Student profiles

Social Justice and Equity Studies is a program that nurtures students academically, prepares them professionally, and supports them in their activist interests. After graduating from SJES, alumni continue to be involved in community work, volunteer work or social activism.

From Master of Arts to Further Studies
Since the founding of Social Justice and Equity Studies in 2002, about half of our graduates have used the program as a springboard for further studies. Nearly half of SJES graduates go on to enroll in further studies. A significant number of graduates (30-40 percent) are admitted to PhD programs. Their chosen fields of study have included Canadian Studies, Communications and Culture, English, Law, Geography, Labour Studies, Refugee Studies, Sociology and Women’s Studies. Another 10-20 percent of graduates have entered professional degree programs after completing their MA in SJES.

From Master of Arts to Further Activism, Employment and Careers
The largest fields of employment for our graduates upon leaving the program are the public and non-profit sectors. Approximately twenty percent are now making contributions as consultants, or within government bodies, First Nations agencies, and a variety of nonprofits, including organizations dedicated to public policy analysis, international development, media, literacy, migration, health, violence prevention, and other issues.

Another 15 percent of graduates find work in the university and college sector as consultants, advisors and teachers. The remaining 15 percent enter some type of private sector career, making their marks in ways too varied to summarize.

Student testimonials

“SJES helped me hone my critical thinking and research skills. It also helped me learn how to work with diverse groups of people and how to persevere. I learned very useful transferable skills and gained an appreciation for and understanding of various social justice issues.”

— Kate Williams, Manager
Research Ethics and Compliance
Research Services, 
University of Calgary

“The SJES MA program offered me a small, intimate program where I had an incredible amount of one-on-one support with many of the faculty. This kind of learning environment fostered a strong foundation for developing theoretical, methodological and critical analysis skills, which were all incredibly important through the completion of my doctoral work.” 

— Allison Burgess, PhD
Sexual & Gender Diversity Officer, University of Toronto

“The SJES program at Brock University has in many ways been a stepping-stone to greater heights and realizations both personally and professionally. Most importantly, it was through my interactions with my cohort, indeed, with the entire SJES community, that I begun to be really aware of the situational issues around me. I particularly cannot forget the guidance and mentorship that went on even after graduating from the program. The examples of my professors left lasting legacies of what real social justice scholarship and practice is all about. The contributions of such faculty members made the program what it was for me – remarkably inspiring!” 

— Maureen Kihika, Doctoral candidate

“The open lines of communication between students and administration helped to facilitate a smooth transition into post-graduate work. The professors were open and honest and attempted to break down the barriers that are often perceives by incoming graduate students.”

— Douglas Clarke, Doctoral candidate

“Entering the SJES program was a watershed moment for me. It provided a progressive, interdisciplinary entry point for me into academia after a lengthy career in the arts. What I found was a program that honoured the diversity of students from a wide variety of backgrounds while also challenging all of us to work and think exceptionally hard. The strength of the program for me was in the small class sizes and the dedication and commitment of the faculty to close assessment, mentorship and student development. One is unlikely to find a stronger blend of cohesion and diversity, mentorship and independent study outside the SJES program.”

— Aaron Franks, PhD, Research Associate
The Centre for Environmental Health Equity

“In my experience, the SJES MA program deconstructs nuances of social justice and equity. Therefore, students are prepared to be thoughtful, in both the theoretical and practical challenges of the call to making a difference in their respective endeavours.” 

— David Sey, SJES Graduate

Kumsa Yuya
 SJES Graduate

KY: Initially, my interest stemmed from wanting to learn more about a diverse range of social justice issues. Coming from a Criminology background, I learned about law, policy, race, and power. There was little discussion about violence against women, animal cruelty, specific theories of social justice, and the effects of environmental degradation.

The variety of courses offered along with the diversity of knowledge within our cohort made this program appealing to me and has currently helped me better understand a range of social justice issues that have consequently made me better able to understand social problems I was interested in previously.

KY: The small class sizes, as I enjoy being able to make connections with professors and classmates, and the broad range of courses available. It has been great to learn about other social justice issues in depth, beyond my Criminology degree.

I am also looking forward to writing my Major Research Paper. Being able to independently work on a project of considerable size is exciting to me. Having been able to pick my topic and advisor, I’ve had autonomy that I may not have been able to have in other graduate programs and certainly did not have during my undergraduate.

The variety of conferences, events, forums, and similar functions that are geared toward social justice have also been a highlight. Feeling like Brock as an institution is committed to social justice and is willing to provide ample opportunity to explore these interests has been a great experience.

KY: My research in the past has been about a wide range of issues. I have looked at the limits of constitutional rights, the social construction of race and drugs, and violence against women in the third world. For the SJES program my research will be looking at prisons as a means of social control for vulnerable classes in North America. Currently my research is situated in the context of the United States, however, because of the increase in rates of incarceration for Indigenous and black people in Canada my topic may change.

KY: I have just entered the program but already my current experience has highlighted the value of being engaged actively in the community and in groups that are specific to the social justice issues that interest you. Learning about a variety of social movements both contemporarily and historically in this program has highlighted the destructive nature of apathy and lack of action. Academic interest and contributions to academic literature are excellent ways to bring awareness and contribute to a body of knowledge, but the power of grassroots activism cannot be overstated and has been highlighted so far in this program.

KY: It has been great to experience new ways of learning from the faculty at Brock and understand how my knowledge from my undergraduate degree may be useful or limited for understanding social justice. Being self-aware enough to acknowledge the limits of my understanding has allowed me to develop a genuine curiosity about other social issues and consider the implications of different world views and experiences.

Being able to contribute using a combination of my educational and life experiences has been fulfilling so far. I look forward to the many future opportunities available in this program to contribute both to the academic community at Brock but also in activist pursuits in the University and community broadly.

Dr. Diane Collier
SJES Faculty; Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education

DC: Being a transdisciplinary program, the SJES program was a way to get to know other faculty members and students outside of my department in the Faculty of Education. It was also a way to connect with other people interested in social justice and learn about exciting social justice projects in and outside of Niagara. As a former classroom teacher, I’ve always been preoccupied with issues of access to educational resources and discourses, and also thinking about how educational spaces can learn from families and children in order to transform practices.

DC: From currently working on the program committee and the admissions committee for two years, I’ve gotten to know faculty members and activist students. I think what’s been most exciting for me is to see how academic and community differences in perspectives can be worked out in the SJES spaces. Also, I’m interested in implementing and interrogating participatory research methods and methodologies, so working in this transdisciplinary space has been particularly helpful for that.

DC: My research focuses on children’s everyday cultures – popular, every day, multimodal, and sometimes digital. I’ve been working with a Niagara school using arts-based inquiry with family photography to tell family stories. Co-researchers are Drs. Jennifer Rowsell (also a SJES member) and Dr. Peter Vietgen, arts educator. Also, this project gives children access to digital and material resources to create multimodal family stories. Another current project is a cross-national study (SSHRC funded) of youth digital practices in Hamilton and in Glasgow, Scotland. The latter is study of how youth use digital tools, sometimes as artistic inquiry, in post-industrial contexts where they may be position more as consumers than producers of digital texts and tools.

DC: Program participation in SJES and in the Social Justice Research Institute (SJRI) has led to a collaboration across Sociology with Dr. Andrea Doucet and Dr. Jennifer Rowsell. This research focuses on family photography practices with diverse families in Canada. Other interactions are also more diffuse, such as the building of relationships for future projects. It’s been interesting to think across departments about how courses are constructed and what social justice can look like in academic programs.