Social work graduate enriches journey through teaching, learning and powerlifting

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Registered social worker and Master of Social Work graduate Jane Lee is changing the narrative as she embarks on her PhD studies while uplifting the next generation of care providers.

Last updated: Tuesday 19 September 2023

Jane came from unconventional beginnings, growing up attending a church that discouraged women from getting educated and being in paid employment. She says this upbringing kept her isolated from ‘worldly’ people.

“We were discouraged from driving, cutting our hair and had to wear long dresses and skirts. I’m the eldest of 10 children and through the church saw many women marry young and have lots of children. When I left the church in my late teens, I got pregnant at 19 and now have seven children of my own. When I look back on my journey, I still pinch myself that I work for a university and I’m doing a PhD!”

While in the final stages of writing her master’s thesis, Jane was asked if she wanted to do some contract marking in rehabilitation studies.

“Given my thesis was in the disability field, I felt I had enough knowledge to do this. I continued juggling social work and working for Massey for a couple years, before being made permanent as a tutor for the School of Health Sciences at the beginning of last year.”

Jane says what she enjoys most about her role is seeing students succeed and get the most out of their learning journey.

“I returned to Massey as an adult student and still remember feeling nervous about studying and questioning if I’d made the right decision. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made, and I want my students to feel the same way and to feel encouraged and supported throughout their time at Massey. I love it when something clicks for a student and they have a lightbulb moment because I want their learning to be meaningful to them.”

For those considering studying rehabilitation and social work, Jane encourages them to get serious about it as she considers them to be great career fields to make a difference in people’s lives.

“You’ll be investing in yourself and your career, and that’s the best investment you can ever make! There are so many varying fields you can work in.”

Jane’s PhD study through the School of Social Work focuses on social support (friends and family who are there for you) and social integration (being engaged in various activities and affiliations within the community) among one-parent families and disabled children.

She says while social support and social integration have been found in literature to be beneficial to individuals and families, there is little about how this can be used by parents with disabled children during a relationship break-up and settling into being a one-parent family.

“’Disabled children’ is an umbrella term for a child with a physical, cognitive, social and/or psychological impairment. With Aotearoa New Zealand having a disproportionate number of disabled children living in one-parent families, and being a single mother to a child on the autism spectrum myself, I’m hoping this research will contribute to both the social work and disability fields through theorising on disability by considering the family context and extending this to one-parent families with disabled children.”

Outside of her studies, Jane has found another passion in the form of powerlifting, saying being at the gym at 4:30am during the week helps her continue to be the strongest and best version of herself.

“I got into strength training a year and a half ago, and this year I entered my first novice powerlifting competition. I can deadlift double my body weight, squat one and a half times my body weight and I’m working towards being able to bench press my body weight. I’m aiming to qualify and lift at the Master’s Games. The bar sits there as an opportunity to show consistency and determination; just like learning, you get out what you put in.”

When she’s not powerlifting, studying or tutoring, Jane can be found doing karaoke, managing the football team for one of her kids, sitting on the Lottery Individuals with Disabilities committee and on the board for Hutt Valley Riding for the Disabled. She has also recently started playing football.

Jane says she prioritises her mental wellbeing by living her life in alignment with her values.

“I’m privileged that I have choices and opportunities to set my life up how I want to live it. I value being the best version of myself, family, learning and being part of a community, in that order. I protect my sleep, I eat food that nourishes my body and I don’t drink alcohol. I have friends who love and care for me, who I love and care for and who are positive influences in my life. I also have grace and compassion for myself when I mess up.”

Jane with her tamariki.

Interested in a career in social work?

Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University is hosting a webinar about the Master of Applied Social Work programme. Learn more about how to use your undergraduate degree to become a registered social work in two years.

Find out more and sign up here.

Interested in studying a Master of Social Work?

Related news

Exploring new ground in social work via well-travelled roads

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Hailing from Ireland, Master of Applied Social Work graduate Rebecca Conway’s travels led her to study in Aotearoa New Zealand, exploring the topic of green social work. Now, she begins her PhD journey in Germany as a Marie-Skłodowska-Curie fellow.

Opinion: Celebrating National Social Workers' Day

Tuesday 19 September 2023

By Head of the School of Social Work, Professor Kieran O'Donoghue.

A passion for people is the key to success for social work student

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Jade de Figueiredo wants to be able to help others navigate their journey in life so is studying towards a Bachelor of Social Work.