Elaine’s Canadian Higher Education 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 in Canadian higher education. Why? Canadian universities currently do not have widening access and participation (WAP) programs for poverty-class students. Nor, is WAP part of equity, diversity, and inclusion strategic plans. Why? Because Canadian universities were built for the social class elite and by ignoring social class, this class elitism remains fully entrenched. This community-based research seeks to (re)address this gap. Current and former undergraduate students will collectively (re)imagine how Canadian universities can make WAP programs a critical part of their strategic frameworks.

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.

“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 (www.shoestringinitiative.com).”

This is not about throwing money at “problem” students. This research will be made public in real-time using an array of knwoledge mobilization 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 elaberge@uvic.ca to find out more.