Nov. 22, 2021

Undergraduate awards provide experience beyond the classroom

PURE Award and Alberta Innovates Summer Student Internship shape understanding of research in the field; virtual information session Nov. 30
Bhakti Jani at the Father's and Daughter's event with Willem Tabak
Bhakti Jani at the Fathers and Daughters event with Willem Tabak, Alberta Men's Network co-ordinator. Courtesy Bhakti Jani

Having started her Bachelor of Social Work journey exclusively online, Bhakti Jani knew she wanted to gain experience with hands-on, real-world research. But she was unsure what that would look like.

“I didn’t know how to go about it,” she says. “But, when I found out about PURE, it gave me some ideas and, then, when I talked to my supervisor, she gave me further direction on what social research looks like outside of the textbook.”

PURE — the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience — provides up to $7,500 of financial support to University of Calgary undergraduates from any faculty to conduct research for eight, 12 or 16 weeks between May and August. The program pairs students with on-campus experts who help them learn how research projects are developed, and how their results can contribute to new knowledge and solving problems in society.

“It’s an intensive immersive summer research experience that allow students to learn about different research approaches from qualitative, quantitative, and Indigenous methodologies,” says Dr. Gina Dimitropoulos, PhD, the Faculty of Social Work's PURE co-ordinator. "Social work students also learn what it’s like to complete a project from the beginning to the end with a supportive mentor.”

PURE awards offer an opportunity for undergraduate social work students to work on a research topic that is important to them and to receive direct mentorship from one of our amazing faculty members.

Jani, who is interested in social justice and gender issues, wound up working on Honouring Fathers and Daughters, an annual in-person event initiated by members of the Alberta Men’s Network. Featuring a day of music, activities and dining, the affair encourages fathers, uncles, guardians, and other role models to get more involved as positive influences in the lives of girls.

Jani acted as an event co-ordinator and introduced a feedback survey. She conducted the preliminary analysis of the results during her PURE term, has since carried the work over to a research practicum, and is also authoring a paper to publish in an academic journal.

She credits the program with giving her a better understanding of conducting a field study.

[It] helped me diversify my ideas. Around this time last year, we were just learning about research in my class,” she says. “So, part of this was for me to learn more about community-based social work research.”

“Many of the students who receive the award develop a strong foundation in research,” adds Dimitropoulos. “Which allows them to continue to think about how to incorporate research into their day-to-day practices and their career trajectory as social workers.”

Alberta Innovates Summer Student Internship

Heather Holdsworth

Heather Holdsworth, BSW '21, says mentorship was an invaluable component of her Alberta Innovates Summer Internship.

Courtesy Heather Holdsworth

Heather Holdsworth, who graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work this past summer, hopes to eventually publish the results of her summer study and perhaps present at a conference. Although she applied for a PURE Award, because of the health-related focus of her project, Holdsworth was rerouted to an Alberta Innovates Summer Student Internship.

Having worked at CUPS facilitating a parenting course for families receiving social assistance, Holdsworth’s study looked at the impact of transitioning the program online as a result of the pandemic and how that affected clients and staff. Her study: Understanding the Experiences of the Nurturing Parenting Program: A Qualitative Exploration of Caregiver-Participants and Group Facilitators.

Echoing Jani, Holdsworth says the experience of conducting a study beyond the scope of the classroom gave her a much clearer grasp of what social work research entails. Having been paired with Dr. Alan McLuckie, PhD, as a supervisor, she credits the mentor-mentee relationship inherent in these summer undergraduate programs as a pivotal factor in the process.

“I was fortunate to have Dr. Alan McLuckie as my supervisor,” she says. “We met regularly via Zoom throughout the spring and summer months, and he supported me in working out the details of the project, applying for ethics [approval], and providing consistent guidance throughout the research process. Having never conducted a research project on my own, the mentorship I received through this relationship was invaluable.”

2022 PURE Program applications open soon. Learn more here. Attend a virtual info session on Tuesday, Nov. 30, from noon to 1:15 p.m. to learn more. Register here.