Convocation: Social Work student overcomes tremendous hurdles to graduate

Michael Carr is receiving his master’s degree in social work, despite facing many obstacles along the way. (Photo provided by Michael Carr)

Michael Carr’s amazing sense of humour, positive attitude and caring personality has been an inspiration to fellow students and faculty in the Carleton community.

But these attributes have also enabled him to graduation in November, when he will receive his master’s degree in social work.

“It’s important to stay positive and set goals for yourself,” says Carr. “Those goals keep you going, and when you get there, you come out stronger and more positive.”

The four-year journey has not been an easy one for the 52-year-old student.

In 2010, he started his bachelor’s degree in social work. In addition to being legally blind and having had a kidney and pancreas transplant, Carr faced many more challenges throughout his education – including suffering a fall in January 2011, breaking bones in both ankles and losing three weeks of school. Despite losing this time, Carr still managed to complete three of his five courses.

“I started walking again and never missed a beat,” says Carr. “I kept going to classes, kept all my marks up and had an excellent average. I was back on my feet by April.”

In May 2013, he was faced with a new challenge when he suffered a brain aneurysm. He missed his convocation, and had four months to recuperate. He still managed to pursue his master’s degree in social work that fall – even though the experience was physically and emotionally difficult.

“The doctor said, ‘Michael, call your family immediately. You probably won’t see the light of day,’” he remembers. “It was a shock.”

While completing his master’s degree, Carr’s kidney function counts dropped and he suffered severe fatigue. While he was worried he would be back on dialysis, he continued with school and his counts got better.

Carr says Carleton’s faculty stood by him every step of the way.

“The staff at Carleton is just amazing. I wouldn’t have gotten through it if it wasn’t for the help they offered,” he says. “They were very compassionate, and I don’t think people realize that when you take social work at Carleton, it’s like a family.”

Sarah Todd – a Carleton social work professor who taught Carr in his final year of his master’s program – says his determination was an inspiration, and his warmth and talent will get him far in the field of social work.

“Michael just astounds me,” she says. “He’s such an impressive human being and he’s quite modest about himself. He’s a role model to all of us.”

Carr is particularly passionate about working with the most vulnerable – including children, at-risk youth and the elderly.

He believes his personal life experience has given him a deeper understanding of the challenges others face.

“Because of my disability, it has made me more aware of what’s going on in the world from a different perspective – from the perspective of someone forced to deal with things and adapt more frequently than anyone else,” Carr says, adding that the field of social work allows him to reflect on his own life.

“I don’t look at what I went through as being a big deal. It’s made me who I am.”


This entry was written by Kristy Strauss and posted in the issue. Bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

Kristy Strauss

By Kristy Strauss

Kristy Strauss graduated from Carleton's journalism program in 2009. She is a regular contributor to Carleton Now. She has worked as a reporter for the Kemptville Advance. She currently reports for EMC Ottawa South.

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