Social Connectedness Fellowship Program – Summer 2019


The Social Connectedness Fellowship Program empowers students and recent graduates to carry out innovative research that will inspire local and global action to build community and belonging.

Fellows will have the opportunity to work with a partner organization in the social connectedness movement and conduct research, writing, analysis, and outreach in thematic areas related to social isolation and connectedness.

Fellows will gain knowledge and develop research specific to their partner’s objectives/mandates, as well as connect with other partners to consult and benefit from their expertise. Thus, the fellowship program enables Fellows to expand their professional networks and gain hands-on experience in research and programming, all while equipping them with new skills and a framework to tackle issues of the 21st century.

2019 Fellowship Cohort

Shaista Asmi

Partner: Human Rights Watch

Topic: Examining the incarceration of Indigenous youth and pathways to restorative justice.

Shaista is Bangladeshi but was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and educated in an international school. She is currently finishing her degree at McGill University in Cognitive Neuroscience and International Development. Whether it be through voicing marginalized experiences or fighting for legislative change in court, Shaista is committed to understanding and tackling inequality and injustice.

Quinn Barrie-Watts

Partner: Special Olympics International

Topic: The barriers to the development of Special Olympics International’s (SOI) Motor Activity Training Program (MATP) around the world, with a special focus on Asia.

Quinn is graduating from McGill University with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and a minor in East Asian Language and Literature. She was adopted from Taizhou, Jiangsu, China at the age of 14 months old and has grown up in Montreal, Quebec. She is passionate about human rights and the politics of international law, and hopes to build a career in which she will affect people’s lives for the better.

Danielle Cherpako

Partner: Misipawistik Cree Nation

Topic:  Importance of connection to the land for the health and wellbeing of communities, youth and the land itself.

Born and raised north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Danielle Cherpako is graduating this spring from the University of Manitoba with a B.A. in Political Studies and Canadian Studies. She will be returning to the University of Manitoba this fall to continue her studies. Danielle is particularly interested in exploring the connections between grievance- based, (collective) identity, political violence, and social isolation.

Alexis Gardner

Partner: TakingITGlobal

Topic: How youth-serving organizations can adapt their outreach strategies to better support the empowerment of youth from underrepresented demographics.

Alexis is finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Studies of Women and Gender from Vancouver Island University. She grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia and has a strong passion for helping people, specifically children and youth. Alexis hopes to pursue a Masters of counselling with a specialization in couple and family therapy and to one day own and run a wellness centre that offers multiple services for low-income families.

Mallory Lowes

Partner: The Stop Community Food Centre

Topic: The intersection of multidimensional poverty and social isolation among older adults with respect to food security.

Mallory Lowes grew up in Grand Coulee, Saskatchewan prior to attending Vancouver Island University to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She has a passion for local community engagement and raising awareness of social issues pertaining to mental health, poverty and homelessness. She aspires to obtain a Master in Community Development to continue on the journey of conducting community-based research and addressing social needs.

Priya Nair

Partner: SCSC and Médecins sans Frontières Urban Spaces

Topic: Understanding the mental heath challenges faced by newly-arrived asylum seekers and resettled refugees.

As an Indian who grew up in Japan and then returned to her home country as a foreigner, Priya grew up oscillating between different worlds. Passionate about bringing these worlds and the people in them closer together, Priya aspires to build community and bridge social inequity. She graduated from McGill University with a joint honors in History and Middle East Studies and developed an interest in narratives, conflicts, and representation through media and education. In the future, Priya hopes to work towards conflict prevention and resolution through an interdisciplinary approach.

As part of her research, Priya is conducting an oral history series titled “What We Leave Behind.” Comprising of the personal narratives of those who were forced to flee their countries, “What We Leave Behind” seeks to paint a picture of the lives that people had built before they were forced to flee their countries. These stories aim to highlight the common threads between us, emphasizing how each of us share a connection to people, places, and memories, regardless of where we may be from or where we may be going. To watch the videos, visit our YouTube channel.

Noah Powers

Partner: Our Place

Topic: Importance of queer spaces in Canada and globally, and the impacts of its decline.

Noah grew up in Toronto and moved to Montreal to attend McGill University, where he is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Urban Systems Geography. He is passionate about the intersection of urban planning and sustainability, and aspires to work in a sustainable planning/architectural consultancy firm or think-tank. Noah will be attending the London School of Economics in the Fall of 2019 for their MSc in City Design and Social Science.

As part of his outreach, Noah Powers is producing a podcast titled ‘Queer Here, Queer There’ with the goal of making his research more accessible to the wider community.

Yolanda Sankobe

Partner: Synergos Institute South Africa

Topic: Diminishing the impact of poverty on mental health in children through art expression.

Yolanda Sankobe was born in the arts capital of South Africa, Grahamstown but grew up in multiple cities. She graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2017 with a BTech degree in Drama, majoring in Scriptwriting and Directing. She is passionate about purposeful art, particularly ‘protest’/political art that exposes and eradicates socio-economic inequities. She hopes to pursue further studies in the social sciences to help her audio-visual (theatre and film) work reach a wider audience.

Claire Suh

Partner: Data-Driven Yale

Topic: Leveraging data from the Urban Environment and Social Inclusion Index to identify successful environmental policies for cities in North America.

Claire grew up in New Providence, New Jersey in the U.S. and moved to Montreal, where is currently completing an honors degree in Linguistics with a minor concentration in Psychology at McGill University. Her academic career has informed her passion for cognitive science research (e.g. linguistics, psychology, computer science, philosophy, and neuroscience). Furthermore, she is interested in how to best design city infrastructure in order to maximize social inclusion and equity as a result of spending a semester abroad in Europe and a summer in Singapore.

Lavanya Virmani

Partner: Partners in Health

Topic: How material support can enhance physical, mental and social well-being.

Lavanya grew up in India and moved to Montreal to pursue an undergraduate degree at McGill University, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Behavioural Science and Sociology. Her passion for reducing health inequalities grew after working in India and Malawi on health and education initiatives. She hopes to pursue a Master’s in Public Health to achieve this aim.

Read the Latest Blog Posts By Fellows:

Chennai Water Crisis: The Beginning of “Climate Apartheid” or an Era of Social Connectedness? (8/28/2019) - By Priya Nair, Social Connectedness Fellow
Chennai is facing one of the worst water crises of its time. How can local residents, organizations and governments come together to secure an equitable and sustainable future?
“Moise Tellier’s Apple and Cake Shop”: The Evolution of Queer Spaces in Montreal (8/15/2019) - By Noah Powers, Social Connectedness Fellow
From North America’s first queer space to a World Pride 2023 Candidate city, Montreal has a long and deep-rooted history with queer visibility and activism, catalyzed by queer community spaces.
Charlottesville, August 11-12: Healing and Moving Forward Through Remembering, Not Ignoring, a Past of Slavery and Racism (8/12/2019) - By Amy Luce, Social Connectedness Fellow
In remembrance of the Charlottesville riots 2 years ago, Amy reflects on why it's important to acknowledge each of our own community's history and actively work to right the wrongs.
Queer Here, Queer There: The Podcast Making ‘Invisible History, Visible’ (8/8/2019) - As part of his SCSC fellowship this summer, Noah Powers chose to produce a podcast titled ‘Queer Here, Queer There’ with the goal of making his research more accessible to the wider community.
Oral History Series: “What We Leave Behind” (8/6/2019) - This summer, SC Fellow Priya Nair is conducting an oral history series titled “What We Leave Behind”, which seeks to paint a picture of the lives that people had built before they were forced to flee their countries
Special Olympics’ Journey to Greater Inclusion (Easy-to-read) (8/5/2019) - By Quinn Barrie-Watts, Social Connectedness Fellow
Read the easy-to-read-format of SC Fellow Quinn's article, which dives deeper into the impact of Special Olympics' programs.
Special Olympics’ Journey to Greater Inclusion (8/5/2019) - By Quinn Barrie-Watts, Social Connectedness Fellow
Special Olympics has been serving people with intellectual disabilities since 1968. Quinn dives deeper into the impact of their programs and how greater inclusion can be fostered for people with profound/multiple disabilities.
Home is Where the Heart is: Highlighting HomeShare (7/31/2019) - By Mallory Lowes, Social Connectedness Fellow
How can intergenerational living promote social connectedness? Learn more through the example of HomeShare.
Beating the Heat: Save Lives by Being a Good Neighbour (7/25/2019) - By Claire Suh, Social Connectedness Fellow
As heat waves continue throughout the summer, we must consider our responsibility to help one another, especially those are who most vulnerable to the urban heat island effect.
The Narrative of an Unemployed Graduate in South Africa (7/19/2019) - By Yolanda Sankobe, Social Connectedness Fellow
One month ago, South Africa celebrated Youth Day. Yet unemployment is still a stark reality for its youth. Yolanda explores the isolation associated with unemployment and what can be done to address this chronic challenge.