Social work

Social work doctoral student awarded Stephen Lewis Fellowship – Brighter World

Social work doctoral candidate Annabelle Ragsag, the first recipient of the Stephen Lewis Fellowship, will explore the humanitarian and diplomatic impact on Canadian social policy by examining her detailed archive, housed in the McMaster University Library.

Anabelle Ragsag, a doctoral student in the School of Social Work, is the first recipient of the Stephen Lewis Fellowship. Ragsag will spend the next year analyzing Lewis’ archives at the McMaster University Library to deepen his understanding of the humanitarian’s work and his contribution to social policy in Canada.

The world-renowned humanitarian, diplomat and activist donated his life’s work to the library last year.

“While McMaster may bask in other archives, I’d like to say how happy it makes me to have McMaster’s stamp of approval,” Lewis said at the time. “I have lived my adult life in search of academic legitimacy. Now, finally, it goes through the McMaster archives. I quiver with joy.

As part of the fellowship, Ragsag will study documents from the archives, including campaign materials, professional and personal correspondence, press releases, position papers, photographs and press clippings.

“I will investigate Lewis’s leadership and legacy beyond the individual level by studying the circumstances of his life and the broader socio-political contexts within which were situated the political issues he championed or resisted” , said Ragsag.

Prior to pursuing her doctorate in social work at McMaster, Ragsag worked in international development in several countries. Like Lewis, she focused on social policy and international development.

The scholarship will help her develop skills in using archival research that she can use in social work and social policy studies.

“Before the fellowship, I often thought archival research was only for historians,” she says. “I’m excited to analyze historical documents in this way to help study something as dynamic and fluid as social policy.”

The scholarship was established by the Engaging Social Policy Initiative of the School of Social Work, through a donation from the Richard Splane Fund for Social Policy in Social Work.

Splane was one of Canada’s most influential social workers and his legacy gift helps fund the advancement of the study of social policy at the School of Social Work.

The fellowship creates a unique opportunity to analyze changing value frameworks and approaches within public policy, said Saara Greene, director of the School of Social Work.

“Stephen Lewis is one of Canada’s most inspiring and influential social justice champions. We are thrilled that Anabelle is the first recipient of the scholarship,” said Greene.

“Archival research is still relatively rare in social work, and we expect this project to contribute to the visibility of archival research in the political studies of the discipline.

Archival Arrangement and Description Librarian Christopher Long will oversee Ragsag during the fellowship, helping him identify which of the 147 boxes of documents can speak most to his research program.

Long says he and his colleagues in archives and research collections are excited to learn how Ragsag’s work will highlight the diverse research potential within archives.

“I am delighted to be part of her project, not only providing her with research advice and helping her navigate Stephen’s large and dynamic archive, but also discussing with her the working processes of archiving and of how archival knowledge can be activated for future generations,” Long says.

Ragsag will also be supervised by Associate Professor of Social Work Tara La Rose.

“It is very interesting to examine Stephen Lewis’ global work history, his work with the New Democratic Party, as well as his father’s history with the party and his contribution to shaping Canadian policy,” said The Rose. “In my experience, you never really know what you might find in an archive!”