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First No. 1

Public transit and immigration topic wins HSS Three Minute Thesis


By Chad Pelley

In 2019 Tolulope Victoria Akerele’s husband won Memorial’s Three Minute Thesis competition.

Inspired, she tried to win it, too. She is well on her way.

Mrs. Akerele in a bright orange shirt, leaning on a metal rail with many windows in background
Geography PhD candidate Tolulope Victoria Akerele was the inaugural winner of HSS’s Three Minute Thesis competition for her pitch, titled Building Inclusive Cities and Mobility Systems for Immigrants in Atlantic Canada.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

As part of Research Week 2022 at Memorial, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) launched its first Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT).

Mrs. Akerele, a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography, was the inaugural winner for her pitch, titled Building Inclusive Cities and Mobility Systems for Immigrants in Atlantic Canada.

The internationally recognized competition happens annually in universities worldwide and challenges thesis-based graduate students to present the entire scope of their scholarly research, and its wider impact, in three minutes or less.

“We wanted to start offering our graduate students an opportunity to prepare themselves for the Memorial-wide Three Minute Thesis competition conducted by the School of Graduate Studies every year, and possibly the eastern regional and national competitions that follow,” said Dr. Liam Swiss, interim associate dean (research) for the faculty.

“3MT is a great way for graduate students to learn how to communicate about their research, and being forced to present the breadth and goals of their research in a mere three minutes can help crystalize what exactly they are hoping to achieve through their thesis work. It will also be a nice, annual opportunity for faculty and students to come out and hear about graduate research happening in our faculty.”

Immigrant voices

Mrs. Akerele’s PhD work is investigating how transit systems that consider the needs of immigrants can enhance immigrant retention in Atlantic Canada.

Her research looks specifically at transit experiences in smaller, non-traditional immigrant destinations such as St. John’s and Halifax.

She says there has been growth in the number of immigrants who choose these small- and medium-sized cities, but that many of these destinations have transit options that pale in comparison to those in more traditional immigrant destinations, like Toronto or Montreal.

“Arguably, countries with more immigrant-focused inclusion policies have more benefits for immigrants,” she said. “Yet, there is a paucity of research on how the structure of mobility systems in smaller Canadian cities may impact immigrants’ integration [into a new city].”

While she feels that inclusion-focused transit policy would have far-reaching impacts on immigrants’ integration into Atlantic Canadian cities, Mrs. Akerele’s findings are that it remains rare for an Atlantic Canadian city to involve immigrant voices in the planning process for their transit systems.

Her work is providing insights into how government can use transit policies as a deliberate tool for immigrant integration, enhancing Atlantic Canadian cities as worthy destinations for immigrants.

It is her hope that policy-makers in the Atlantic provinces draw lessons from her work and involve more immigrant voices in the transit planning process.

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