Unique Experiential Learning Opportunity Gives Undergrads Opportunity to Document Women in Canadian Politics

June 2, 2017

Dr. Betsy McGregor enlists help of Political Studies students for development of new book

When eight Trent University students from Political Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and International Development departments answered two-time federal candidate for Canada's Parliament Dr. Betsy McGregor’s call to action, they did not anticipate the unique experiential learning opportunity they were about to experience.

With the support of Dr. Nadine Changfoot, associate professor and chair of the Political Studies department, the group of student volunteers received hands-on undergraduate research experience working alongside Dr. McGregor as she developed her new book, Dreams, Detours, Ditches & New Directions: Women in Politics in Canada.

The book is an anthology of powerful personal stories of women at all levels of politics including First Nations and all Parties. Among the over 50 women interviewed to date are Green Party Leader Elizabeth May; Minister for the Status of Women and Trent University alumna Maryam Monsef ’03; Curve Lake First Nation Chief Phyllis Williams, Former Deputy Prime Minister Ann McLellan, NDP former Leader Alexa McDonough and Canada’s first trans-community candidate for a Party, Morgane Oger of the BC NDP Party.

Also included are women who ‘vanished’ at the nomination hurdle – never to be seen again. The women’s stories document the trials and triumphs women experience from the moment they decide to ‘take the on ramp’ into public life.

The students assisted with interviews, transcriptions, coding and analysis. Phase I of the project concluded with a trip to Harvard Kennedy School where they presented their findings and participated in a round table discussion with Harvard’s Women and Public Policy Program.

“Moving into my second-year at Trent I was looking to get more involved in the community. I found out about this team through the political studies department and was delighted with the opportunity to immerse myself into a project that tackles my two strongest interests – feminism and politics,” explained Shelby Hayes. “When I responded to a general call for volunteers I had absolutely no inkling that our work would lead to our team’s presentation and round table discussion at the Harvard Kennedy School. Working on this team has not only offered me that unimaginable opportunity, but it has also exposed me to the great diversity of stories of female politicians within our nation.”