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Hi! I'm Maddie.

I am a 4th year Honours Bachelor of Social Work student, and I graduated in Spring 2019. I will be starting my Master of Social Work degree at McMaster University in Fall 2019. When applying for both undergraduate and graduate school, I really wanted to attend McMaster. As McMaster is the most research-intensive university in Canada, I dreamed of being provided funded opportunities to pursue my academic and work interests in preventing sexual violence on and off campus through engaging men in anti-violence allyship.

McMaster has supported these initiatives through various funding, experiential, practicum, and research opportunities in the school of social work and the faculty of social sciences. As a result of my academic successes in the social work program, completed research projects, and community organizing initiatives, I was awarded the YWCA Hamilton’s Young Woman of Distinction award in 2019.

Frontline anti-violence work

Students in the school of social work are required to complete 390 hours of practicum at local social service agencies in both third and fourth year to bolster theoretical and practical learning. For my fourth-year placement, I acted as a co-facilitator of the Partner Assault Response (PAR) program at Catholic Family Services of Hamilton, where services are offered for individuals who have been charged with domestic violence related offences.

While this work was challenging, it further affirmed my commitment to unpacking the socialization of masculinity at its intersection with violence perpetration. Frontline work with men revealed that there continues to be a desire on their part to engage in conversations around healthy relationships, violence, and gender, and many participants articulated a desire for this kind of programming to be offered earlier in life and in a non-mandated setting. This placement motivated me to continue anti-violence work in a prevention setting by volunteering at Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services (SAVIS) in Halton where I co-facilitated a male ally workshop at the Take Back the Night march in 2018.

Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA)

The Office of Experiential Education (EE) and the faculty of social sciences played a pivotal role in my education by providing me several funding opportunities to pursue my research interests. I was a recipient of the Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA), a four-month-long grant awarded to undergraduate students in various faculties to conduct their own research studies.

Under the amazing supervision of Dr. Saara Greene, a fantastic feminist professor in the school of social work, my study focused on examining male students’ perspectives of sexual violence on Ontario university campuses. Through phenomenological interviews with male students, I facilitated dialogue on consent, sexual violence, existing prevention efforts, sexual assault policies, and how sexual violence intersects with the socialization of toxic masculinity.

This research generated a report on the findings, a presentation poster board, and a slang dictionary on vernacular utilized by young men in the interviews that excuse, euphemize, and justify sexually violent ideas and behaviours. Interviews with young men revealed significant gaps in knowledge around consent, sexual violence, and policy; however, a keen willingness to engage in these discussions and support sexual assault survivors emerged. This finding prompted my growing interest in sexual violence prevention with men.

The Clarke Prize - Commit(men)t & Allyship

After completing my USRA study, I found an opportunity to make tangible the research finding of men wanting to engage in sexual violence prevention. I applied for the Ryan & Leanne Clarke Prize in Advocacy and Active Citizenship out of the Office of Experiential Education (EE) with the support of Meaghan Ross, the Sexual Violence Response Coordinator (SVRC) at McMaster. I was awarded first place and $3,000 for my advocacy pitch to improve sexual violence prevention efforts on campus by engaging men in allyship.

Over the next eight months, I organized a public event, titled “Commit(men)t & Allyship,” that coordinated with the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton (SACHA), Meaghan Ross (SVRC), the Women and Gender Equity Network, the Pride Community Centre, MentorAction, the Male Allies of Waterloo, and many others. Tristan Abbott, an amazing public educator of the progressive WiseGuyz program in Calgary, was the keynote speaker and facilitated an interactive presentation on allyship, violence prevention, and unpacking masculinity.

The event, held in October 2018, was the first of its kind at McMaster and boasted an audience of over 150 attendees, including representatives from Mohawk Athletics and the Hamilton Ticats. The event raised $2700 for SACHA, and I was absolutely amazed and grateful for the positive feedback about the initiative.

Conferences and Guest Lecturing

I have been afforded several opportunities to present my research, which is one of my favourite things to do. I presented my work at the Qualitative Analysis Conference in Fredericton and Congress’s Canadian Association of Social Work Education (CASWE) Conference in Regina. I also presented my work locally at SAVIS’s Take Back the Night March, SACHA, Catholic Family Services of Hamilton, Thrive Counselling, and a few different places on McMaster’s campus. Most recently, I guest lectured in Dr. Saara Greene’s feminist social work class, the site of where my passion for this work was truly ignited. It was a wonderful full circle moment! My research has been well-received and further affirms the merit and significance of this work as it resonates with many who have been impacted by sexual violence.

Awards and Scholarships

McMaster has been incredibly generous in awarding me various scholarships. Aside from the USRA and the Clarke Prize, I have been awarded the Rosenhead Memorial Prize, the University Senate Scholarship, the Anne Stein Memorial Prize, the George & Nora Elwin Scholarship, and the Social Sciences Entrance Scholarship in my undergraduate degree for academic achievements. I have also been offered the Dr. Harry Lyman Hooker Sr. Fellowship, McMaster Graduate Scholarship and the Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s (CGS-M) as I approach entry into the MSW program at McMaster in Fall 2019.

In March 2019, I was also incredibly honoured (and shocked!) to be the recipient of the YWCA Hamilton’s Young Woman of Distinction award for my community involvement. It was an amazing affirmation that the anti-violence work with men has resonated with people in the community. At my very first gala, I said a speech thanking my supporters and my awesome sister, Kate, who nominated me and talking a bit about my work. My dad even cried (but don’t tell him I told you)!

The Future & Final Thoughts

As a graduate student, I will have the opportunity to further develop my research interests through completing my thesis project on male student perspectives of sexual violence on Ontario university campuses. This work will build on the research of my USRA. I will also be a teaching assistant (TA) in the school of social work, which will assist me in pursuing my academic interests in teaching. My goals include completing a PhD (hopefully at McMaster) in social work and gender studies and becoming a researcher and professor. I also have high ambitions to bring the WiseGuyz program, which engages junior high and high school aged men in conversations around human rights, sexual health, violence prevention, and unpacking toxic masculinity, to Hamilton and the GTA.

I am incredibly grateful for all the amazing opportunities I have had throughout my undergraduate degree at McMaster. It has been busy, challenging, and at times exhausting, but I am thankful for all the ups and downs throughout. Through research, teaching, facilitating, and community organizing, I have affirmed my sincerest commitment to anti-violence work with men. I am excited for what lies ahead in my Master’s degree and beyond! I hope that McMaster continues to fund important initiatives in the social sciences as there are many brilliant minds and passionate people doing important work at this university!

Thank You

I have been very fortunate to receive various forms of funding throughout my undergraduate degree and approaching grad school. The support makes it possible for me to attend graduate school fully funded. Postsecondary and graduate school are quite expensive, and it is with the generosity and investment from donors that make it possible for students like me to pursue important work. Thank you for all your ongoing support as it has made a world of difference!