Fellowship Program - Samuel Centre For Social Connectedness — Samuel Centre For Social Connectedness
Fellowship Program

Summer 2021

The Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness is thrilled to announce the 2021 cohort of the Social Connectedness Fellowship.

SCSC is delighted to have 12 Fellows for this year’s cohort, in addition to a Visiting Research Fellow, to round out our exceptional group of passionate graduates and scholars from around the world.

A full list of our 2021 Social Connectedness Fellows and their partner organizations and projects are listed below.

Visiting Research Scholar

Samuel McQuillen (he/him/il) – Multidimensional Poverty in Appalachia

Samuel McQuillen earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and International Affairs from Lafayette College and is working to complete a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the University of Oxford. He was born and raised in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Through his past research and lived experiences, he has developed a passion for studying rural poverty, deindustrialization, and community-centric approaches to development. Outside of academia, he is an avid cook, juggler, and runner. He hopes to contribute to a new paradigm of studying, empowering, and mobilizing local community networks in order to improve human-wellbeing.

Co-Partner: Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) is an economic research and policy centre within the Oxford Department of International Development at the University of Oxford. OPHI aims to build and advance a more systematic methodological and economic framework for reducing multidimensional poverty, grounded in people’s experiences and values.

Co-Partner: Appalshop started as a community film workshop in the Appalachian region. Their mission is to use the power of education, media, theatre, music and other arts to document and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of Appalachia among other priorities.

2021 Social Connectedness Fellows

Olaoluwa Abagun | Impact of Youth-Led Initiatives on Community


Olaoluwa Abagun holds a Bachelor of Laws degree and a Masters in Gender and Development (with distinction) from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex under the prestigious Commonwealth Shared Scholarship. She was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria where she cultivated a strong passion for girls’ rights, gender equality, and youth-led advocacy/community mobilizing. She is the Founder of Girl Pride Circle Initiative – a registered girls’ rights advocacy NGO in Nigeria. Olaoluwa hopes to undertake participatory research that drives informed programming and policy-making for/with girls and young people. In Autumn 2021, she will begin doctoral research on teenage girls’ voices and social media at the Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland.

Partner: Peace First

Topic: Ola will be working alongside Peace First on the impact youth-led initiatives have on community.

Tammy Bui | Accessible Transportation for Older People


Tammy is an MSc. Public Health graduate at McGill. She grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. Tammy completed her bachelors degree at the University of Ottawa in Biomedical Sciences which ignited her passion for work in aging and health inequalities. Her current Master’s research focuses on reducing the inequalities faced by older adults at a population level and she hopes to make a difference through policy action and community-level change. Tammy is interested in the intersection between aging, health services, and health policy. She aspires to be at the forefront of gerontological health research by pursuing a PhD in this field.

Partner: HelpAge Canada

Topic: Tammy and HelpAge Canada will conduct a global sweep to identify innovative solutions in older people’s mobility within both urban and rural communities around the world, with a focus on countries with robust age-friendly initiatives such as the UK and Australia.

Chester Finn | Supported Decision Making for People with Intellectual Disabilities


Chester Finn has been a strong advocate for people with developmental disabilities for more than 20 years. He currently works as a Special Assistant to the Commissioner at the Office of Persons With Developmental Disabilities for the New York State. Chester grew up in western New York, attending school in Lockport and earning his associate degree from Gennessee Community College in Batavia. He is passionate about upholding the rights of people with disabilities everywhere. His goals are to leave things in a better place and be able to teach and mentor young people to be advocates for themselves and others.

Partner: HPOD

Topic: Chester will be working with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability and Massachusetts Self-Advocates Standing Strong’s (MASS) Supported Decision-Making (SDM) Task Force to understand self-advocates’ priorities for future State legislation on SDM.

Alice Finta | Community-Led Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic


Alice grew up in Kent, England and now lives in London. She studied Spanish and Portuguese for her undergraduate degree at University College London and is currently finishing an MSc in Inequalities and Social Science at the London School of Economics. She is passionate about the intersecting inequalities that migrant and refugee communities face and the importance of intersectionality in social movement building. In the future she hopes to work in a civil society organization that supports vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Partner: SeeChange Initiative

Topic: Alice and SeeChange will work to engage community-driven health responses to COVID-19 in Latin America. The project will seek to support community leaders with tools, resources and a network of support to strengthen their community’s capacity to prevent the spread of COVID-19, recover from the social and economic fallouts from the pandemic and increase their resiliency to future health crises.

Rossen Lee | Public Spaces to Enhance Food Security and Connectedness


Rossen Lee is a recent graduate from Ryerson University with a BASc. in Nutrition and Food as well as a certificate in Food Security Studies. Having spent her childhood as a settler in Hamilton, Ontario, Rossen is passionate about building communities, supporting marginalized populations, and researching urban food security. With her career, she hopes to build a more sustainable, affordable, and socially just Toronto for all. Guided by love and friendship, Rossen believes that human compassion and social resiliency can overcome anything.

Partner: The Stop Community Food Centre

Topic: Rossen Lee and The Stop Community Food Centre will look at the challenges to meeting goals around increasing social connection using The Stop’s growing spaces both during, and emerging from, the COVID-19 pandemic. The research will highlight the intersection of food security, social connectedness and equity.

Maude Jodoin Leveilee | Impact of Intergenerational Programs on Grandmothers


Born and raised in Montreal, Maude graduated from a Bachelor and a Master degrees in International Studies at University of Montreal. She then completed a diploma in Management of International Development and Humanitarian aid at University Laval. Maude is now doing her PhD in sociology that focuses on activism and feminism in Togo. Since the start of her academic career, Maude has been very interested in West African societies, International Development as well as Gender and Intergenerational Relationships. After completing her PhD, Maude wants to pursue a career in research in the academic and community sectors in a way that is useful for communities and policy makers.

Partner: The Grandmother Project

Topic: Maude and the Grandmother Project will investigate the role and influence of elders, particularly grandmothers, as agents of change, documenting the impact of intergenerational programs in Senegal.

Tafadzwa Simphorosa Mhazo | Parental Involvement in Early Childhood Development


Tafadzwa holds a Master of Social Science in Development Studies, an Honours degree in Development Studies and a Bachelor of Social Science in Industry Sociology and Labour Studies from the University of Pretoria. She was born in Zimbabwe where she spent her early childhood, Tafadzwa subsequently relocated to South Africa in her teenage years to pursue her tertiary education. Tafadzwa is passionate about research and the development of children and youth. She aspires to pursue a PHD in Sociology, become a research professional and combat hindrances around youth and child development.

Partner: Motheo Training Institute Trust

Topic: Tafadzwa and Motheo Training Institute Trust will work together to conduct research into the resources and supports that can help parents be more actively involved and engaged in early childhood development, with particularly emphasis on low-resource communities across South Africa.

Tuviere Onookome-Okome | Air Pollution and Heat Islands


Tuviere is a second-year graduate student at McGill University’s department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health and holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Environment and more specifically in the Ecological Determinants of Health. She was born in Calabar, Nigeria and spent the other half of her childhood in Edmonton, Alberta. She is passionate about the intersection of environment and human health especially as it pertains to the Black community specifically how social and political institutions contribute to increased exposure to dangerous environment agents and the negative effect on overall health in this community. Tuviere aspires to work at the intersection of research and policy as we transition to a more equitable and just society.

Partner: Data Driven EnviroLab

Topic: Tuviere and Data Driven Lab will explore urban sustainability at the intersection of social inclusion and climate action.

Devika Parsaud | Best Practices in Community Violence Prevention and Safety


Devika graduated from York University’s School of Health Policy and Management with a Masters in Health specializing in Health Policy and Equity, and holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Health Studies from the University of Toronto. She grew up in Toronto and is passionate about the social determinants of health and public policy. She has goals of exploring social injustices and being a part of interventions and change for a more equitable healthy society.

Partner: City of Toronto

Topic: Devika will be working alongside The City of Toronto to conduct research, and engage grassroots groups, residents and local agencies to create a set of community-based and policy recommendations that will help address community trauma and reduce community violence in Toronto.

Simone Renault | Peer Support Groups as a Mental Health Intervention


The lone child living in the international dormitory at Eden Theological Seminary in Missouri, Simone was raised by her aunties and uncles from all over the world. She is now a psychiatrist- and global mental health practitioner-in-training who seeks to reignite whole person healing through togetherness in pursuit of the Beloved Community. Currently, she is an MD/MSc student on full scholarship at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine/King’s College London and The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She graduated from The University of Iowa in 2014 with honors in Neurobiology and International Studies and a minor in Philosophy.

Partner: Friendship Bench

Topic: Simone and Friendship Bench will work together to conduct a qualitative research project on Circle Kubana Tose (CKT)s which are peer led groups that provide the Friendship Bench clients with ongoing support.

Ellen Spannagel | Impact of Climate Change on People with Disabilities and Older People


Ellen is a second year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law and holds a Bachelor of Journalism and Humanities from Carleton University. She is passionate about climate justice that is disability-inclusive and centers gender, sexual, and romantic minorities and how this interacts with legal frameworks. She is also passionate about storytelling and the ways in which knowledge is built, translated, and shared across regions and communities. Ellen grew up in Calgary, Alberta, and enjoys spending her free time outdoors.

Partner: Human Rights Watch

Topic: Ellen and Human Rights Watch will work together to advance research and advocacy on climate change and people with disabilities, and older people. The research conducted will support HRW’s first report on climate change and its connectedness with vulnerable populations, with emphasis on people with disabilities, and older people.

Adrianna Vanos | Health Programming for Special Olympic Athletes and Families


Adrianna Vanos grew up in Guelph, Ontario before moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia to attend the University of King’s College and Dalhousie as an undergraduate student. As a Loran Scholar and combined honours student, she studied social anthropology and contemporary studies. She loves to learn and is passionate about accessible education, writing, and youth theatre. Adrianna has a goal to attend a Master of Human Rights programme and apply her education to the NGO sector. Moreover, one day she hopes to start a not-for-profit youth- based theatre company to promote financial accessibility in the arts.

Partner: Special Olympics International

Topic: Adrianna and Special Olympics International (SOI) will undertake research to help Special Olympics understand how athletes with an intellectual disability and their families (partners, siblings, other family members) have been able to maintain their health and wellbeing together during COVID-19 when in-person programming was paused.