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Student Placements

Since 2003, undergraduate, master’s and PhD students have been welcomed into the Social Innovation Research Group (SIRG) family as practicum students or researchers seeking to hone their skills in community-based research. Each semester, SIRG work closely with the Faculty of Social Work practicum office to welcome one or two students each semester who are seeking an innovative, didactic and creative learning opportunity.

What Sets Us Apart

Student placements distinguish themselves from research assistant roles in that they allow practicum students to be embedded in the day-to-day operations of the projects for which SIRG is responsible. Students actively participate in the design, execution and delivery of all research and community development projects. Students are also encouraged to contribute their own ideas for research and community development, which are then nurtured by the SIRG team.

In the past, students have worked locally and provincially on projects with survivors of war and torture, survivors of gendered and sexual violence, and sex trade workers. Students learn a variety of skills in the SIRG incubator, including: transcribing, data analysis, report writing, grant writing, public speaking, conference organizing, networking, community development and multiple other forms of community engagement. 

Our Philosophy

The philosophy that guides the SIRG team is that public intellectuals should be of service to the communities in which they operate. Students avail their expertise and skills to a host of community groups, partners and funders with whom SIRG interacts on a daily basis.

The SIRG placement is highly coveted, as such, prospective students are encouraged to reach out to either Director Ginette Lafreniere ( or Research Coordinator Rachel Yavnai ( to explore the possibility of a practicum experience.

Meet Our Students

Maggie Mawerera, 2021

Maggie MawereraMaggie is currently completing her Master of Social Work degree at Laurier. She has a background working in the VAW sector, and aims to expand her scope of practice to include child welfare with a focus on immigrant children. 

Brittany Bruce, 2020

Brittany BruceBrittany completed her Master of Social Work degree at Laurier in 2021. She has a background in clinical practice with a focus on substance use, military-related trauma, and child welfare. In her placement role, Brittany developed skills in research, leadership, community organizing, and accommodating remote work. Brittany now works s a Mental Wellness and Addiction Recovery Specialist for the Government of Northwest Territories.

Tristan Fassel, 2019

Tristan Fassel

Tristan completed their Master of Social Work degree at Laurier in 2021. Though they had planned to dive into private counselling after graduation, their experiences with community development at SIRG set their feet on a path that has led to full-time work in program development for disabled adults at Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region. Focusing on how to gently untangle the social norms that block us from fully accepting the urgency of intersectional work under the control of our most marginalized, they also offer custom-designed anti-oppression workshops specializing in accessibility and gender identity.

Christina Li, 2019

Christina LiChristina completed her Master of Social Work degree at Laurier in 2020, and is now a registered social worker. She aims to develop a peer support practice for adults with ADHD.

Nataliya Myssechko, 2018

Nataliya MyssechkoNataliya completed her Master of Social Work degree at Laurier in 2020. She currently works as a Clinical Social Worker on Vancouver Island.


Racheal Kenworthy, 2018

Racheal KenworthyRacheal completed her Master of Social Work degree at Laurier in 2020. Currently, Racheal is a mobile Enhanced Youth Outreach Worker at Wesley Urban Ministries, which specializes in interim clinical support and referrals for youth.


Amal Qutub, 2017


Amal completed her Master of Social Work degree at Laurier in 2018. She currently works as a Child and Family Clinician at Peel Children's Centre.

Brianne Hollingsworth, 2015


Brianne worked on the policing project “Uncomfortable Contradictions” funded by the Ministry of Justice. Brianne coordinated more than 60 interviews with special constables, local police, students, professors and administrators, which explored the strengths and challenges of reporting gendered violence on our campus. Upon graduation, Brianne worked as the program lead, Investing in Women’s Futures, YMCA Immigrant Services and is presently working as the employment equity coordinator in Laurier’s Diversity and Equity Office.

Esther Amoako, 2015

Esther Amoako

Esther is currently a PhD student in the Faculty of Social Work.

Nathan Metzger, 2015


Nathan completed his Master of Social Work degree at Laurier in 2016. Nathan is currently working at the Region of Waterloo.

Jen Gordon, 2015  

        Jen workePicture of Jen Gordond with our research group for a number of years as the Project Coordinator. Jen is currently working as the Director of Youth Services at YWCA.  

April Turner, 2014 (Left) and Sonia Meerai, 2015 (Right)


April was a placement student from Laurier’s Master of Social Work program. April was hired full time as the project coordinator for the Post Shelter Experiences of Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence Project (SSHRC funded). April is currently working as a new mom in Cambridge, Ontario.

Sonia was a placement student from York University. Sonia coordinated the delivery of the Diversity Matters series of workshops sponsored by the Local Health Integration and offered assistance to multiple health and social service organizations in the region. In addition, she coordinated several research projects relative to the economic integration of new Canadians in Ontario’s economy. Sonia is currently teaching research courses in the Bachelor of Social Work program at Laurier Brantford.

Jenny-Flagler George, 2014


Jenny-Flagler has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Waterloo. Jenny was a postdoctoral researcher at SIRG who worked on the sex trade worker research project and is currently employed as a planning manager at the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), Waterloo Region.

Lori Buchnea, 2014


Lori is currently working in the Department of Social Development Studies at the University of Waterloo.

Jaqueline Frias, 2014


Jaqueline is currently self-employed as a professional trainer and life coach.

Lauren Burrows, 2013


Lauren came to us from Laurier’s Department of Women and Gender Studies as a placement student and then was hired as a research assistant. Lauren coordinated several dossiers relative to violence against women. She was instrumental in gathering data for The Change Project, which influenced the ways in which the Laurier administration addressed gendered and sexual violence on our campus. Lauren is presently employed as the education and inclusion coordinator at Laurier Brantford.

Amber Robertson, 2013

Amber Robertson

Amber currently works as a Social Planning Associate at the Region of Waterloo. 

Mike Voisin, 2012


Mike is currently doing research on sexuality and diversity in the LGBTQ+ community.

Sandy Hoy, 2012


Sandy was a doctoral candidate in Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work when she joined the SIRG team. Sandy coordinated multiple research projects and supervised dozens of research assistants and practicum students. She worked on grand proposals and was the lead researcher on the House of Industry and Refuge. Sandy is currently an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.

Josh Hulley-Carroll (top of image) and Katrina Pearson (bottom of image), 2017

Picture of Josh Hulley-Carroll and Katrina Pearson

Josh and Katrina were both placement students in 2017. Upon graduation, Josh moved to Ottawa to work as a hospital social worker, and Katrina aims to continue working in the area of child welfare.



Contact Us:

Ginette Lafrenière, Director (SIRG), Associate Dean (MSW Programs)

T: 519.884.0710 x5237
Office Location: FSW 310

Rachel Yavnai, Research & Community Project Coordinator

T: 519.884.0710 x5280
Office Location: FSW 206A