The Research Team

Tara La Rose

Tara La Rose (she/her)
Principal Investigator, USWLC

Tara La Rose is an Associate Professor at the McMaster University School of Social Work and the Principal Investigator for Understanding Social Work Leadership in Canada (USWLC). Her research interests focus on professional identity and work-life, and the use of digital media as a space for critical reflexivity in social work. Tara’s scholarship focuses on considering digital literacy for social workers and the community-at-large, practices of digital storytelling, and the use of social media for professional debate and critique. Her research has also included qualitative studies into issues of unpaid caregiving, patient and provider experiences, LGBTQ+ health care, grief and mental health professionals on ACT teams, and client self-advocacy. She currently supervises Masters’ level and doctoral level thesis research and is involved in several community-based research projects.

Karen Hill (she/her)
Principal Investigator, CASW Oral History Project 1983/84

Karen has a long history of bringing communities together and building on what’s gone before. Her research project The Oral History of Social Work in Canada, upon which USWLC is based, brought together the Canadian Association of Social Work, the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work, provincial associations, and local schools of social work to feature 56 pioneer social workers across Canada.

Born and educated in the United States, Karen came to Canada to build a new life as the Vietnam War stormed on in the mid-70s and the Watergate fiasco played out. As Karen’s life in Canada blossomed, her family grew to include a daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. As well, she has been an active 40-year member of a 12-step program.

Karen began her professional career in Canada by working on a documentary on the history of psychiatry in Canada prior to 1763. Following that early work, she worked for decades in non-government and government organizations as a policy analyst in fields as diverse as SARS, Indigenous taxation, the Goods and Services Tax,  Reform of Retirement Income, the Future of Work, and Voluntarism in Canada.

In her volunteer life, Karen initiated and led community initiatives to develop a housing and day-care co-op; “Dancing Through Danger” – a participatory fund-raising CD music project; the Community Laundry Co-op; and, participated in the development of the Funeral Co-op of Ottawa.  She participated in many social protest actions. In her retirement, she and a new immigrant friend developed and now manage Yasmin Syrian Cooking, a social enterprise that employs immigrant women and caters to the Ottawa community, as well as contracting with NGOs and local food banks. Being named as a “Community Builder” for the City of Ottawa is one of several formal recognitions for her volunteer work.

Karen’s long-time motto was taken from Helen Keller, who said: “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I must not fail to do the something that I can do.”

Ariane Bédard-Provencher

Ariane Bédard-Provencher (she/her)
Research Assistant

Ariane is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at McMaster University with a doctoral certificate in Gender and Social Justice. She specializes in the anthropology of secularism, feminist ethnography, and poststructuralist feminism. Her research focuses on current debates about secularism and religiosity in feminist movements in Québec. She investigates how recent legislation prohibiting religious symbols in the name of gender equality impacts Québécois activists’ practices and claims. She is especially interested in the interactions between feminist groups with differing ideological perspectives, as well as the dynamics of exclusion and inclusion within these groups along racial, religious, and gender identity lines.

John Blyskis

John Blyskis (he/him)
Research Assistant

Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, John is an Honours Bachelor of Social Work student at McMaster University. Having joined the research team in early 2021, John has been involved with various layers of the project including the YouTube archive, NVIVO coding, and data analysis. Within the field of social work, John has a particular interest in healthcare, mental health, and addictions. Upon graduation, John anticipates pursuing a Master of Social Work degree with a focus on these interests. Outside of his time at McMaster, John can be found on hiking trails or anywhere there is live music.

Kim de Jong

Kim de Jong (she/her)
Research Assistant

Kim graduated from McMaster University in 2020 with an MSW in Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities. While at McMaster, she researched the life of Florence Philpott, a mid-twentieth-century social worker from Hamilton, drawing from Karen Hill’s 1984 Oral History Project. Subsequently, Kim contributed an entry about Philpott for the Encyclopedia of Social Work Online. Kim lives in Hamilton and works as a counsellor at the Christian Counselling Centre. In fall 2022, she will assume the position of Manager of Field Education and adjunct faculty in the Applied Social Sciences department at Redeemer University.


Farzana Islam (she/her)

Farzana is a Bengali Canadian illustrator, born in Dhaka city and raised in Toronto. She loves using her art as a way to give voices to underrepresented communities and share unique stories. After having studied illustration at Sheridan College, she is currently working as an artist at an animation studio and taking on various freelance projects. Bright colours, fun graphics and bold ideas—she enjoys pushing boundaries and always bringing something fresh to the table through her work.

Michele Fisher

Michele Fisher (she/her)
Research Assistant

Michele Fisher is a marketing and communications professional with experience in quantitative market research for brands, survey design, and conducting qualitative research, including focus group design, execution and analysis, and one-on-one interviews. She has an extensive background in the not-for-profit and charitable sectors and has held communications positions at social work and community service organizations. She has assisted in several research studies at the McMaster University School of Social Work, including Digital Fuse, Direct[Message]: Digital Access to Artistic Engagement, and The Art of Working Together.

Marwan Genena

Marwan Genena (he/him)
Research Assistant

Marwan is an experienced Digital Marketer/Designer, currently pursuing his Honours Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science at McMaster University. Driven by the aim of the Understanding Social Work Leadership in Canada project, he is proud to be managing the external communications and creating digital media strategies. In his free time, Marwan takes day hikes and enjoys cooking.

Jennifer Mule

Jennifer Mule (she/her)
Research Assistant

Jennifer completed her MSW in Critical Social Work Leadership at McMaster’s School of Social Work and has held a number of positions supporting children, youth, and families within the Hamilton area, focusing on areas in housing and homelessness, mental health, and youth engagement. Jennifer has also worked on a number of different research projects under the guidance of Tara La Rose at McMaster’s School of Social Work, most recently focusing on the phenomenon of sousveillance in mandated social work services.

Anabelle Ragsag

Anabelle Ragsag (she/her)
Research Assistant

Anabelle is the 2022-2023 Stephen Lewis Social Policy PhD Fellow at McMaster University’s School of Social Work, having studied previously at the University of the Philippines and Carleton University. She is concurrently earning a Data Science certificate at the University of Guelph. Anabelle’s research interests include political economy, social policy, and emerging technology in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before joining McMaster in 2021, she held policy development and evaluation positions locally and abroad – in the Philippines (her place of birth), Australia, Egypt, Germany, and Indonesia. Anabelle’s work complements her community leadership on anti-racism and equity.

Kasia Whitelaw and her puppy Lou

Kasia Whitelaw (she/her)
Research Assistant

Kasia is from Montreal, Quebec, the traditional land of the Kanien’kehà:ka. She is currently earning her Master of Social Work in Critical Leadership at McMaster University and joined the research team at the beginning of 2022. Within research, she is focused on decolonization, using critical social theories, and practicing community-based participatory research. This year, Kasia worked with McMaster Children’s Hospital to conduct a Quality Assessment of a new aftercare service for youth who were discharged from the hospital for suicide ideation. After graduation, Kasia plans to continue working in the mental health sector with young people, incorporating her passion for nature therapy into her practice. Outside work, she loves spending time outdoors with her puppy, Lou.

Hoon Yang

Hoon Yang (he/him)
Research Assistant

Hoon is pursuing a degree in Integrated Business and Humanities, a newly formed program at McMaster University’s Degroote School of Business. He is currently in his third year of studies. Hoon is interested in the field of social work and how to create sustainable businesses with an emphasis on a triple-bottom-line. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in business, with a focus on sustainability. Hoon is from Toronto, Ontario.

School of Social Work
Kenneth Taylor Hall (KTH), Room 319
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4M4