A Voice for the Sidelines
Assistant professor of social work Dr. Morgan Braganza is highlighting the different experiences of marginalized people in social work education.
4 min. read
October 28, 2021

Dr. Morgan Braganza’s faith informs every part of her life. One of the ways this is most evident is in her social work career.

“My greatest desire is to follow Christ’s lead, so where he wants me to go, I will go, and what he wants me to do, I will do,” she says. “Because of this, I’ve witnessed his hand at work and have been able to help a lot of people. As a social work professional, that’s where my heart is.”

In January 2020, Braganza had the opportunity to present a portion of her doctoral research at the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Conference in San Francisco, California. Titled “Encountering Difficult Differences: Exploring How Persons Who Hold Difficult Differences Experience Being Encountered,” it explains the challenges surrounding the accommodation of diversity within social work education.

“Research and my own lived experiences suggest that people struggle when they encounter some differences. In social work, that can be religion, sexual orientation and anything else they find contentious. This then evokes feelings of fear, discomfort and even hostility.”

Through her findings, Brangaza discovered that while various approaches and strategies have been proposed for navigating these issues, there was nothing written about the experiences of people with these differences. She set out to change this.

My greatest desire is to follow Christ’s lead, so where he wants me to go, I will go, and what he wants me to do, I will do.

“I included stories from current and former social work students that the literature claims hold these differences. This included members of the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims and Christians. That was the main inspiration behind the presentation, the sharing of their experiences.”

Beyond just an academic interest, the foundation of Braganza’s work comes from a place of deep compassion for those who are marginalized.

“In many settings, including social work education and practice, there’s tension when it comes to differences,” she explains. “We can, and we must, find ways of improving this. During my dissertation, I learned a lot from members of different groups who’ve experienced marginalization, and I knew their experiences needed to be brought to a social work audience. SSWR is made up of social work professionals, educators, researchers and students. It’s my hope that sharing these stories offers knowledge and will help fuel necessary change.”

It’s reasonably safe to say that most Christians in social work, like Braganza, strive to emulate Christ’s love to those they come across. However, in a society that’s becoming rapidly more divided, this isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.

“We’re currently trying to navigate these things using approaches that are too simplistic and actually do quite a lot of harm.” Braganza feels that hearing from these groups has helped her discover a better way forward.

The most rewarding apsect of teaching is gearing up the next generation of young leaders who are inspired by their faith to love and serve communities.

“There needs to be more nuance when we encounter real people, the context of our meeting and how that individual would like to interact,” she says. “My dissertation includes a framework for how to do this in various contexts, not just social work. It’s rooted in stories and other literature including a Christian hospitality framework. I called it ‘The Caring Encounters Guided Framework,’ because at the centre of it is the need for care. Care means that we thoughtfully engage with people in a way that makes them feel valuable and important. It can’t be assumed that we’re doing this already.”

In the midst of her intensive academic discoveries, Braganza’s students at Redeemer remain one of her biggest sources of motivation and excitement.

“The most rewarding aspect of teaching is gearing up the next generation of young leaders who are inspired by their faith to love and serve communities. I get to know these amazing young people, their interests, passions and talents, and then journey with them as they build their skills and prepare for God’s calling.”

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