Dr. Sarah Wakefield is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto, as well as the Director of the undergraduate Health Studies Program in University College. Sarah was trained as a health geographer, and still teach in that area. However, Sarah's real academic passion is activism: understanding how individuals and organizations work together to create just, healthy, and sustainable communities; what motivates activist work, what sustains it, and how it can be most effective. Not surprisingly, this leads into all kinds of interesting questions about engagement, inclusion, and governance. Sarah's current research explores activism in relation to two topics – food systems and neighbourhood-level community development. Most of her current research involves partnerships with grassroots groups, community organizations and policy actors, in order to maximize the relevance and utility of her work as a tool for social and political change. Sarah is an almost-lifelong resident of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; she grew up there, and completed her Masters and PhD degrees at McMaster University after an undergraduate degree at Carleton University in Ottawa. She met her wonderful spouse in Hamilton, and she now commutes from a home there to her job in Toronto. Much of her research work and community engagement is focussed on and in Hamilton.
Carla Borstad Klassen, Research Officer
Carla was born and raised in Hamilton, and earned an undergraduate degree in Jazz Performance and an M.Sc. in Social and Economic Planning and Policy with a Community Development specialization, both from the University of Toronto. Carla first connected to community planning teams in Keith, Crown Point, and McQuesten in 2009 as a student as part of a community food security research project with Sarah Wakefield. The community development model in these neighbourhoods was the focus of Carla's graduate thesis. They worked as a Research Assistant and Social Planner at the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton from 2010 to 2016, where their work focused primarily on evaluation of programs related to employment and training, newcomers, parents with young children, women living on low incomes, among others. They have attended planning team meetings in Crown Point, Davis Creek, Keith, McQuesten, Riverdale, and Sherman. Carla lives in Hamilton with their partner and kid.
Nishan Zewge-Abubaker, Research Assistant
Nishan Zewge-Abubaker is a Master of Public Health Student at the University of Toronto, and previously graduated with a Bachelor of Sciences from McMaster University. She has engaged in a range of community-based research and evaluation work with the McMaster Centre for Continuing Education, the Hamilton Burlington Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals, and is currently working in the Performance Measurement and Evaluation Research Team at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health! Nishan is passionate about supporting supportive communities and building capacity to address social inequalities. She also loves using bike shares (like SoBi), ramen, and Myers Briggs personality tests. Nishan currently attends the Jamesville and GALA Hub meetings, so feel free to say hi when you see her there!
Shruti Ramesh, Research Assistant
Shruti is a recent graduate from McMaster's Arts & Science program. Starting September 2017, Shruti will be pursuing a law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School. Shruti's research background includes work with the CIHR chair in Gender, Work, and Health, in addition to substantial coursework in community-based research, working particularly with the Keith and Crown Point neighbourhoods. Through NAE, Shruti has been attending meetings of the Keith, Stinson, Davis Creek, Rolston, and Riverdale planning teams.
Robyn Ocean, Former Research Assistant
Robyn Ocean worked as a Research Assistant on the Neighbourhood Action Evaluation from the summer of 2016 to the summer of 2017. She attended planning team meetings in Beasley, Crown Point, McQuesten, Riverdale, Sherman and Stinson. She is interested in community spaces as a facilitator of civic engagement and participatory democracy. She is honoured to have been part of this research project and appreciates the hard work and dedication of community members.
Kayonne Christy, Research Assistant
Raised in Brampton, Ontario, Kayonne moved to Hamilton in 2012 to pursue her Bachelors of Science degree at McMaster University, and now considers the city her second home. She recently graduated from McMaster's Life Sciences program, with a double minor in Psychology and Health, Aging & Society. Kayonne's academic background in the natural sciences, combined with her experience in anti-oppressive community organizing and community engagement, fostered her interest in community-based health equity research. Kayonne joined the Neighbourhood Action Evaluation in the spring of 2017, and will be attending planning team meetings in the GALA, McQuesten, Rolston, Crown Point, Davis Creek, Sherman, and Jamesville neighbourhoods.
Dr. Melanie Pothier, Research Assistant
Born and raised in east Hamilton, Melanie has been working with the NAE team since 2013. She has attended meetings in Riverdale, Beasley, Crown Point, Sherman and Stinson, and has also led focus groups and conducted interviews with residents across all the of NAS communities. Melanie's PhD thesis, completed in 2016, focused on how NAS participants addressed issues of inclusion, equity and diversity. She has shared our team's findings at conferences in Toronto and Vancouver, and is currently working on publications about how race, class and gentrification play out in the initiative. Outside of her work with our team, Melanie is usually hosting dinners, teaching, or reading graphic novels.
Madeline Cahuas, Former Research Assistant
Madelaine Cristina Cahuas is a Ph.D. Candidate in human geography at the University of Toronto exploring questions of citizenship, race, urban space and migrant women’s political participation. From 2012 to 2014 she was part of Dr. Sarah Wakefield’s research team evaluating the City of Hamilton’s Neighbourhood Action Strategy. As a Hamilton resident at the time, Madelaine attended meetings across different NAS communities, conducted interviews with Community Developers and learned about the incredible initiatives residents were leading to improve neighbourhood health. Madelaine was born and raised in Toronto in an immigrant family and is passionate about promoting the wellbeing of marginalized women and youth through research, education and community activism. She received her Honour’s Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto in 2009 and her Master of Arts at McMaster University in 2011. Currently, Madelaine is completing her dissertation on Latinx urban politics in Toronto and was awarded a Social Science and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship for her research.