Echoes of Poverty

Access and equity in Canadian higher education

Elaine’s Research

In 2017, Elaine completed her master’s in sociology at the University of Alberta (Alberta, Canada). She conducted a nine-month narrative inquiry at a western Canadian research-intensive university into how growing up in persistent childhood poverty shapes undergraduate students’ experiences as they compose lives in higher education. Echoes of poverty: Composing lives in higher education.

Her doctoral research, at the University of Victoria, brings her MA research from the trenches to the grassroots-level. Elaine seeks to push the pillars of privilege through a critical investigation into how social activism can contribute to retention and widening access to, and participation in, higher education for students who grew up in poverty and/or are living in poverty. She seeks to understand how civic engagement may shape equity, diversity, and inclusion policies, practices, and pedagogies. A key goal of this research is to contribute to social innovation models to advance socioeconomic diversity in Canadian universities. This research will give voice to those who are historically underrepresented in academia and, by doing so, to stimulate greater institutional acknowledgement and policy development.

Elaine is using two methods for her doctoral research and reflects her role as a researcher and participant from generational poverty: (1) narrative inquiry autoethnographic inquiry, and (2) a community-based research method.

“After several years of making little progress in getting this issue to the table, at any level, I am armed with the knowledge and wisdom of those whose footsteps I walk in, those who couldn’t make it here, and those who silently disappear. I am doing an investigation of a real-time, grassroots, social activism initiative I began at the University of Victoria to increase retention and widen access to, and participation in, university for “poverty-class” students: The Shoestring Initiative (”

This is not about throwing money at “problem” students. This research, a case study at the University of Victoria, will be made public in real-time using an array of strategies. A key goal is to contribute to social innovation models—and, to share findings with other universities. “I will not wait for two or three years to wrap the dissemination of this research in a tidy little bow. “There are lives-in-the-making that need their lived experiences brought to the equity, diversity, and inclusion table—right now.”

Contact Elaine at to find out more.

%d bloggers like this: