Getting To Know Me
My formal education is a Master’s degree in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. In graduate school, my work focused on individuals, families and groups. After graduation, much of my social work practice centred on community development. I have always been interested in working at a community level to help groups and organizations build capacity in order to better serve their constituents. My early work years were dedicated to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. I was heavily involved in the de-institutionalization movement through which we sought to improve community services for those individuals able to be re-integrated into the community.
Beginning in January 1992, I was privileged to enjoy a fulfilling 25-year career at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. During those years, I taught in, and coordinated, the Social Service Worker Program and was a Professor and the founding Coordinator of the Social Service Worker-Gerontology Program. I coordinated these programs at both the Oakville and Brampton campuses.
In 1999, my focus shifted. For a while, I had been thinking that, in addition to vocational training, the social service program cluster had an opportunity to engage in applied research that had the potential to directly contribute to the health and well-being of older adults and their families. The year 1999 provided the perfect springboard to take this vision further. That year had been declared International Year of Older Persons (IYOP) by the United Nations. To celebrate the year, my colleagues and I hosted a two-day conference called ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ that featured panels, key note presentations and workshops not only for service providers and educators but for older adults themselves. Sheridan had never hosted a conference of this scale at the time and it was a great success. Prior to the conference, I had proposed the concept of the elder research centre to Sheldon Levy, Sheridan’s President at that time. At the conference, much to my delight, Sheldon announced the establishment of the Sheridan Elder Research Centre (SERC) as an organized research unit at the college. Then the work really started!
From 1999-2017, I was founder and Director of the Centre (now called the Centre for Elder Research). Sheridan was the first Canadian college to embrace the notion of building a comprehensive program of applied research in the field of aging. The Centre has evolved into a mature, well-established research centre that continues to be led by an exemplary team to which I gave the moniker ‘dream team’; the well-deserved name has stuck!
Applied research has grown tremendously in the Canadian college system but, when the Centre was launched, it was in its infancy. Under my leadership and as Principal Investigator, the Centre received a number of grants totalling approximately 6 million dollars. In addition, I was a co-investigator on a collection of grants totalling over 9 million dollars.
In addition to research funding, the Centre for Elder Research has also received corporate funding. As a result of these various forms of investment, I am experienced in working with a range of stakeholders including the corporate sector, small to medium size businesses, educational institutions and research organizations, informal community groups, not-for-profit community organizations and, most important, older adults themselves! Early on in my journey to build the research centre, in 2002, I was privileged to receive a Leadership Excellence Award from the Colleges & Institutes Canada.
Complementing my work at the research centre has been my participation on a number of external boards and committees. I was honoured to be a Director on the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) Board for 8 years and continue to support the remarkable work conducted by the IFA. By way of additional examples, I was Treasurer and very involved with the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (ONPEA) for a number of years as well as being an active member on the Steering Committee for the Dementia Network in the Region of Halton.
I have been a volunteer with the Hamilton Council on Aging (HCoA) for a few years and am excited that the transition from Sheridan to Kaleidoscope Consulting will enable me to devote more time to volunteer endeavours.
I hope this information about the more formal aspects of my background gives you, the reader, a more fulsome picture of who I am and what I may offer to you. If you have questions or would like to know more, please be in touch!