Empowering Social Work Students by Integrating Knowledge and Experience
Based on 15 years of experience in social work – working with individuals, children and families who face issues including addiction and abuse – Trent’s Dr. David Firang always urges his students to look for the deeper meaning behind crises.
“I teach my students that as anti-oppression practitioners, social workers ask questions to better understand the situation on a deeper level and use the knowledge we gain to advocate for better support for our clients,” Professor Firang says.
Prof. Firang, an assistant professor in Social Work at Trent University, has extensive experience working in the field of social work with various organizations including with the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and in the Access and Equity Division at the City of Toronto.
These experiences have shaped his classroom teachings, giving students a richer learning experience filled with real-life examples while always respecting past clients’ confidentiality.
“If you don’t integrate knowledge with practice, then you get lost in this profession,” he explains.
Research empowers Social Work students to make change
Now in the world of academia, Prof. Firang is also delving deeper into research, exploring a variety of topics and interests, including child welfare, immigrant transnationalism, housing, community development, and social-policy issues. Recently, his research has been featured in journal articles, including ‘Do Black Lives Matter amid COVID-19 pandemic,’ which explores how systemic racism predisposes Black Canadians to COVID-19 infection.
“This research contributes to our knowledge about the challenges Black people experience during the pandemic, but also enhances my students’ understanding of empowerment strategies required to defeat anti-Black racism,” he says. In this research, Prof. Firang argues that lot of discourse about the vulnerability of Blacks abounds in the public media and academic literature, stating that the “time has come for Black Canadians to move beyond our vulnerabilities to discover our vitality and agency. Thus, one strategy to defeat anti-Black racism is to proclaim that Black lives matter through our resiliencies.”
Other research Prof. Firang is undertaking includes the impact of the pandemic on international students in Canada.
He has found that international students can ben more vulnerable because they are not permanent residents and do not qualify for all public supports. During the initial lockdown in Spring 2020 due to COVID-19, many international students at institutions across the country had nowhere to go and no family nearby for support. He adds that he’s proud of the way the Trent University community mobilized quickly to support international students.
His research offers recommendations on appropriate interventions required to strengthen international students' resilience. When social work manages to mitigate these issues, he adds, it benefits Canada as a whole because the country becomes a place where skilled immigrants want to live and work.
Promoting Trent in Ghana
Many international students also become ambassadors to Canada’s good reputation abroad.
Born and raised in Ghana, Prof. Firang has become an ambassador himself, returning to Ghana and speaking to high school students about the benefits of learning at Trent, including the ways that the University nurtures international students, with smaller classes and engagement with faculty.
Posted on February 2, 2021