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"I felt there was more I could be doing to make an impact in society." School of Social Work grad's passion to empower others

Posted by Terry Murray-Arnold on June 2, 2020 in Alumni & Friends

Bria Symonds (BSW '20). Provided photo. 

Convocation Q&A: Bria Symonds, Bachelor of Social Work

Congratulations to all of our Faculty of Health graduates this year! To celebrate Convocation 2020, we chatted with students from across Dal Health. Today's Q&A profile features Bria Symonds, a Bachelor of Social Work graduate from Lake Loon/Cherry Brook, Nova Scotia.  

How significant is it for you to receive this degree

Completing this degree is a huge accomplishment for me. I have an undergrad from Mount Saint Vincent University, where I majored in Women Studies/Family Studies and minored in Psychology. Although I enjoyed these areas of studies, I felt there was more I could be doing to make an impact in society. Social work made that happen. This degree at Dalhousie made that happen. 

Completing my Bachelor of Social Work helped me find my true calling in life as a service provider, healer, researcher and community advocate. Being an African Nova Scotian woman, who has many limitations/barriers in place that made receiving post-secondary education seem impossible, receiving this degree is symbol that anything is possible when you work hard, find people that support you, and make room for yourself. This degree is more than me, it is for all the young leaders and the generation behind me wanting to make their dreams come true. I did it and so can they! 

What were the highlights of your degree?

The highlights of my degree were making connections with students in my program and the larger Dalhousie community. I made connections in academia and in my professional development that will last a lifetime. People from all walks of life attend Dalhousie and knowing I shared spaces and a campus with a diverse population, made me feel proud to be a student. 

What will you miss about your time at Dal?

I am not officially leaving Dalhousie yet. I will be returning in the Fall to complete my Master of Social Work. Due to Covid-19 and global changes, I won't physically be able to attend school. I will miss the joys of being on campus. I will miss meeting students and faculty on my daily commute to classes. I will miss the social events. I will miss the friendly staff that do not always get recognition (custodians, food essential workers, administration, student employees, student society/volunteers etc.), and all the people that made Dalhousie accessible. I will also miss the Black Student Advising Center. I spent a lot of time at BSAC and the out-reach workers there play a significant role in my student success. 

What brought you to Dal and to your program specifically?

I felt the profession of Social Work would help me make a positive impact in society. Social Work is a very versatile and diverse field, and Dalhousie has a great Social work program that places emphasis on Anti-oppressive practice and Trauma Informed knowledge. These areas of practice made me interested in community Social Work and the overall wellbeing of vulnerable populations. 

What topics/research/work did you become passionate about during your education?

I became interested in prison reform and mass incarceration. Myself and my classmate JJ Wilson started conducting qualitative research on “The School-to-Prison” pipeline during this degree, and how mass incarceration is linked to systematic oppression in relation to African Nova Scotian Students. Aside from this work, I am now beginning research and professional work around Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Gender Based Violence. 

Given that graduates unfortunately couldn’t celebrate in person due to COVID-19, how did you celebrate this accomplishment?

I am logging online to join the School of Social Works virtual celebration. I am using this unique time to spend quality time with my family. We normally do not get the opportunity to be together on a regular basis, and they are a huge part of me successfully completing this degree. I am safely celebrating with them.

What’s next for you?

In September I will be back as a Dalhousie Student completing my Masters. I am grateful and privileged to have found employment from my field practice, and now work as a community navigator. I plan to do a PHD in the future, but for now I want to work on the front-line being a service provider. Aside from work, I will also be an advocate and ally for others. I want people to know they can always reach out to me and I am here to support. I want to continue working with youth and marginalized populations. My passion is using my privilege from academia and lived experiences to empower others.