By Suzanne Bowness

Jessica Lyall is a new Master of Social Work graduate who pursued a degree her own way— finding placements that continued her professional work in support of Indigenous people while also starting a family, welcoming her daughter Ada Rose in the middle of a second-year practicum.

Lyall, a 25-year-old Inuk student, entered the program’s foundational year for students without a Bachelor of Social Work degree (she holds an Honours BA in Native Studies from St. Thomas University) before moving into the second year MSW.

After completing her first practicum in Ottawa with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national organization protecting and advancing the rights and interests of Inuit in Canada, Lyall moved back home to Goose Bay, Labrador for her second practicum with the Nunatsiavut Government, Department of Health and Social Development, working with their Family Connections Program.

Lyall was initially nervous about pursuing her dreams. But she says Carleton was “really supportive,” allowing her to find placements that fit her interests and work her second placement around her pregnancy.

Jessica Lyall stands outdoors on a wooden deck situated next to a northern Canadian lake with an evergreen tree behind her.

Jessica Lyall

She also appreciated being able to experiment with different types of placements, the first one with ITK had a policy focus (she worked on the organization’s suicide prevention and early childhood education files) and the second was focused on community work with the Nunatsiavut government. She hopes to incorporate both aspects into her career going forward and is still working with the Family Connections Program to help complete a program review.

Carleton quickly quelled her fears about travelling so far for her degree.

“There were key people who wanted to make it a safe space for learning,” she says. “It really was nice to have a space where your views and knowledge are welcome. I think that’s what made it a really great time for myself and our cohort as a whole.”

It seems that Lyall equally made an impression on Carleton staff.

“I’ve been so impressed with Jessica’s courage and steadfast determination in coming to Ottawa to pursue this two-year program at such a distance from her home community,” says Brenda Morris, practicum co-ordinator at the school.

“She has established herself as a strong emerging scholar and social work practitioner keenly attuned to issues of marginalization and inequity, particularly as experienced by Inuit populations and communities.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2019 in ,
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