Student work

Students in the SJS MA Program may complete a research project, a creative project, or spend a year with a social justice organization gaining relevant work experience.  Below is a list of projects and practicums completed since the program's inception in the fall of 2016.  Last updated July 22, 2021. 


Research Projects

Critical Shifts in 21st Century Social Justice: Disciplinary Art History and Critical Curatorship in Contemporary Canada

Tuija Hansen (2016-2018)
Supervisor: Dr. Kristy Holmes

This research essay examines meaningful decolonization practices within art galleries, museums, and disciplinary art history in Canada. The first part of this paper discusses settler-colonialism, feminism, decolonizing approaches, and critical theory in regards to disciplinary art history in Canada. The second part of this paper relates these recent critical discussions to emerging curatorial practices in Canada, including exhibiting contemporary Indigenous artwork in de-colonial frameworks. To conclude, I examine and analyze key exhibits that employ this curatorial framework and I discuss some successful elements of gallery exhibition and methods to improve de-colonial curatorial practice. The majority of the exhibits examined and discussed occurred in 2017, during a moment of deep reflection in Canada due to the 150th anniversary of confederation.


A Community Food Mapping and Photovoice Project: The Lakehead University Food Environment and the Experiences of Students

Samantha Stewart (2016-2018)
Supervisors: Dr. Kristin Burnett and Dr. Barbara Parker

The Effects of the Acculturation Process on the Identities of International Muslim Students

Jasra Rahmath (2017-2018)
Supervisors: Dr. Kristin Burnett and Dr. Barbara Parker

This study looked at the shifts in Muslim international students religious and/or cultural identities at a university in Northern Ontario. Using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, data was analyzed to better understand what acculturative stressors are contributing to the shifts in international Muslim students religious and/or cultural identities and what the implications of those shifts are. In depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants from South Asia and the Middle East. The results of the study revealed that many participants did experience a shift in their religious and/or cultural identity after moving to Canada with female participants experiencing more challenges than their male counterparts. The shifts in their religiosity were often conveyed in various displays of religiosity.


"You Have to Earn it": Barriers to Emergency Health Care in Thunder Bay for People with Chronic Illnesses

Elyse Cottrell-Martin (2017-2019)
Supervisors: Dr. Kristin Burnett and Dr. Geoff Hudson

The study is rooted in a historical and intersectional framework (Nash, 2008) that acknowledges the ways in which identity categories can impact a person’s health care experiences. The research is grounded in consideration of the context of the history of disability for present day barriers, as well as the history of systemic racism towards Indigenous people in Canada and in particular Thunder Bay (Hay, 2017, Talaga, 2017). Using quantitative (N=104) and qualitative (N=10) methods to build upon previous studies examining barriers faced by marginalized people when accessing health care, I will identify gaps in services by revealing the numerous assumptions built into our “universal” health care system, the history in which these assumptions are built, and the ways in which they increase marginalization for people already disadvantaged by the system. Identifying barriers may assist healthcare providers and community groups in improving access to care for marginalized groups.

Understanding the barriers that people with chronic illness face when accessing health care is essential to improving services. Studies (Chapman, Kaatz & Carnes, 2013; Gomez et al, 2012; Kurtz et al., 2008) have revealed that different identities (race, class, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, etc.) increase these barriers as they can impact both the medical and social treatment a patient receives. I will demonstrate how consideration of the historical context for these barriers and experiences is essential to improving health care.

Navigating and Negotiating Racial Identity in Thunder Bay

Kristen Kowlessar (2017-2019)
Supervisors: Dr. Barbara Parker and Dr. Kristin Burnett

Thunder Bay, northwestern Ontario is a regional city that is home to a predominantly white population. Thunder Bay’s population is 90% white and has a growing Indigenous population which now constitutes 8% of the total population (Macdonald, 2017); thus, the remaining 2% is comprised of all the racialized peoples, defined here as those who do not self-identify as white or Indigenous. This study aims to understand how place shapes the lived experiences of racialized peoples in Thunder Bay. 

This project takes a social constructivist approach, wherein eight participants took part in face-to-face in-depth semi-structured interviews to discuss their experiences in Thunder Bay. Through a hermeneutical phenomenological approach to analysis, their stories revealed themes of overt aggressions, microaggressions, and lateral violence. These themes initiate discussion of what “Thunder Bay” means, racism in Thunder Bay, and racialized people’s feelings of safety in Thunder Bay.

 Showing Artful Inquiry: Investigating the Mental Wellbeing of St. James Town Area Youth Through Community Participation in Painting Activities

Mehdia Hassan (2017-19)
Supervisor: Dr. Pauline Sameshima

Community participation in visual arts promotes the social inclusion of youth facing systemic social and health inequities (Robson & Ashbourne, 2016). This research project uses a social justice lens to examine the effectiveness of visual-arts based community activities, such as painting, and its impact on the mental wellbeing of five marginalized youth living in the underserved St. James Town area of downtown Toronto. Visual artistic inquiry and the Catechization Process from the interdisciplinary Parallaxic Praxis (Sameshima et al, in press) Research Model is used to explore feelings of belonging and self-esteem, which are two important indicators of youth mental wellbeing. Thematic analysis is also used to investigate the impact of painting activities on youth mental wellbeing. 

Participants of the project were five youth from the St. James Town and Regent Park communities, who were 17 years old and 18 years old. As part of data analysis, the researcher also created an original canvas painting that creatively interprets and synthesizes ideas, in response to the five participant paintings. Results generally indicate that the community art-making sessions fostered positive social change through increased feelings of belonging, self-esteem, critical self-reflection and social capital in the five marginalized youth participants. 

“It’s kind of a big grey area”: Undergraduates Understandings of Consent at Lakehead University”

Kasey Eagen (2018-20)
Supervisors: Dr. Jennifer Chisholm and Dr. Lori Chambers

Accounting for Gender: An Analysis of Indian Affairs Gendered Policies and Paternal Relationship with Attawapiskat First Nation

Kaye Leatherdale (2018-20)
Supervisors: Dr. Travis Hay and Dr. Kristin Burnett

The Wounded Healers: Building, Individuals, Families, and Communities from the Inside

Romani Makkik (2017-20)
Supervisors: Dr. Kristin Burnett and Dr. Rob Robson

Home and the Hinterland: Reflections of a Nigerian Intellectual in Anishinaabe Territory

Igbinijsu Nehikare (2020-21)
Supervisors: Dr. Travis Hay, Dr. Kristin Burnett, Dr. Jessica Jurgutis

We are Links in a Daisy Chain: The Important Role of Relationships in the Cultural Identity of Métis Women

Celine Wick (2019-21)
Supervisors: Dr. Lana Ray and Dr. Anita Vaillancourt

Creative Projects

Dear L: Narrative Inquiry of a Queer Woman's Survivor Experience

Stephanie Simko (2016-2018)
Supervisor: Dr. Pauline Sameshima

Embracing My Body: A Journey

Valeria Panina (2016-18)
Supervisor: Dr. Connie Russell

Equity in Birthing Experiences and Outcomes

Barbara Benwell (2017-2019)
Supervisor: Dr. Pauline Sameshima

In the first phase of the Equity in Birth Experiences and OutcomesResearch Project, “Facilitators and Barriers to Positive Birthing Experiences and Outcomes for Mothers in Thunder Bay,” mothers from Northern Ontario with diverse backgrounds were interviewed to discuss their birth stories. Birth is something that is not widely discussed, analyzed, or made public, aside from the very narrow lens offered in popular media. This lens and systemic structures perpetuate birth stereotypes and reinforce the notion that birth needs to be highly medicalized, private, and unseen. Birth Stories #1 is an examination of these ideas through the interviews. 

The wearable art work consists of paper, fabric, glass vials, cloches, lights and antiques copper piping. The cloches are used to transform the body from person to specimen as pregnant and birthing women become. The lights around the head and in the ‘belly’ are used to show the connection between mother and child. The copper piping is a representation of the sound birth makes: loud and beautiful. Inside each pipe is rolled paper, symbolic of each of the stories the women shared. The glass vials are dangling delicately, filled with ‘blood.’ The fake blood draws attention to the presence of blood and the realities of birthing, aspects society has kept hidden. 

I make this art piece to challenge systemic norms and to draw attention to the limited options women are given when they prepare to birth. This is an attempt to make the private public and create dialogue around what needs to change.

Anonymous Stories of ‘Sousveillance’ from the Thunder Bay Moccasin Telegram

Ivory Tuesday (2017-19)
Supervisors: Dr. Lana Ray, Dr. Lori Chambers, Dr. Jennifer Chisholm


Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School
Cheryl Suggashie (2016-2018)

Beginning in the fall of 2017, Cheryl worked with students in Tara Vesa’s Clothing Class to design and make their own Jingle Dresses. The Jingle Dress is the Healing Dress. Each student learned new skills and techniques on the sewing machine and how to use different patterns and materials. During the winter semester students learned Jingle Dress teachings/protocols, how to dance the Jingle Style, and basic footwork. A powwow was held at DFC to feast the dresses and
welcome the new Jingle Dancers.

April Head (2017-2019) completed a number of personal and community projects in order to fulfill the Practicum requirements.  

John Howard Society 
Gabrielle Smith (2018-19)

Gabby completed a condensed, one-semester Practicum (Fall 2019) with the John Howard Society in Thunder Bay, supporting the executive director and core operations of the organization.  

Faye Peterson House
Jennifer Blenkarn, Eh Lay Paw, Sarah Somerville, and Megan Smith (2018-20). 

In 2019-20, these four students completed practicums at Faye Peterson House, a transitional and housing support program in Thunder Bay. They worked in two teams, one team primarily conducting interviews with staff and clients on a harm reduction project, the other team working on educational and informational documents.  

Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic
Mayisha Shehrin Choudhury (2018-16)

Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic in Thunder Bay hosted Mayisha in 2019-20. The Clinic provides many services and is active in the community. Students working with Kinna-aweya attend Anti-Racism Committee Meetings, Tenant-Landlord Court, support public education efforts, and are engaged in work within the office setting.  

Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health (CERAH) 
Kristy Routhier (2018-20)

CERAH hosted Kristy in 2019-20; she worked on a timeline of mental health research in Canada, reviewed relevant materials, supported a local conference, and generally supported the social justice work of the centre.  

The Unique Get Together Society (UGTS)
Jennifer Chapman and Joseph Duncan (2019-21)

UGTS hosted Jennifer and Joe in 2020-21. The students developed a "Hike for Healing" in Thunder Bay to run parallel to the UGTS "Walk for Trauma." 

Northwest Ontario Women's Centre (NWOWC)
Nusrat Haider Khan (2019-21) 

NWOWC hosted Nusrat, who focused on the Gender Based Violence Project that was ongoing in the fall of 2020.  Nusrat also supported the Community Food Box and did independent learning modules through OCASI.  

Immigrant and Refugee Law Clinic
Nusrat Haider Khan (2019-21) 

Nusrat Haider Kahn spent one semester (Winter 2021) supporting the Immigrant and Refugee Law Clinic's pre-opening development.  She researched similar clinics and provided means for future clients to complete complex paperwork.  

Office of Human Rights and Equity (OHRE)
Hameed Alsumadi (2019-21)

OHRE hosted Hameed in 2020-21; he supported and conducted focus groups meetings as part of OHRE's process for developing a stronger Human Rights Policy on campus. 

Rochelle Lamarche (2019-21)

Choco4Peace asked Rochelle to help their emerging organization become B-Corp Certified and to develop a Gender Equity Policy for them.  She completed the work in 2020-21. 

iSAW: International Smart Advancing Woman 
Megan Looney (2019-21)

Megan supported the development of iSAW's LIFT Platform by making academic and specialized knowledge about gender equity issues accessible to lay readers via the LIFT Platform and App.  

Thunder Bay Multicultural Association (TBMA)
Liz Ward (2019-21) 

In 2020-21, TBMA asked Liz to develop some professional training for staff and volunteers to support TBMA's efforts in working with LGBTQIA refugees and immigrant.  Liz produced other educational materials for the organization as well.