miss spelling errors. A friend who recently applied and was accepted to a graduate program told me that when he had his application edited, not only had he spelled his field of study incorrectly but also his last name.

So, if you are interested in applying to a graduate program doing some research now will save you lots of time and frustration later on. Good luck!

Tips for Writing an Academic CV

depicts a CV on a desk with a pair of glasses and a pen

Most of us have a resume, that handy little document where our life is written out in terms of employment and most of us have a good idea of what should be included. An academic CV is another story. If you are applying for grad school or want to demonstrate your involvement in research projects or are applying for certain awards you will need one. I got some great advice when I started compiling mine; ‘it’s never too early to start, you’ve done more than you realize.’ With that sage advice in mind, here are some other tips to help you get started.

1.Format

There is no one correct way to format your academic CV. It is important it make sure that whatever format you use, it needs to be clear and readable. So don’t mix categories and keep things in reverse chronological order. Most templates start with education, followed by work experience. As you may not have research experience you can add sections for awards, professional memberships, conferences attended and skills. Here are a couple of websites to give you some idea about formatting, http://www.jobs.ac.uk/careers-advice/cv-templates/1309/academic-cv-template and http://www.careers.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Academic-Cv-sample.pdf

2. Value the experience you do have

So looking over these templates, you might be feeling discouraged. Chances are you haven’t been published by an academic journal (yet), however, perhaps you have been published in Ryerson Today or a local paper. You may not have presented at a conference, but perhaps you have attended them. Include this information. However, keep in mind that you don’t want to overload your academic CV with information.

3. Length

Which brings us to the topic of length. Unless you have a string of publications to your name, your CV should between one to two pages. After you have the basics, you can plump it up if you need to. However, remember as wonderful as your CV will be, it will probably only be skimmed by the reader so it needs to be clear and concise.

4. Proofread

Like any CV or resume, it’s important, vital really, to make sure that you have someone proofread it. Ask your proofreader to also comment on your fonts and the your organization of your CV. You want to make sure that it is clear at first glance, as a second read might not happen.

5. Share

One of the best ways to evaluate your academic CV is to share with it others who already have one. Find a professor, RA, TA, GA or sessional instructor who is willing to help you with this. Chances are they did they same thing when they first began writing their academic CV.

Good luck!

Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Wake up.

Shower. Dress.

Have breakfast.

Listen to panel of eminent scholars from across north America and group discussion about ableist investments and crip becomings. Have mind blown.

Break. Quick coffee.

Attend another panel. Watch Ryerson student present her final thesis on Deafness and boundaries. Watch another presenter show clips from TV show, Switched at Birth and discussion of Deaf culture in media.

Lunch and AGM. Listen and participate in an interesting discussion about student (undergrad) attendance and activism. Vote.

Listen and read along with the closed captioned Keynote speech. Quickly scribble notes on books and authors to read. Listen to keynote’s ten year old daughter discuss the racism she has experienced, in terms of, the book about pigs she reading. Once again, have mind blown.

Break. Grab a quick half pint at the beer tent.

Last panel of the day. Discussion about cultural representations of disability all across media. From fan fiction, to Zombie culture, to film and intellectual disability, to writing as disability activism. Get inspired.

Dinner. Discuss ideas for work, future presentations, joke, laugh, create community.

Night cap. Laugh and strengthen friendships over beer and discussions of neoliberalism and intersectionality.

Sleep.

Wake. Repeat.

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The Canadian Disability Studies Association (CDSA) recently had a conference at Brock University as part of the larger Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences program. I am grateful to have been able to attend. Congress is one the main conferences during the year for a variety of scholars, not only disability studies, but anthropology, sociology, social work, Russian languages, history, just to name a few of the 70 different associations. It takes place over a one week period. There are panels several times a day, every day, career workshops, readings, a book expo (it’s a little dangerous, best to go through without your wallet), and a beer tent.

I came away from my experience at Congress, exhausted, motivated, overwhelmed, inspired, excited, tired, with new and strengthen friendships, with an extensive new reading list and with a plan to become more involved with the CDSA. For those who missed the announcement in Ryerson Today, Ryerson University will be hosting Congress in 2017. For students still attending Ryerson then, this is the perfect time to get involved, meet some scholars in your field, make connections, listen to passionate discussions and maybe volunteer. For alumni, come back, support your school and your field of study. Be reminded of your passion and grow your knowledge.

See everyone there! CDSA 2017!

Employment Opportunities for Nursing Students

As I will be entering my 4th year of nursing at Ryerson University in the fall, myself and my classmates are thinking ahead to a year from now when we will be job searching. Fortunately the nursing job market is quite alive and well, with a diverse range of opportunities as well as new graduate initiatives, so thinking ahead is more exciting than it is stressful. That being said, many nursing students struggle to find employment in the field of nursing during the school year and summer months. As students, we are not qualified to work as regulated health care providers and there only a limited number of health-care related positions that are available for students. I think that the key for students is to apply to as much as possible, and to set yourself up for future success via strong academic performance, effective networking, and gaining experience. Nursing students are lucky in the fact that we are all guaranteed placements, so by the time we are a few years in, we have had the opportunity to network with a multitude of nurses and other professionals. Keeping these professional alliances is key to future success. In some cases, such as my own, placements can turn into jobs. Even if that isn’t the goal or the result of a placement, the experience is nonetheless valuable both for your professional report as well as for your own personal knowledge of preferences.

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So now let’s go back to life as a student. While the post-graduation future looks bright, many people become frustrated that they cannot find employment in the now. My advice is to look beyond the nursing scope, and to broaden goals to the broader field of health and wellness care, or anything that works with people. Health care institutions often post external listings for medical administrative staff. Hundreds of summer camps across Ontario hire counselors each year, which is a great way to gain leadership experience with the pediatric population. By extension, many camps also hire nursing students to work as first aiders in the health centers. It’s up to you to go out and find the positions. Limiting searches to student nurse positions will yield very limited results, however there are options that are relevant to nursing available.

 

Now that summer has begun, I wish my peers who are still looking for employment the best of luck in the search and I hope that this post offered some insight to you. Don’t give up!

Stop Telling Me to Go Into a Trade

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My attempt to be a handy person/change a light bulb

On June 12th, the people of Ontario will go to the polls to vote as the result of a snap election at the provincial level.  As with most elections, each party’s platform includes a plan to create jobs and reduce levels of unemployment.  One of the ideas put forth by a party this week was to encourage people to go into the trades.  I have been hearing this since I started high school yet here I am in a social work university program.  Stop telling me to go into a trade.

To be honest, you shouldn’t want me going into a trade.  I am not handy, good with tools and I lack other skills that are required for a trade.  The picture above is the end of result of me trying to change a light bulb in my last apartment.  As you can see, it ended with the light fixture hanging only by its wires.  Do you really want me fixing and building things you rely on?  I don’t think so.  I should probably just stay in social work and cross my fingers that public sector jobs stop being cut.

The second reason you should stop telling me to go into a trade is that jobs are becoming scarce in those professions as well.  If you look up apprenticeships on Kijiji you will see many looking for apprenticeships or 4th and 5th years looking for jobs to complete their hours.  Why encourage people to go into trades and claiming there are plenty of jobs when so many trades people are looking for work?

The last reason you should stop telling me to go into a trade is because I realize you’re not really talking to me when you say it.  The trades are male dominated professions and we live in a world where jobs are extremely gendered.  I recall hearing about trades being good jobs to get into when I was in high school but those conversations were never directed towards female students.  When politicians say they are going to cut 100 000 public sector jobs while encouraging and possibly creating jobs in the trades, they are cutting the jobs of women, who make up a majority of public sector jobs, while creating more jobs for men.  Even if I wanted to go into a trade, as a female student I missed out on the opportunity to learn the skills required and gain interest in this area of work.

Stop telling me to go into a trade.