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Vaccaro Mary, PhD Students

Mary Vaccaro

PhD Students

Graduate Students
School of Social Work


I completed the Master of Social Work: Critical Analysis of Social Work Practice program in 2014. This program gave me the opportunity to think more deeply about the ways that social work practice, policy and research intersect and shape the work I do. I was drawn to the MSW program at McMaster for many reasons, but in my opinion it is McMaster’s unwavering commitment to social justice and strong emphasis on ‘critical analysis’ that sets their approach to social work education and research apart from other institutions. McMaster’s approach to graduate education emphasized the importance of developing a critical lens by asking us to analyze our own practice frameworks, encouraging us to learn more about the policies that influence and constrain our work and challenging us to think more deeply about the knowledge that informs our understanding of social welfare issues.

The thesis component of McMaster’s Master of Social Work Program was initially an unnerving endeavor, but it ended up being an opportunity for substantial learning and growth, in both personal and professional ways. I found the structure of the program to be designed in such a way that the readings, classroom discussions and assignments of each course acted as building blocks for the thesis component of this program. Throughout the course of this program, I felt tremendously grateful for the support of my thesis supervisor and the many other faculty members who challenged me to be creative and use methodologies and methods that I felt most connected to in my research. By using feminist and participatory action research methods I was able to design a project I felt intimately connected to on an area of social work practice I was passionate about. Completing a graduate level thesis opened up opportunities to engage with service users and service providers in new ways, present my findings at conferences and work on completing academic publications. I have been fortunate enough to have held a range of positions since graduating including roles on research projects, on case management teams, as a teaching assistant, in program development at women-serving agencies and as a field instructor for students

The Master of Social Work Program at McMaster University prepares you to think critically about all aspects of social work by expanding the conversation past our roles as frontline practitioners through emphasizing social work policy, pedagogy and research as important aspects of the dialogue within the program. I am beyond grateful to have had my ‘critical lens’ challenged and shaped by the many people that contribute to making the School of Social Work at McMaster University such a vibrant and supportive learning environment.