A brown horse and lab in a field

Centre for Community and Academic Research

The Centre for Community and Academic Research (CCAR) brings together faculty, students and community partners to better understand mental health and well-being through interdisciplinary research.

Canine ambassadors in school communities

Three people sitting on a bench with a black dog. There are two older men flanked by an older blonde woman.

About the project

Dr. Howard Bloom and Dr. Adam Stibbards received an NSERC College and Community Innovation Grant to study the implementation of Sweet Charity’s Canine Ambassador Program (CAP) in Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) schools.

Staff at SCDSB schools must successfully complete CAP training with their own dogs to be eligible to work as a team (dog and handler) as an ongoing therapeutic presence in their schools. CAP teams are intended to promote positive socialization and calm interactions, with a goal of promoting well-being and mental health.

Portions of the grant are allotted to raising awareness of the overall project and therapeutic animals generally, as well as to helping Sweet Charity and SCDSB streamline their program through organization and innovation.

Learn how to get involved.

What are Canine Ambassadors?

This program is established when a school administrator is support of a school staff member who has a suitable pet dog and invites them to be vetted and trained by Sweet Charity to provide emotional support in the safety of the particular school. According to Sweet Charity, the ambassador teams promote positive socialization and calm interactions with a goal of promoting well-being and positive mental health.

Canine Ambassadors helped to:

  • create a welcoming environment
  • increasing student use of the services that the dogs supported
  • improved communication between students and staff
  • reduced student anxiety and problem behaviours
  • improve focus and the ability to get work done
  • teach responsibility
  • deescalating conflictual interactions between students and staff, among others

Therapy dogs by the numbers

38the number of schools that welcomed canine ambassadors
54the number of dogs that interacted with students and staff in the SCDSB
22,800the number of students that got the opportunity to connect with a canine ambassador
2,200the number of staff that were impacted by a canine ambassador

Therapeutic riding research

Palomino horse standing outside in a field on a foggy day

About the project

Hope Haven is a 142-acre therapeutic riding and wellness centre located at the top of Beaver Valley, two hours north of Toronto. Hope Haven offers equine and therapeutic riding programs that help individuals with challenges build self-confidence and improve their physical, cognitive and emotional health.

As part of their ongoing desire to evaluate and improve programming, Hope Haven approached Dr. Howard Bloom and Dr. Adam Stibbards to conduct research about the experiences of participants in their Saddle Up for Success program.


  • Focus on examining changes in social and emotional skills.
  • Research the overall well-being of participants in Hope Haven’s riding program.
  • Conduct qualitative analysis of interview and focus-group data.

What is Saddle Up for Success?

Saddle Up for Success is a one day a week, research based school program that helps elementary and high schools students with emotional, cognitive and/or physical challenges.

Provides students with the opportunity to:

  • develop self-confidence, self regulation and coping skills
  • assists in helping them manage anxiety, anger, fear, frustration or lack of attention
  • complete adaptive riding lessons
  • learn about horse tack, grooming, horse care and communication
  • partake in a yoga session with a certified instructor
  • experience a creative art session

All activities are tailored with the group’s ages, abilities and needs in mind.

Getting involved

Lady sitting on the floor with a saint bernard therapy dog with therapy dog vest on

There are many different ways that you can connect with us to learn about our research or get involved with our projects.


We are happy to host events that allow us to connect with other thought leaders and the community, while sharing our research.

Therapeutic Animal Conference

Staff and Human Services students at are excited and proud to be teaming up to organize a Therapeutic Animal Conference on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

This conference is a culmination, sharing and celebration of the work related to the two-year federal research grant that Dr. Howard Bloom and Dr. Adam Stibbards have been working on with Sweet Charity and the Simcoe County District School Board.

The day-long conference will take place at the Barrie Campus and will give staff, students and community members and opportunity to learn more about the service and therapeutic use of animals and the human-animal bond.

Registration and more details coming soon. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any questions or inquires you have. 

Therapeutic Animal Conference, Learn about therapeutic approaches, animal-assisted therapy, service animals and organizational implementation, save the date Tuesday May 26, 2020 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Research team

Our research team is a passionate group of individuals that are working to promote change and make a difference.

Mira Ray Headshot

Dr. Mira Ray

Director, Research and Innovation

Dr. Mira Ray (PhD, MBA) provides guidance for strategic planning and initiatives for Georgian College’s Research and Innovation Department.

Prior to working for Georgian, Mira was a consultant with McKinsey and Company, a top-tier management consulting firm, where she provided clients with guidance on major strategic decisions, from planning through implementation. In addition, she has expertise in systems and process redesign, change management and capability building.

Mira completed her PhD and Post-Doctoral fellowship in cancer research, as well as a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science.

Howard Bloom Headshot

Dr. Howard Bloom

Howard has been a professor at Georgian College for over 15 years and is currently the co-ordinator in the Child and Youth Care program. Earlier in his career, Howard co-founded and ran a recreational program for complex at-risk youth, organized behaviour management workshops and conferences, lectured on the topic across the province and served as the Chief Administrative Officer for a special needs charitable foundation.

In 1998, Howard and his wife established a special needs residential care home agency for children and youth deemed hard to serve. As a researcher, Howard is interested in experiences of mental health issues, cognitive, social and emotional psychopathology, risk and resilience, staff training, adult learning and experiential learning models.

Most recently, Dr. Bloom has been working in collaboration with the Simcoe County School Board, examining the implementation and experiences of a therapeutic dog program at elementary and secondary schools.

Adam Stibbards Headshot

Dr. Adam Stibbards

Adam is the co=ordinator of the Counselling Psychology degree program Georgian College, and teaches courses in clinical counselling skills. He has been at Georgian since 2010, and previously was a faculty member at Trent and Lakehead universities. His areas of research interest are experiential learning, the development and effects of empathy, and therapeutic animals.

Adam is passionate about the welfare of animals and the natural world, and loves nothing more than a long hike through forests and fields with his golden retriever, Lola.

Nicole Lindros Headshot

Nicole Lindros

Student Advisor, Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation

Nicole is a student advisor at Georgian’s Orillia Campus.  She works with students to build academic and personal resilience so they can flourish at Georgian and beyond.

Nicole recently completed her Masters in Social Work at Lakehead University. Her final project was on post-traumatic growth, exploring the specific variables which allow people to experience positive personal growth after trauma.

On the research team, Nicole’s role is to supervise and support student researchers as they work towards their individual and collective project goals. She is passionate about helping others and has seen firsthand the transformative therapeutic effect that animals can have on healing and growth.

Bipin Dhakal

Student Researcher

Bipin is a multilingual individual who has directly worked with individuals, groups and communities with an aspiration of building an equal society. For the majority of his professional career, he has worked in persuasion of social justice for the underprivileged and is highly experienced in multidisciplinary areas such as community development, social service, project management, research, social mobilization and policy initiatives.

In this research project, Bipin is specifically involved in leading the team to prepare a Canine Ambassador Program (CAP) training manual. In addition, he has participated in focus group discussion, transcribes recorded interviews, observes training and evaluation processes, keeps track of the project and participates in update meetings.

Chris Jacob

Student Researcher

Chris has been a full-time student at Georgian College for two years and am currently active in the Child and Youth Worker program. Since being at Georgian he has earned a Social Service Worker Diploma, as well as have participated in events that have been held by the college.

He is currently on the Research Team and working on the first conference being held on therapeutic animals at Georgian. Chris is a strong believer in the positive benefits that therapeutic animals can offer to everyone, especially with children.

Sara Ross

Student Researcher

Sara enrolled in the Social Service Worker program in 2017 and hasn’t looked back. In her former career, as a spa therapist, she held many different titles including Spa Director and Spa Owner.

In her new career as a group co-ordinator for Muskoka/Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services, Sara practices many of the same skills she used in her old profession; active listening, empathy and teaching with a new focus. Her interest in the project stemmed from a desire to understand more about how alternative methods of education can be partnered with the current model, as well as how relationships between humans and animals can benefit not only the therapeutic process, but also day to day living.

Beth Anderson

Student Researcher

Beth is a SSW and a current student in the Child and Youth Care program. She is excited to be apart of this collaborative research project where she will play a key role in planning and executing the Exploring Animal-Assisted Therapeutic Approaches Conference.

Some of the things Beth hopes to learn through this work is more about the process of academic research, so that she can take it with her when she pursues further education. Beth also has a four-year-old daughter who is on the Autism Spectrum and would love to see her benefit from animal therapy in both an educational setting and in her home. She believes that the potential of therapeutic animal-assisted interventions is astounding.

Sukhmeen Kaur

Student Researcher

Sukhmeen Kaur is an international student from Punjab, India that is currently enrolled in the Child and Youth Studies program at Georgian (graduating in April 2021). Sukhmeen is an introvert, bibliophile and tech-savvy individual, who is looking forward to being on this project as a changemaker and hopes to bring positive social change.

Ryley Neeve

Student Researcher

Ryley is in the Child and Youth program and is interested in seeing how the research on this project folds out. Ryley is interested in this project because she is extremely passionate about the child and youth care field and wants to make a difference.

Melissa O’Desse

Student Researcher

Melissa is currently in her second year of the Child and Youth Care program. She enjoys meeting new people, going on adventures and spending time with family. Melissa is interested in this research project because she is extremely passionate about animals and their unique ability to bring joy and comfort to people’s lives.

Contact us

Do you want to get involved or get more information about our research? Connect with us! 

Email: CCARgeorgian@GeorgianCollege.ca