“I defy anybody to look through any random newspaper these days without reading something to do about migration, immigration or integration. It’s a daily lived experience.”
For Stephanie Bangarth, director of Western’s Collaborative Graduate Program in Migration and Ethnic Relations (MER), bringing together graduate students and faculty from various social science disciplines to study questions of ethnic relations, cultural diversity, conflict, acculturation and more, allows for intriguing and collaborative perspectives to be born.
This collaborative experience, created in 2007 with just 11 students, has since blossomed to a record high 48 students this year. It is an add-on to existing graduate programs in Anthropology, Geography, History, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Hispanic Studies and Women’s Studies and Feminist Research.
“We all need to be concerned about migration because it has always been a worldwide phenomenon. On top of that, in order to sustain us as a country, we need immigration,” said Bangarth, a professor of History at King’s University College. “It’s wonderful to be part of such a program where we all have the same interests with a very collegial, interdisciplinary group.
“I think one of the problems with academia, in general, is we don’t tend to collaborate with each other outside our own home interest. This is a program that does just that, so it fits into the vision of my own research interests.”
Bangarth works hand-in-hand with Western’s Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations, led by Sociology professor Victoria Esses. The centre informs public policy and practice that facilitate the well-being of immigrants and ethnic minorities in Canada and internationally.
Bangarth added the combination of disciplinary and advanced interdisciplinary training provides students with the tools necessary to better understand and conduct research in the area of migration and ethnic relations. Upon graduation, students receive a graduate degree in their home discipline, as well as a specialization in Migration and Ethnic Relations.
Bangarth said moving forward she would like to see the program expand its reach across campus and in the London community.
“In the next five years, I’d love to branch out into as many faculties as we can on campus,” she said, adding faculties such as Law and Health Sciences would add an interesting perspective to the program. “There is always room for more growth; the issue is whether we can incorporate the program requirement of the other faculties within the MER program.”
Bangarth added a strong relationship already exists with groups in the London community – such as the London & Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership – and collaborations with other academic institutions, such as the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement, are currently in the works.
“It’s (MER) given me such great opportunities, such as the inspiration to develop a third book project,” she said. “MER has been wonderful for me in invigorating my own research interests.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: The Western Collaborative Graduate Program and the Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations, in conjunction with the Inclusion and Civic Engagement and Settlement Sub-councils of the London & Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership, are holding a symposium, Journeys of Migration, during Western’s International Week. The event will be held at 3:30 p.m. today (Thursday) in the University Community Centre, Room 315 (Council Chambers).