Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

Graduate students mobilize research to benefit communities through United Way of York Region

Graduate students mobilize research to benefit communities through United Way of York Region

When you’re a charitable organization in York Region seeking a research partner to inform your strategic directions and priorities, whom do you turn to?

If you’re United Way of York Region (UWYR), you collaborate with York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit.

This summer, three York University students will gain valuable experience through internships with UWYR’s Community Engagement & Research Committee.

As part of their experience with the UWYR, the interns will review literature focusing on the impact of growth and change on human services and various responses to address its impact. They will also conduct social asset mapping within York Region’s identified geographies of growth. And finally, they will identify, refine and pilot potential neighbourhood assessment tools for future consultation and engagement activities with residents, community groups, service providers and other key stakeholders.

Their findings will inform the way in which UWYR plans and delivers investments in communities experiencing rapid growth to further its community impact: helping youth grow up strong, enabling individuals and families to achieve economic independence, and improving the well-being of individuals and communities.

The graduate student interns bring a variety of social science research experience to bear on this project.

Jessica Carriere, who is working with Professor Gerda Wekerle in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, is researching the social aspects of city planning within major Canadian cities as she works toward completing the Master in Environmental Studies Planning Program. She hopes to work in social planning and development at the municipal level, assisting in the creation of new policy-led strategies aimed at strengthening public involvement in decision-making processes and encouraging investment in social infrastructure.

Left: Jessica Carriere

Nausheen Quayyum, has completed a master of arts in development studies under the supervision of Professors Ananya Mukherjee Reed and Eduardo Canel and will begin doctoral studies in the fall. She has previous experience as a research intern working with Research Initiatives Bangladesh (Dhaka), Human Rights Watch (Toronto) and the University of Toronto’s Health & Human Rights Program.

Right: Nausheen Quayyum

Silvia D’Addario is a doctoral student in the Graduate Program in Geography. Under Professor Valerie Preston’s supervision, D’Addario was a graduate researcher on the York Infrastructure Project, which assessed the supply and demand of social infrastructure for three vulnerable populations – recent immigrants, low-income residents and seniors in York Region. Her doctoral studies explore the gendering and racializing intersections of work and residence for immigrants in suburban Toronto.

Left: Silvia D’Addario

The Knowledge Mobilization Unit’s internship program, funded in part by a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Knowledge Impact in Society grant, awards 12 internships each year to York graduate students based on an internal competition.

More than 24 students have been placed to date, including York alumna Tammy Lowe (née Miller) (MA ’08) who was supervised by Professor Barbara Crow while completing her master of arts in communication & culture. Through her internship placement with Free The Children, Lowe used her master's class and thesis work to conduct a needs assessment to understand and inform a communications strategy and new Web site for the non-profit organization. Lowe was recently hired as a campaign manager with UWYR.

Right: Tammy Lowe

With the SSHRC grant now concluded, the internship program is jointly supported by UWYR and the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation. It is just one way in which UWYR and York work together to make research accessible and of benefit to York Region residents.

“We share with York University a vision for a healthy and sustainable York Region that uses evidence-based research to inform support for public services,” says Daniele Zanotti, CEO of United Way of York Region. “For us, knowledge mobilization is priceless.”

Submitted by David Phipps, director of the Office of Research Services, and Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer