OASW Recognizes Dr. Carolyn Mak with the 2023 School Social Work Achievement Award


OASW and its School Social Work Advisory Group are pleased to recognize Carolyn Mak, MSW, RSW, PhD with the 2023 School Social Work Achievement Award.

Carolyn Mak is the Director of Wellbeing and School Counselling at Branksome Hall, an independent school for girls in Toronto. In her role, she supports the development and delivery of social-emotional learning (SEL) content school-wide, as well as leads the school’s team of school counsellors and social workers. This is her ninth school year at Branksome Hall, with the first seven of those years serving as the Junior School Social Worker. 

Prior to those roles, she served as Director of Knowledge Mobilization and Program Development at Kids Help Phone, a national charity providing online and phone counselling to young Canadians. She also started her career as a social worker working in children’s mental health and family service agencies, before joining the Toronto District School Board, where she was a social worker in the Scarborough area for six years, using both English and Cantonese language skills to support students and families.

Carolyn has also taught social work students at the bachelor’s and master’s levels at Toronto Metropolitan University, the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, and Smith College School for Social Work, where in 2016, she earned her doctorate in social work. She currently facilitates a workshop for doctoral students at Smith College who are completing their comprehensive examinations. 

Carolyn has authored and co-authored peer-reviewed publications to do with SEL in schools, the importance of elementary school recesses, anti-racist pedagogy in social work education, and most recently, what it means to decolonize school social work. She is a proud dog mama to Encore, and enjoys playing tennis and cello in her free time

See what Dr. Mak's nominators and colleagues had to say about her commitment and contributions:
 “Dr. Mak is highly dedicated to practicing through an anti-racist and decolonial lens, both in her work directly with students and her staff.  She has written and published about the work she does both on the front lines and through engaging and changing larger policies and systems. Her most recent publication on 'Decolonizing School Social Work Practice' highlights specific skills and strategies to implement at the ground level, such as speaking up when noticing inequities, while including the uncomfortably necessary work of critical reflection that recognizes the many harmful and unjust policies and practices that have oppressed many marginalized groups.”

“Before obtaining her PhD in social work, Dr. Mak was a frontline school social worker, working closely with many children and families, namely those from immigrant families and other marginalized populations. Through her passionate work with clients with complex needs, she sought further clinical training through a PhD at Smith College School for Social Work to better understand the complexity of biopsychosocial issues her clients were struggling with.”

“Dr. Carolyn Mak brings a signature combination of open-heartedness, warmth and solutions-focused collaboration to her work. It takes a unique skillset to be able to teach social-emotional well-being to students across Kindergarten to Grade 12, alongside supporting adults in the community to build their own capacity in the work.”

Dr. Mak accepted her award and shared remarks with attendees at our virtual School Social Work Symposium on November 14.

OASW congratulates Dr. Mak on being selected for this award in recognition of her outstanding commitment to students and families.

OASW’s School Social Work Achievement Award recognizes an OASW member, RSW and School Social Worker in Ontario who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to students, families, social work values, and their communities. Recipients demonstrate a commitment to equity and social justice, exemplified through community advocacy and engagement, enhancing equity-focused learning, knowledge, and practice at a school, community, or system level, grounding practice in decolonizing and anti-racist approaches promoting systemic change, or promoting equitable and just learning environments for students and the entire school community.

About OASW
OASW is the voice of social work in Ontario. It is a voluntary, bilingual, non-profit association representing 9,000+ social workers. All members have a university degree in social work at the bachelor, master, or doctoral level. OASW works to actively speak on behalf of social workers on issues of interest to the profession and advocates for the improvement of social policies and programs directly affecting social work practice and client groups served.