March 6, 2024

Social work symposium focuses on transdisciplinary research to tackle important social issues

All are welcome to 3 days of learning at free online and in-person sharing of ideas March 12-13
illustration of a diverse group of people

We are living in sharply polarized times. A quick scroll through the comments in your online news feed, or beneath the most seemingly innocuous post reveals shocking evidence of the deep gaps in the way people view and interpret the world. 

The issues are complex and with the chasms separating different groups, finding solutions and a middle ground often feels like an impossible task.

However, researchers at the University of Calgary are focused on new ways to address these challenges. Working together to find solutions that will generate sustained impact. 

On March 12 and 13 you’re invited to take in a snapshot of some of this research during the Faculty of Social Work’s popular research symposium. This year’s theme is Transdisciplinary Approaches to Tackling Social Issues in Democracy, Justice, and Sustainability. As the title suggests, the focus is on re-framing some seemingly intractable issues in new ways to find new solutions. 

“There is no doubt that we are facing what feels like unprecedented challenges with enormous complexity today,” says Dr. David Nicholas, the associate dean of research and partnerships with the Faculty of Social Work. “However, I believe these challenges can be an opportunity in which we deepen our collaboration in seeking positive impact on the issues facing us. 

“In our upcoming symposium, we will celebrate and explore ways that transdisciplinary teams are working together to accomplish so much more than they would on their own.”

To meet today’s challenges, researchers are casting wider transdisciplinary nets and integrating perspectives, methods, and theories from multiple disciplines including those that aren’t traditionally seen as tightly linked to social work, for example, engineering or veterinary medicine. 

The March 12 and 13 symposium aims to highlight collaboration between the Faculty of Social Work and other faculties and groups on campus and across Alberta, as well as with partners across Canada and around the world. 

The showcased research also reflects our commitment to community engagement in keeping communities at the centre of our work. This includes welcoming diverse perspectives and prioritizing marginalized voices in our ultimate aim of addressing inequity and ensuring social justice.

Nicholas points out that the symposium is more than just a celebration and exploration of transdisciplinary collaboration. Past symposiums have sparked new research collaborations, community partnerships and ideas that have made a substantial difference in our work and its impact. 

This free symposium — which is open to students, community members and academics — features on-campus events at the faculty’s Calgary and Edmonton locations, as well as online presentations, panels and posters showcasing transdisciplinary innovation in action.

"To accelerate progress in addressing complex social issues, students, staff, academics, community partners, and citizens can work together using a transdisciplinary scholarship approach," says Dr. Steven Bryant, academic lead at the Institutes for Transdisciplinary Scholarship at UCalgary. 

“We are happy to see collaborations between and across departments at the University of Calgary and with the community, it’s what is needed to ultimately co-create and arrive at the novel solutions to tackle the big questions of our day."

Social workers can claim Alberta College of Social Workers Category A Credits, if this learning supports their learning plan. 

Symposium schedule

March 12: On campus, Edmonton  
4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Student poster presentations, networking and refreshments  
6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Panel discussion: Houselessness in Alberta: How did we get here and where are we going?

March 13: Online
8:30 – 9:00 a.m. Welcome  
9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Keynote address: Transdisciplinary Scholarship, with Dr. Jim Ellis and Dr. Petra Dolata 
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Panel discussions: 
• Well-being across the gender spectrum 
• Creating recovery-friendly campuses: Transforming lived experience to program of research

March 13: On campus, Calgary  (7 floor MacKimmie Tower)
12:00 – 2:30 p.m. Networking, roundtables and lunch 
2:30 – 4:30 p.m. Student poster presentations 

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