Our faculty is proud to be home to the School of Nursing, School of Health and Exercise Sciences, and School of Social Work, where our students are the most important part of what we do.
Meet Jewelles Smith—Interdisciplinary PhD student, child and youth mental health and substance use project manager, BC board of director for the National Educational Association of Disabled Students, and dedicated mother. She took time out of her busy schedule to tell us about life as a UBC PhD student, human rights activist, and budding researcher.
FHSD: What was the last picture you took on your phone?
SMITH:My wheaten terrier, DaVinci.
FHSD: What is your favourite place to study or work at UBCO?
I work most often in the Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship (CIC); this is where my supervisor’s office is. I have a long list of allergies and some of them are airborne; there are two places on campus that accommodate this, and the CIC office is one, the other is the Disability Resource centre (DRC). If you’ve ever been to either of these offices, you will notice a sign that is up requesting no one eat oranges, tangerines, grapefruit or peanuts in the space (and please don’t wear cologne and perfume!).
It is generally difficult to navigate spaces when you live with airborne allergies, and I am very grateful that both of these spaces have taken time to allocate these as areas that I can use. A simple thing like walking into a room where someone has just peeled an orange can result in me having a reaction (hives, asthma attack, or anaphylaxis). I always take antihistamines when I am going on campus and carry EpiPens with me at all times; but having a space that is quiet, comfortable, and safe is critical to my ability to conduct research on campus.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in social work?
Although my supervisor, Dr. Rachelle Hole is in social work; my actual studies are interdisciplinary. My research will be documenting the narratives of mothers living with disabilities in Canada. Dr. Hole, co-director of CIC, and an associate professor at UBCO, has done extensive work in critical disability studies, and gender and women’s studies and is a perfect fit for my academic goals. When I was researching universities and potential supervisors; her name was mentioned by a number of academic friends, and when I approached her about applying to the program, she was most supportive.
So, if you asked me why I chose a career in the area that I am pursuing; I would tell you it is because I am passionate about human rights, especially for women living with disabilities. I have worked for more than a decade with organizations that address discrimination and violence against women living with disabilities. I was trained in disability human rights monitoring, and in ways to use international and Canadian human rights treaties and legislation to address inequality. As I became more immersed in the work I was doing in human rights and equality, it became clear to me that mothers, who were also disabled, were experiencing some of the most invasive forms of discrimination. I came to a point where I felt it was important for me to pursue a PhD as an opportunity to document the stories that I was hearing from women in a formalized manner. I also realized that there were some more advanced research skills that I needed, so I contacted Dr. Hole and we met to discuss my goals.
Name the next item on your bucket list you are going to cross off?
I have two items on my bucket list that I am hoping to cross off soon: one is to go skydiving and the other is to visit Petra, Jordan. Either one would be an amazing experience!
What do you know now, that you didn’t when started your degree at UBCO?
I would say I have learned the most in relation to effectively juggling the expectations of a PhD program with raising my sons, commuting, and managing my health.
I live in Revelstoke and have been commuting into Kelowna for classes and for employment. What has been incredibly amazing is how open professors have been to using technology for me to skype in to classes or meetings. If anyone has traveled that highway in the winter, they will know how treacherous it can be and how often it is closed. My professors', in both classroom and employment, willingness to exploring the use of technology has allowed me to meet the challenges of living away from my school.
Who do you nominate for the next Faces of FHSD?