RDC graduate travels to Ottawa for Student Innovation Showcase on Parliament Hill
RDC graduate, Melissa Barritt, was part of a rare opportunity when she was selected by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) to be part of the Student Innovation Showcase on Parliament Hill.
The showcase, which took place on February 12 and 13, provided an opportunity for Barritt to display the project that she participated in while she was a student at RDC. “I’m so honoured to have been chosen to represent both this project and Red Deer College,” she says. “It meant a great deal to me to be able to connect with people from across the country and share how college students can positively impact community.”
In Barritt’s case, she was part of the RDC group, led by Sociology instructors Dr. Choon-Lee Chai and Dr. Krista Robson, who are involved in a project to assess settlement programs and services for immigrant women in central Alberta. In partnership with the Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association, the RDC team connects with immigrant women to learn about their settlement experiences and needs, with the intention of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of settlement programs and services.
By identifying these elements, the goal for the three-year-long project is to use the research findings to address practical issues within the community. “When we understand the settlement conditions of immigrant women, then we can work with our community partners to develop solutions,” says Dr. Chai. “As one example of an outcome from this project, we’ve developed a website that serves as a centralized information portal for all settlement services that people might require, so it’s another way to help make the transition easier and to make services more accessible for immigrant women.”
Students have been involved in several areas of this research, and Barritt was involved in a specific element called the Photovoice project, where she engaged immigrant women to take pictures of their settlement experiences and share their settlement stories. She first completed an extensive literature survey about the issues of settlement and integration faced by immigrants, and then she conducted in-depth interviews with research participants.
“I was able to connect and build meaningful relationships with these women,” she says. “In some cases, I was invited into their homes, so I really had an opportunity to see what their lives were like and to learn about their experiences. I could have read about the issues that immigrant women face, but this research experience allowed me to connect with the women and to provide listening support, gaining a much deeper understanding about their lives.”
Now that she has graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a University of Calgary collaborative degree offered at RDC, Barritt is pursuing a degree in Education to fulfill her passion to become a teacher. When she considers her future work with students, Barritt believes that her student research experiences will benefit her teachings in many ways. “I might have students from all backgrounds in my classroom, representing those from different cultures or socio-economic status or even refugees, and I need to show them by example what it means to accept everyone for who they are,” she says. “Because of this research experience, I will be more inclusive in my education, which will benefit my students.”
For Dr. Steve Lane, Associate Vice President Academic, Research and Student Affairs at RDC, this project demonstrates the wide variety of research activities taking place at the College. “The Photovoice project involved students through applied research that is practical and experiential, and it was also community oriented through our partnership with CAIWA,” he says. “It’s a great example of the variety of ways that applied research can be used to help people, and it demonstrates a research niche that we have at RDC. We’re already doing this type of positive work, and we look forward to expanding these types of opportunities in the future.”
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