Student mentorship program

Student Mentorship:

The goal of our peer mentorship program is to help newly admitted students make the transition to the BSW programs smooth and successful, as well to assist current students to navigate through their learning journey and career planning. While not all students will choose to contact a peer mentor, they are certainly encouraged to do so! The peer mentor is not only here to address challenges you may experience, the peer mentor is also here to be a listening ear, to bounce ideas off of, to direct you to the appropriate staff, faculty or resource. Something else you need? Contact us, maybe we can help!

If you are interested in becoming a BSW peer mentor or require additional information, please contact:

The Office of School of Social Work
Phone: 250-721-8036


Merrill Barber m.barber
Alumni, BSW (2017)

I am just about to start my first practicum this May 2016.  I will be involved in starting up a non-profit Community Family Peace Program that offers a provincial help line by telephone and on-line Q&A to triage community resources for family conflict.  We will be catering to low income families in rural areas as these communities rarely have access to family mediators. I have been an accredited Family Mediator for 8 years and I am interested in working with families and children in crisis.

Nathani Karkanis, RSW image of NK
Alumni, BSW - Child Welfare Specializaion (2016)

About me (career wise): I obtained fulfilling work directly out of my practicum and have been working in the same office, though different roles since 2015. I took a personal challenge, encouraged by the UVic practicum coordinator, to work in child welfare. Every day in this role I am challenged and rise to the occasion; leaning on the learnings from UVic. The foundations of applying feminist, Indigenous and deep democracy perspectives greatly impacts my practise. I found entering the field I had pre-conceived notions (later determined to be incorrect) of what a child protection worker was and immediately was drawn and inspired by the role(s) in child protection.

I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow as a anti-oppressive practitioner in each of my roles and now have the opportunity to learn/practise in two provinces’ (AB & SK) lens and practise strategies in child welfare work.

Work experiences:

  • Generalist (intake, assessment and ongoing casework) for the Ministry of Social Services SK (2015 -16)
  • Family Connection worker (family find and placement coordination for child in foster care) for Ministry of Social Services SK (2017-18)
  • Intake and Ongoing caseworker for the Government of Alberta (2018-23)
  • Specialized Services Child Intervention Practitioner (2023 – present)

Volunteer roles:

  • Doula
  • Women shelter support worker
  • Teenaged/marginalized mothers support group coordinator
  • Maternal mental health committee member
  • HUB outreach
  • Community Advisory Committee (FCSS/Lloydminster)

About me (personal): I’ve been described as warm, intuitive and progressive. At present I live in Lloydminster AB – Canada’s only border city, I was born and raised in Calgary AB and spent my young adulthood in Victoria BC where I had my two children (2006 & 2011). I call my kids my heart and soul. I have a personal interest in the area of maternal health and mental health (specific to pregnancy, birth and postpartum timeframes) and the application of modalities of midwifery. I actively utilize the medicine wheel domains in personal and professional growth, I am invested in integrating spirituality domain into social work/helping field. I absolutely love social work and look forward to learning along side of you.

Mentoring: I am available by email for the following;

  • Prospective students – those considering UVic and wishing for personal alumni reference
  • Current students – discussion by phone or email on applicability of strategies or coursework to work by appointment
  • Graduating students – field questions about social work practise in Alberta

I look forward to hearing from you.

Chelsea Kelly, RSWprofile photo

Alumni, BSW - Child Welfare Specialization (2015)

I am from the Sto:lo Nation on my father's side and I am English on my mother's. I have lived, worked, and raised a family on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen, Wyomilth, and Wsanec peoples since 2008 and am grateful to be a visitor to this beautiful land.

I graduated from the BSW Indigenous Child Welfare specialization program in June 2015. I completed my third year practicum at the Young Parents Support Network. I have been connected with this organization for a number of years and am currently the president of their board. I did my fourth year practicum with the Ministry of Children and Family Development as an extension of an internship I was doing with the Aboriginal Youth Internship Program. The child welfare area of practice is my field of interest, specifically guardianship social work. I worked at Surrounded by Cedar Child and Family Services in a guardianship position as a part of my internship and loved this area of work. Guardianship was also a focus for my fourth year practicum.

I look forward to meeting other students who share my interests!

imageJessica Kennedy
Alumni, Standard BSW - Distance Education (2019)

I completed my BSW at the University of Victoria in June 2019. While completing my BSW part time, I worked full time, moved cities, and started a family – all of which would not have been possible without the flexibility of a distance program. In 2018 I was a recipient of the Jamie Cassells Undergraduate Research Award, an extremely valuable experience that I encourage other distance students to participate in.

I am currently working as a clinical social worker in a complex care program for children and youth. My areas of interest and experience include addiction, mental health, crisis response, and trauma-informed care.

Please feel free to reach out to if you have any questions, concerns, or just want to talk with someone who has gone through the program. I know how challenging it can be to navigate this new learning experience. I would love to chat about your BSW journey!

Jane LiJane Li

Unceded Coast Salish territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples
Alumni, BSW, MSW

I completed my BSW with UVic in May 2017 and enjoyed the program so much that I chose to continue my learning journey with the school by starting the Advanced MSW in September of the same year. I am an uninvited visitor on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories (Vancouver, BC), and recognize that it is an unearned privilege to live and work here.

My areas of practice have been in the anti-violence field, gender and sexual health, sex work activism, migrant rights, community-based research, adult guardianship, mental health, and substance use. I value intersectional feminism, Indigenous, anti-oppressive, and critical social work approaches. I currently work in healthcare (geriatric mental health), and recently completed further training in bioethics. My intention is to be more engaged in the areas of ageing and elder advocacy. Environmental and climate justice is another area of interest for me, although I have yet to dedicate more time to explore this.

Feel free to connect with me if you have any questions about social work, advocacy, research, ethics and practice, practicum placements, or the BSW and MSW programs! I am also available if you need a listening ear and peer support. I decided to become involved in student mentorship because I am grateful for my own mentors who have supported me through the ups and downs of my learning journey.

profile photoTerri Manderson

Alumni, Standard BSW - Distance Education (2019)

I completed by General BSW at the University of Victoria in August 2019. The flexibility of the program allowed me to continue working as I perused a higher education. Likewise, being able to work and be in school at the same time was an unique experience, as I was able integrate my new learning into my job, and reflect on this with students in the program. While I was completing this program, I was an uninvited visitor on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people (Ottawa, Ontario).

During the program, I focused largely on barriers to care that people face when trying to access care (including people who use drugs, people experiencing homelessness, Indigenous people, transgender people and women), and how intersectionality impacts care. I completed my first practicum through PLA and was able to reflect on my previous experience in the social work field. I completed my fourth year practicum at the Public Health Agency of Canada on the Prevention of Problematic Substance Use Team as a Policy Analyst.

My practice interests include reducing stigma among marginalized populations, reducing barriers to care, collaborative care and decolonization. I have experience working with people who use drugs, people experiencing homelessness and Federal policies surrounding people who use drugs.

As a mentor, I hope to provide support to current students with their journey through the BSW program. Especially as a former distant education student, I understand the feelings of being lonely and feeling overwhelmed in the unique learning environment. Please feel free to contact me for support in any capacity relating to the BSW program.

Tasha Novick, RCSWProfile Photo
MSW (2018) UVic, BSW (Distinction, 2011) UVic, BA (Honors, 2002) University of Alberta

I live on and practice in Treaty 6 Territory in Edmonton, Alberta and chose Distance Education as delivery method for both University of Victoria Programs while maintaining employment as a Registered Clinical Social Worker in Alberta.

My practice interests include mental health, substance use, gender, homelessness, trauma-informed care, harm reduction, health related public policy analysis, mentorship in student support, applied ethics, and client-centred intersectional application of social determinants of health in care plans and service delivery. 

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have along your UVic journey; nothing is too small or too big. If I do not have answers for you I will do my utmost to find someone who does. Community matters, please know that you are not alone.

Profile PhotoCorinne Sawarin, RSW
Alumni, Standard BSW - Distance Education

I have been working as a Social Worker in the area of addiction and mental health since the completion of my social work diploma in 2003. I choose UVic to complete my BSW because of its emphasis on reflexive, decolonizing and anti-oppressive practice.

My time in the BSW program provided me with opportunities to reevaluate my practice framework, consider my unearned privilege, and reexamine systemic barriers and policies that contribute to stigma and marginalization. I am also a UVIC MSW program applicant for the fall 2022 entry point. Continuing my studies at the graduate level would strengthen clinical skills as well as my capacity to dismantle oppressive beliefs and practices that advance the colonial agenda. 

Throughout my work as an addiction counsellor, I have gained valuable clinical and inter-personal skills and experience that lend themselves well toward a mentor position. Some of these include providing individual and group counseling, both inpatient and outpatient, as well as working collaboratively on an inter-disciplinary acute care addiction medicine consultation team. Currently, I am employed as a social worker in an outpatient addiction and mental health clinic, providing counselling and psychosocial support to clients, in a way that supports self-determination and empowerment. 

My experience has helped me to understand the pervasive and insidious nature of oppression that impacts persons who use substances and work towards creating means to provide services in a patient centered, holistic, and non-judgmental fashion. I have also been afforded opportunities to provide education to peers and allied care providers on topics ranging from understanding opioid agonist treatment, stigma and marginalization facing persons who use substances, and the impact language has on healing.

If you are alumni, a current or perspective student, I am happy to offer support and guidance regarding UVIC application processes (BSW and MSW advanced), as well as answer questions regarding social work practice in addiction and mental health.

Maryanne WongMary Anne W

Alumni, BSW

Career Interests:

  • Short-term: Clinical Social Work in acute care settings
  • Medium-term: Community Health – preventative health, increasing access to culturally competent care, resourcing clients, systems navigation, education, advocacy, trauma informed and psychotherapeutic counseling
  • Always: Community/Capacity building within disenfranchised communities

Community Interests: Elders; LGBTQ communities; immigrants/refugees (both new and intergenerational); intersections between these communities.


  • Multicultural Family Centre (REACH Community Health Centre) – Vancouver, BC
    - Worked with refugee families recently landed from continent of Africa and Middle East (counseling, resources, settlement issues, support)
  • Vancouver General Hospital - Vancouver BC
    - Medical social worker in 1) subacute medicine (complex stay elders) and 2) cardiac rehabilitation outpatient (counseling and workshop presentations). Crisis/trauma informed counseling, de-escalation, interpretation of provincial law, investigator for potential adult guardianship issues (abuse, neglect), advocacy for social determinants of health in transition planning for patients, gathering information to advocate for clients as holistic system (with strengths and networks of support) rather than a set of symptoms, touchstone/advocate for DTES/marginalized individuals.

Favourite things to do: Find any excuse to celebrate! Dance the night away and create general mayhem with good friends. Attend gatherings with chosen family and friends. Walk along the seawall with friends, partner, or puppies. Listen to loved ones who need space to be heard. Experiment with gluten, nut and corn free recipes.

Words of advice to BSW students:

  1. I was that nerdy kid who read every single article during my work breaks and squeezed every last drop of information out of each thing I encountered. Over time, that knowledge will be synthesized and become stored knowledge. I find that I often reach for these theories, practices, knowledges in my current practice without even thinking about it. It’s pretty amazing. Bottom line – you get what you are able to put into it. Though it is possible to get by without being as hard core (understandably, some of us have families, other acute priorities, working to survive, life situations), I encourage you to nerd out as much as your capacity/time will allow, to maximize insight gleaned from material, your classmates, and your teachers.
  2. Make agreements for everyone’s safety and articulating distress or need within your class/working group. As a member of multiple minority groups, this level of assurance was essential to my trust and survival in the program. Then jump far and dig deep. You’ll likely be uncomfortable with some of what you learn. You’ll also likely be called on your own privilege/stuff (also uncomfortable). When that happens, try to take it in rather than react immediately. Someone is stepping out of their comfort zone and taking a risk to give you feedback – hear it, own it, learn from it.

Experience in the program: I am fortunate that I was surrounded by culturally/ethnically diverse folks in my face-to-face class that had myriad lived experiences. I sensed a safer space intentionally created by the teachers and students within this program, which allowed me to expand and stretch the learning experience. With support from a) many teachers who empathized and understood some of my struggles both in and out of class, and b) fellow students that were willing to unlearn and open to different worldviews/experiences, we were largely able to foster an open learning environment. Exposure to new ideas via contributions from diverse student members is key, along with feeling that it’s ok to branch out and potentially make an error. Honesty, humility, empathy, and integrity would summarize some of my best online learning experiences of this degree. Long term friendships, connections with professors that care, and networking connections for future practice are all things you can look forward to fostering.
That said, if you're a POC or queerfolk who wants a place to connect or ground, hit me up please. I don't have all the answers but I'll share that space with you.

Work Information: I’m a case manager with Vancouver Coastal Health. I work with vulnerable/marginalized adults and seniors to ensure access to health related services, assist clients to navigate between acute care and transitions back into community and investigate reports of adult abuse and neglect. Case managers work to enhance quality of life and maintain an individual in the community with dignity. The demographics I work with include those with mental health/addictions concerns, LGBTQ seniors, and vulnerable adults under the Adult Guardianship Act.