Charting the Way of Compassion
Dr. Aaron Smith, assistant professor of social work and director of field education, talks about the principles that guide him in his work at Redeemer.
3 min. read
March 29, 2022

For Dr. Aaron Smith, his chosen career is an inevitable result of following Christ.

“To follow the God we claim to follow means we have to give special priority to people who are hurting, outcast and marginalized,” he says. “It’s everywhere throughout Scripture.”

Throughout the past 10 years, Smith has worked as a registered psychotherapist and taught in university psychology and social work programs throughout Canada. In 2021, he completed his PhD in social work and took on the roles of assistant professor of social work and director of field education at Redeemer. Preparing future generations, particularly within a Christian environment, hasn’t ceased to amaze and excite him.

“[Teaching] is energizing, life-giving and makes me feel like I’m able to make a big impact by preparing more people for this kind of work. My own doctoral research explores how believing in a faith like Christianity becomes the core of who we are and intersects with every other part of us including our professional identity. To work in a place that intentionally focuses on that connection is wonderful and definitely drew me to Redeemer in a really big way.”

I hope to keep connecting the dots between what we read and talk about in the classroom, how things actually look in practice and vice versa.

As the director of field education, Smith journeys with his students as they take their first cautious steps into the workplace. This involves checking in with them on a regular basis and organizing class discussions throughout the semester. Moving forward, he plans to further bridge the gap students can experience when it comes to academic-based theory and real-life application.

“In supporting, encouraging and challenging them, I hope to keep connecting the dots between what we read and talk about in the classroom, how things actually look in practice and vice versa.”

Among all the wisdom Smith will undoubtedly impart to each cohort, the most important lesson comes down to one word: compassion.

“We can’t always eradicate suffering or rescue people from it. What we can do, and what we see Jesus always doing, is to crawl into these dark places and sit there with somebody. This idea of compassion filters into so many things that we’re trying to do in social work. It has to be central, and I try to keep it central to all my teaching, research and practice.”

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