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Melanie Panitch

Melanie Panitch, DSW

Position: John C Eaton Chair in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Faculty of Community Services, School of Child and Youth Care

Designation: DSW, Associate Professor

Areas of expertise:

  • Disability Studies
  • Activist Disability History
  • Social Innovation

Contact details

416 979 5000 ext 6128
SHE 627
99 Gerrard Street East


Throughout my career I have been an activist, advocate, researcher and educator with strong roots in the disability rights movement and broad international experience. In November 2015, I was appointed the John C Eaton Chair in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship and though it might not be characterized as social innovation much of my work has been rooted in community development and progressive social change.  I was founding director of the School of Disability Studies from 1999-2011and instrumental in attracting a $1.2 million corporate gift from RBC. The exhibit on activist disability history in Canada which I co-curated, “Out From Under: Disability History and Things to Remember” started as a class project and is now on permanent display in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. My book, Disability, Mothers and Organization: Accidental Activists is a gendered history of activist mothering in the Canadian Association for Community Living (Routledge, 2008).

In our Faculty of Community Services I have been central to embedding social innovation in curriculum, and fostering international student engagement for social innovation. In collaboration with colleagues from our Faculty and the Ted Rogers School of Management I team-taught two ”Super-Courses”, pedagogical initiatives exploring social innovation, created the Minor in Social Innovation and launched the Community Transformation Café. I have a B.A. from the University of Manitoba, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of London, and a Masters in Social Work from Carleton University. I completed graduate work at the Hunter College School of Social Work, receiving a Doctorate in Social Welfare from the City University of New York Graduate Centre.

  • DST 99       Independent Study/Capstone in Disability Studies (2003 – 16)
  • DST 503      Exhibiting Activist Disability History (current topic course, 2007)
  • DST 503      Exploring Social Innovation (current topic course, 2014)
  • CYC 805     Sports-Based Social Innovation in Child, Youth and Community Services (2015)
  • CYC 550     Exploring Social Innovation (2016)
  • CYC 560     Social Innovation in Practice (2017)

Research Interests:

  • Activist mothering
  • Canadian disability history
  • Impact of new managerialism on social work education
  • Social innovation pedagogy

Research Projects:

  • Unsettling the Classroom: Social Work Education in the Context of the New Managerialsm
  • Bringing Activists On-Line: Learning and Teaching with Accessible Web Docs
  • Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology and Access to Life
  • Inclusive Early Childhood Service System
  • What new ways of learning particularly in higher education will Canada need to survive an evolving society and labour market?
Creative Activity
  • PUSH! Real Athletes. Real Stories. Real Theatre, Tangled Art+ Disability, for ParaPanAm Cultural Olympiad (2015)
  • Convocation Address Ryerson University, Faculty of Community Services, “Edgerton Ryerson and His legacy”. June 2012.
  • Ontario Non Profit Network: Enabling Change Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


  • Panitch, M. Disability, Mothers and Organization: Accidental Activists, (Routledge: NY, 2008).


  • Frazee, C., Church, K., Panitch, M., “Claiming and Re-Claiming Disability History”. Kelly, C., Orsini, M. (eds.) Mobilizing Metaphor: Art, Culture and Disability Activism in Canada, Publication Date 2016, UBC Press.
  • Church, K., Panitch, M., Frazee, C., Livingstone, P. “Out From Under: A Brief History of Everything”, in Sandell.R., Dodd, J., Garland-Thomson, R., (eds.) Re-Presenting Disability Activism and Agency in the Museum, Routledge: London (2010).


  • Todd,S., Barnoff, L., Moffatt, K., Panitch, M., Parada, H., Mucina, M., Williams, D. Performativity Culture in Universities: Social Work Fabrications, British Journal of Social Work (2015) Vol 45, No 2  pp. 511-526


  • Program Review of the Disability Studies Program, King’s College University of Western Ontario ( with Michel Desjardins) November 2015)
  • Program Review of the Disability Studies Program, University of Vancouver Island, June 2016.

Conference Co-Chair

  • FCS in Action: The Refugee Crisis, Ryerson, March 3 & 4, 2016
  • Usha George Inaugural Faculty Recognition Award of Excellence, 2015
  • Helen Keller Centre Award to Ryerson University and the School of Disability Studies for the Out from Under exhibit, 2015.
  • Ryerson Inaugural Innovative Teaching Award, 2009
  • The City of Toronto Access Equity and Human Rights Award, Awarded to Ryerson University and the Royal Ontario Museum to "recognize their public education initiative with the groundbreaking exhibition chronicling the history of disability issues." Called "Out From Under: Disability History and Things to Remember" 2009
  • The J.W. McConnell Curricular Innovation Award for Disability Arts and Cultural initiatives:  "Art with Attitude" and the Exhibit "Out From Under" (Team award), Awarded by Ryerson's Learning and Teaching Office, May 2009
  • Nina E. Fortin Dissertation Proposal Award for an “Outstanding       Dissertation proposal that addresses an issue of concern in the lives of women from a feminist perspective”, Centre for Women's Studies, City University of New York Graduate Centre, 2004.