University of the Fraser Valley

Governor General’s Gold Medal 2024: Marlae Vermeer writes a new narrative through excellence in social work

Governor General’s Gold Medal 2024: Marlae Vermeer writes a new narrative through excellence in social work

This year’s Governor General’s Gold Medal has been awarded to Master of Social Work graduate Marlae Vermeer with a GPA of 4.275. Granted to those with the highest academic standing in a graduate degree program, it is one of UFV’s most prestigious awards.

When Vermeer learned of the achievement, she was shocked. Right away, receiving this honour made her mindful of those who helped her get to this point in her career.

“In the work I do, I know community and other people around us, supporting us, is pivotal to our success. I could not have made it through without the support of my partner, Geoff, and the encouragement and guidance of my cohort, professors, friends, family and community.”

Vermeer brings a love for people to her role as a counsellor specializing in family preservation and reunification. When reflecting on where it comes from, she smiles and says, “I think of my mother.” Vermeer remembers her always pulling over to help struggling motorists, saying, “If that was me, I hope someone would stop.”

“Seeing the way she would go out of her way to help others, I think it’s definitely something that’s been socialized and passed down. I love to travel, explore different cultures and I find every person I encounter in my travels has a new and different perspective, sees things differently. So maybe Mom inspired it and all my travels have just bolstered that.”

Her travels brought her all over the world: from Uganda for a semester abroad, to Columbia for a year of volunteering. These experiences prepared Vermeer to work with newcomers to Canada when she first graduated from university. Her passion to approach families from all over the world with sensitivity guided her to her current career, and inspired her most recent publication.

This was the capstone project for her master’s degree, titled Restoring and Recentering the Family in Family Preservation Services: Narrative Approaches to Child Protection in Canada. For Vermeer, the research underscored the power of language and story in her work. She learned how family preservation workers can offer more respectful and responsive services while helping families reframe their own experiences.

“That paper was really an incredible experience for me because I gained so much, and I’ve been challenged to new ways of working and being with families. It’s really helped me in my own journey and my own growth.”

After graduation, Vermeer aims to become a Registered Social Worker (RSW) as well as a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC). She’ll begin taking on private clients in addition to her current role, and looks forward to more free time for backpacking, hiking, and kayaking.

As she takes her next steps toward the rest of her career, she hopes to write a new story for the future of social work – one that centres the voices of the families and communities she serves.