Welcome to the Faculty

Faculty Profile: Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee photoThis May, our School welcomed a new faculty member, Barbara Lee (Assistant Professor). We are excited to have her on board! We sat down to have a quick chat with Barbara to learn more about her and her areas of research and practice.


Can you tell us a bit about your background? What did you study?

I did my BA in Psychology at Queen’s University, and my BSW with a specialization in child welfare at the University of Victoria.

I worked for a while in Vancouver and Toronto, and then went on to do my MSW with a specialization in children and families at the University of Toronto. At that time I had no plans to do a PhD, but later on I somehow ended up doing a doctorate as well at U of T!


You said you originally didn’t plan to do a PhD. What changed your mind?

I was working in the area of child welfare, and during my MSW I was working on data collection for the CIS, the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. I found that there was a significant gap and need for Canadian child welfare research, especially for Asian-Canadian families. During my MSW, I was able to do some secondary data analysis on Asian versus White families involved in the child welfare system. I knew that I could certainly contribute to research in the area of Asian-Canadian families and child welfare.

My PhD dissertation is “Examining child welfare outcomes for Asian-Canadian children and families: A mixed methods study”. It’s the first empirical study to examine the service provisions and trajectories of Asian-Canadian children and families involved in the child welfare system.


What is the next step? What kind of research are you planning to do at UBC?

Child welfare is my main practice area, and I’m also very interested in social work education. I want to continue where my dissertation left off, with a qualitative grounded theory research project on Asian families and children. This project would let us capture their voices and experiences.

I’ve also been doing a lot of research on the use of simulation in social work education. Simulation is when you use a standardized actor in a case scenario. Students get to engage with the actor and try out their clinical skills, and see what works in that simulation. If we could implement this teaching innovation in child welfare education, that would be amazing.


What drew you to practice and study social work?

I was influenced by, I guess, the traditional immigrant Chinese mentality or aspiration of going to medical school. I wanted to pursue nursing and explore the medical field that way. Later on I found that I wasn’t too interested in all the science and medicine courses, but I really liked psychology and learning about human behavior and their interactions.

I worked throughout university to financially support myself, and I was working at a community literacy organization. That environment was my first exposure to social work, and social work as a possible career. I actually took an introduction to social work course at UBC before doing a BSW at UVic!

I guess the overall narrative in my life has been this: being a child of immigrant parents has always motivated me. We had a Chinese restaurant, and working in that family business was always a challenge. My parents didn’t really understand what education was about in Canada, or North America, but they always still pushed me to education as a vehicle of upward mobility. I’m among the first in my family to attend university. I find that the social work field is still a very White-dominated profession; in academia overall, there aren’t a lot of visible minorities. So coming from that, from my experiences, I feel that I can contribute to enhance the diversity in academia.