This profile was part of the Faculty of Public Affairs’ Generation FPA series, which highlighted up and coming alumni who graduated between 2008-2018. The series was published in 2018.
Kate Grisdale is a Project Coordinator at Refugee 613, a coalition of citizens and groups that work together to integrate refugees in Ottawa.
What interested you in EURUS?
I was attracted to the flexibly structured two-year program and the program’s emphasis on the importance of learning languages as a lived commitment to better understanding the area in which you’re developing expertise. I felt EURUS would be the best place to grow as a thinker and researcher.
How did you get your job at Refugee 613?
After finishing my degree, I knew I wanted to learn more about newcomer integration in the Canadian context. But as a new graduate without work experience in the non-profit sector, I was also keenly aware of how much I didn’t know, so I applied to volunteer at the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO); a local settlement agency. As a volunteer, I gained that irreplaceable first time experience within the non-profit sector; which greatly informed and enriched my understanding of what actually constitutes newcomer integration. Later that year, a position opened up with Refugee 613 and I applied with knowledge of the sector and an interdisciplinary MA that gave me the tools to do the work.
What does your job entail?
At Refugee 613, we work to inform, connect and inspire Ottawa to create a welcoming community for refugees and to provide our new neighbours with the building blocks of successful integration. While we do not provide frontline services, we support those who do and build on our partners’ resources to maximize our efforts.
As a project coordinator leading our stakeholder relations, no day is the same. I need to be knowledgeable about the many facets of newcomer integration and how they are impacted by our ever-changing local and political context. Right now, we’re paying close attention to Ontario’s emergency shelter and affordable housing crisis, which the Ford provincial government has blamed on the recent increase in refugee claimant arrivals, but has been an issue for decades.
I’ve also overseen special projects including Community, which shared stories of how the people of Ottawa came together to support Syrian refugees in 2016. The goal of the project is to affirm what has been done, while also reminding us that we can always do more to be a welcoming city.
How do you use your degree on the job?
Most often, I draw on my training and skills gained from EURUS’ interdisciplinary program. Knowing the value of exploring topics from a variety of perspectives and frames of analysis lets me contribute more nuanced understandings of today’s issues to our team.
Any advice for current students?
My advice to students is to see your degree as an important cornerstone of your career or academic passion, but remember it is not the only source of knowledge. In fact, your studies and career prospects will be greatly enriched the more you get involved in local efforts and community organizations working to impact positive change in the areas you’re passionate about.
Be engaged in the world around you. Volunteer. Be kind. We are living in historic, difficult times with xenophobia all too present at home and abroad. Social justice issues are everyone’s issues. No matter what field you study and hope to work in, get curious and informed about how to stand #WithRefugees. You can help make our world a better place.
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Mobilizing Emotion, Not Knowledge
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As Canada prepares for a federal election, Canada Research Chair Professor Merlyna Lim is analyzing how social media users—human and otherwise—are mobilizing emotions rather than facts. In the months leading up to the Canadian election,... More