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Meet Your Professor: Olivia Boukydis’s journey from UofGH alum to Assistant Program Head

Olivia Boukydis’s career has taken her on many exciting paths—from social worker to instructor to research supervisor. Now, the University of Guelph-Humber alumna will help shape the very program she graduated from as the new Assistant Program Head, Community Social Services.

Boukydis has always stayed close to the UofGH community. After graduating in 2013, Boukydis worked as a Liaison Officer for the CSS Degree Completion program and then returned as an instructor in 2017. Prior to her new role, Boukydis was the senior research supervisor for the Soka Education Research Centre on Global Citizenship.

Recently, Boukydis was also recognized with the Alumni Award of Achievement. The award honours a UofGH graduate who has achieved distinction in their field and made outstanding contributions to their community.

“My relationship with Guelph-Humber is pretty long-standing,” Boukydis said. “I know many different aspects of the program and have worn different hats, and so it felt like a natural next step to make a contribution on a larger scale.”

As the Assistant Program Head, Boukydis will be supporting Program Head Dr. Paul Sherman to oversee the CSS program. Boukydis will also be working with students to plan the annual CSS Symposium in addition to continuing her role as an instructor.

“I think the program has done really well at evolving with the field and evolving with our students' needs, and I'm excited to be a part of that,” Boukydis said.

A unique perspective

Boukydis first arrived at UofGH as a transfer student after completing a Social Service Worker college program. It was there she discovered a love for geriatrics.

“When I started studying social work, I wanted to work in a completely different space,” Boukydis said. “Then I explored a part of the field I never thought would be a possibility and that was older adults.”

After graduating from UofGH, Boukydis went on to complete a Master of Social Work degree, while also fulfilling her dream of working in long-term care. Boukydis has worked in various social work roles, including supporting older adults with complex behaviours associated with dementia, mental health and various neurocognitive conditions.

One of the courses Boukydis now teaches, “Social Work Practice with Older Adults,” is an opportunity for Boukydis to share her expertise and passion for geriatrics. Her time as a student at UofGH, combined with her field experience, helps inform her approach to teaching.

“I think the coolest part about my job is I'm able to tap into what my experiences were as a student and as a clinician,” she said. “Because I understand the program so well, when I'm thinking about ways to make classes interesting, it's easier for me to put my student hat back on and think, ‘How would I like to learn this? What would be interesting for me to know?’ And also, too, putting my clinician's hat back on. ‘What information would be useful in terms of informing my practice? What can be carried from the classroom to the field?’”

Discovering new passions

While Boukydis has long been passionate about working with older adults, her return to UofGH as an instructor sparked a new interest.

“When I returned to Guelph-Humber is when I realized I had a love for academia and research,” Boukydis said.

Boukydis is now pursuing a PhD in education and social justice—another way she is hoping to challenge herself and enhance her practice.

“Research was something that always really scared me, but I've developed this love for all things knowledge,” Boukydis said. “It's far enough from social work where I'm able to learn something new, but it's close enough to the humanities and to education that I'm able to create connections between the social justice piece, which is a big part of the CSS program, and the area of the field that I have the biggest love for, which is geriatrics.”

One of the most important lessons Boukydis wants to share with her students is that even if your professional journey does not turn out the way you plan, the knowledge, skills and connections gained at UofGH can prepare you for any direction it goes.

“When I think about my life, my career and where I've been over the last ten years; when I think about the relationships that I've built, my knowledge of the field and my love for it—it's because of the University of Guelph-Humber,” reflected Boukydis. “I owe a lot to Guelph-Humber. I feel really lucky to be a product of it, to teach in it and to be a part of it.”