About the Symposium

The Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI) held the inaugural CEI Student Research Symposium in August 2021.

The symposium was a five-day digital event featuring research presentations by student interns working with or connected to the Centre for Employment Innovation or Coady Institute. The content of the presentations are specifically connected to research and work the students completed during the summer of 2021.

The daily symposium sessions were 1-1.5 hours long, with each session composed of 2-3 presentations (approx. 20 minutes each) and a final Q&A with all presenters (20-30 minutes).

The topics of the research presentations were grouped into five main themes:

Leading Transformational Change (Session 1) – CLICK TO WATCH

Youth Engagement (Session 2) – CLICK TO WATCH

Equitable Practices (Session 3) – CLICK TO WATCH

Supporting Youth in the Workplace (Session 4) – CLICK TO WATCH

Impacts of Inequity (Session 5) – CLICK TO WATCH

To learn more about the content of each presentation, we encourage you to read the Session Details below.



AUGUST 16, 2021



2 Presentations

20 minutes

Women, the Workforce and Social Justice Advocacy

This session will focus on how leadership development and women’s unique ability to increase corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts can benefit organizations’ social justice advocacy work. Social justice advocacy falls under the CSR umbrella of organizations, suggesting that in order to aid in the fight against social justice crises, organizations’ CSR efforts must align with addressing these problems.

Literature states that women possess characteristics that make them naturally more concerned with supporting CSR efforts that ensure the welfare of all stakeholders (including local community members). Furthermore, women tend to have a transformational leadership style, giving them the characteristics to challenge and change outdated processes and policies, motivate their employees, and provoke a shared vision.

Finally, Courtney will draw upon a study she is conducting that is investigating the relationship between the Extraction Industry (Mining sector) and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to support the findings from the literature.

Courtney McKay

Courtney McKay will graduate StFX University in 2022 with a BBA in Management and Leadership. Courtney’s main research interests include women in leadership, corporate social responsibility, and social justice movements. Courtney is currently working on a research project investigating the relationship between the Extraction Industries and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

20 minutes

Building Abundance in Indigenous Communities (BAIC) Stories Project

Within my work-term, I’ve learned about the Building on Abundance in Indigenous Communities (BAIC) class. We have begun compiling stories from participants over 10 years about community-building practices that celebrate our Indigenous ways of organizing and leading change from within our communities as opposed to driven by outside institutions.

Compiling stories is of great importance within our society, from Indigenous peoples sharing what they have and can contribute to their communities, and how they can stimulate and support new initiatives with tools and methods that build on our abundances, not only our problems and needs. Stories allow us to learn from the past and to acknowledge how to support community-building projects from an Indigenous perspective.

When finished, these stories will be analysed collectively for common themes to inform how and what we teach in BAIC and to ensure that we have grounded, diverse, and relevant examples and lessons.

Jeneva Dennis

Jeneva Dennis is an Indigenous woman who aspires to be an educator and will be attending St. FX in the fall doing a Bachelor of Education, with the intention of continuing her education afterwards and working to indigenize the current curriculums we have in our education system. In the BAIC Class, she has had the experience of learning more community-building practices within Indigenous culture by going through individual BAIC stories from students.

August 17, 2021



2 Presentations

*Session 2 recording includes only one presentation.

20 minutes

Education to Employment Transitions of Refugee Newcomers in Rural Nova Scotia

The education-to-work transitions of refugee newcomers are diverse and complex. This presentation focuses on refugee newcomers’ experiences with the secondary and post-secondary school systems in rural Nova Scotia, and how these experiences relate to their current and future work aspirations.

While there is an emerging body of literature on refugee youth resettlement experiences in Canada, there is little focus specifically on privately sponsored refugees in rural areas. The research is based on in-depth interviews with newcomers, resettlement volunteers, and employers. While acknowledging different starting points and destinations, particular focus is given to identifying ‘best practice’ for facilitating durable education transitions and education-to-work transitions newcomer youth aspire to navigate.

Kenzie MacNeil

StFX Univeristy graduate, Kenzie MacNeil 19’, 21’ has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and History and a Bachelor of Education. She has previous research experience related to youth leadership development conferences and health education for upper elementary boys. Recipient of a MITACs scholarship, Kenzie is interested in using her education background to study refugee newcomers’ experiences within the secondary and postsecondary school systems.

20 minutes

The Importance of Youth Participatory Action Research

Youth participatory action research (YPAR) is a form of participatory action research that places youth participants in the role of organizer, designer, and researcher. By elevating the voices of young people in the community, YPAR aims to empower youth to take action in their communities and create real change to better the lives of all those living in the community.

These projects focus on issues and problems that are relevant and important to young people, their peers, and the larger community. By supporting YPAR projects, it is possible to enhance both the research capacities and abilities of organizations and to provide young people with meaningful and relevant work experiences that will allow them to develop important skills. 

Hannah James

Hannah James is a 3rd year Health student majoring in biomedical science at StFX University. She is passionate about mental health and is going into her second year as the peer support program coordinator. Hannah has spent the summer as the YPAR intern with the CEI.  

AUGUST 18, 2021



3 Presentations

20 minutes

Don’t Dis the Ability: A Look into Diversifying Hiring Practices

This session will review the development of a tool to aid in assessing the accessibility of different corporations’ application processes.

Through engagement and consultation with community and industry experts, I discovered the disconnect between employers being open to inclusive and diverse hiring practices and often inaccessible application processes. Therefore, I undertook the development of a rubric to evaluate the accessibility of different employers’ application processes, with categories specific to the barriers often facing youth who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The rubric was informed by grey and academic literature in consultation with community.

Across all disabilities, ASD has the highest unemployment rate, and this issue needs to be addressed. The hope is that this rubric can be used to identify the degree of accessibility and inclusivity within corporate hiring process which could help lead to addressing the identified barriers.

Mia Landi

Mia Landi is entering her fourth year studying sociology and her research interest includes social inequalities and youth with exceptionalities. This is Mia’s first summer as an intern with the CEI and she has been able to develop a deeper understanding of the barriers facing youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

20 minutes

When You Can’t Stay the Blazes Home – Ethnographic Research on Black Essential Workers During Covid-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers have faced increasing demand for their services and increased pressure to work. These workers had no choice but to go to work during the pandemic and have been critical to keeping society functioning.

My research focuses on the experiences of Black essential workers during COVID-19 and the struggles they have faced pre- and post-COVID.

I am researching how their lives have changed during COVID-19 and how they have overcome challenges in their professional life. I am also focusing on how essential organizations have changed because of COVID-19 and what they are doing differently now post-pandemic.

Aliyah Fraser

Aliyah Fraser is a 3rd year health sciences student at StFX University. She is a member of the women’s basketball team, founder of the StFX BIPOC Varsity association, member of StFX leadership academy and StFX SAAC diversity and equity representative.

20 minutes

Pre-Service Teachers’ Views on Emergency Remote Education in Low-Income, Rural Nova Scotia: A Review of Literature on Digital Equity as Illuminated by COVID-19

This session will discuss the evidence from a scoping review of the literature that has pre-existed and since emerged from the pandemic that suggests COVID-19 has amplified the conditions of inequality within our education system in rural Canada.

The immediacy of school closures as an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a shift to what scholars are referring to as “emergency remote education,” for the move to online instruction was abrupt and unprecedented. This disproportionately impacted students who live in rural communities, where access to adequate internet and educational technologies are already scarce, a situation even more challenging for youth who experience poverty.

In this session, I will detail the experience of emergency remote education from students of teacher education programs, for the future of education relies heavily on their perceived preparedness to teach in post-pandemic conditions, as well as their understanding of rural poverty and the conditions that circumstance it.

Meagan Kettley

Meagan Kettley is a Year II student in the B.Ed. program specializing in Secondary Education. She returned to her rural community for her practicum, where she witnessed the consequences that resulted from emergency remote education. This experience, in addition to her active participation in education research, prepared her to investigate this phenomena.

August 19, 2021



3 Presentations

20 minutes

The Case for Youth Engagement: Supporting Young Workers in Uncertain Times

This session will focus on the case for youth engagement, and will cover its importance, an array of strategies, and the positive impacts of successful engagement.

While youth engagement is extremely important in a variety of sectors, effectively engaging with youth is challenging. However, successful youth engagement strategies can help young workers and employers overcome these challenges.

With the right tools, career services providers can develop a better understanding of how to market their services to youth and gain a deeper knowledge of what services youth truly need. For employers, the right youth engagement tools will allow them to provide the support that young workers need in the workplace. For researchers, these tools can be used to effectively engage with youth in relevant research studies.

This session will focus on three broad yet practical strategies for youth engagement that can be used across a variety of sectors. 

Evan Fortin

Evan Fortin is a third year political science student at StFX University. This summer, he’s working on building a Youth Engagement Toolkit, which can be used by employers, researchers, and career services providers. Evan is also hosting biweekly communities of learning with interns from across the Nova Scotia Works system.

20 minutes

Supporting Student Interns: A Learning Framework

A suitable internship experience, as will be outlined in this presentation, will effectively impact the personal and professional development of student interns. Employers are urged to consider everything that interns have the potential of offering to their organization, such as the academic knowledge in which they’re currently indulging, a new and diverse perspective on the work, and general support.

The session will focus on the research question: What are the supports needed from organizations for student interns to thrive? I.e., How do you best support student interns?

Drawing on findings from literature, informal interviews, and survey responses, this presentation will highlight important concepts and supports. Examples such as supervision, professional treatment, and peer support will be shared. Additionally, relevant activities and considerations will be expanded upon. These include regular supervisory check-ins, internships as organizational investments, and language choice.

This presentation proposes that, combined, these supports, activities, and considerations will help to foster a positive and constructive intern experience. 

Laura Cormier

Laura Cormier is entering her third year at StFX University in the Special Concentration in Forensic Psychology. She’s passionate about helping others in a hands-on way and giving youth a voice when it comes to employment innovation. As a student intern herself, Laura has first-hand experience with the context, allowing her to relate on a deep level with the information that she’s been working with over the summer.

20 minutes

Fostering Youth Engagement Through Supportive and Welcoming Work Environments

This project seeks to provide commentary on improving youth engagement and job attachment in Nova Scotia through the creation of supportive and welcoming workspaces.

The collaborative data analysis of 39 semi-structured interviews with youth and stakeholders in conjunction with existing literature has identified nine areas of importance necessary in the creation of these spaces: supportive supervisors, intergenerational collaboration, empowerment, open dialogue, collaboration, mentorship, challenging growth, engagement opportunities, and the support of skill development.

These recommendations are uniquely important to millennial and Gen Z employees and their implementation fosters an environment which increases retention, engagement, and loyalty.

Further, these recommendations are held under an over-arching theme of intentionality with the goal of encouraging active and meaningful changes within the workplace between employers and youth.

Sarah Laffin

Sarah Laffin is a Graduate student with Bachelor of Arts with Advanced Major in Anthropology. She is a research intern with the Centre for Employment Innovation focusing on data analysis related to youth and stake-holder responses on engagement and leadership.

AUGUST 20, 2021



2 Presentations

*Session 5 recording includes only one presentation.

20 minutes

EAL and the Economic Transitions of Refugees Resettling in Rural Nova Scotia

This presentation seeks to explore the economic transitions and integrations of refugee newcomers in a rural Nova Scotian context with a particular focus on English as an Additional Language (EAL) programs.

Data was collected through qualitative interviews with resettlement volunteers, employers of refugee newcomers, and finally with newcomers themselves to provide a well-rounded account of the experiences of refugees in rural Nova Scotia throughout their resettlement as they search for employment.

Through this research, we’ve been able to identify rural EAL accessibility as a key barrier to the holistic integration of refugee newcomers during the formal resettlement period (first 12-month period) and beyond.

The presentation will explore EAL accessibility in rural NS and conclude with a discussion of potential opportunities for policy development.

Carrigan Martell

As a student studying Honors Sociology with a subsidiary in Psychology, Carrigan’s interests and expertise lie in the intersectional psychosocial aspects of social movements and phenomena. They have spent the last 3 months working under the supervision and guidance of Dr. Norine Verberg as a Mitacs accelerate research intern, which includes a partnership with Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE). Their study is ongoing, and they are working to produce an environmental scan of EAL services in rural Nova Scotia to be used in the future by refugee resettlement volunteers and potential employers.

20 minutes

Impacts of the COVID-19-related Shutdown on the Status of Women, with a Focus on Gender-based Violence

Even before the pandemic, women and girls were exposed to violence, but according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), COVID-19 has worsened the risk of violence.

In Nepal, gender-based violence manifests itself in many forms, ranging from domestic violence, dowry-related violence, and child marriage to trafficking.

According to the available pre-pandemic data, 48 percent of Nepali women have experienced some form of violence at some point in their lives, with 15 percent experiencing sexual violence.

During the pandemic, a 24-hour toll-free helpline run by Nepal’s National Women Commission (NWC) received 885 calls related to domestic violence from April to June 2020, which was twice the amount compared to previous years.

This presentation will discuss the research I conducted as a Coady Institute summer intern on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns on the already challenging status of women in the least developed countries (LDCs), using Nepal, a Himalayan nation in South Asia, as a case study.

Preet Banga

Preet Banga is an undergraduate student pursuing psychology honors. Her minor in WMGS and work with McKenna Centre over the past year helped develop an understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on communities. She focused on the impact of pandemic on gender-based violence as part of the internship at Coady.


Stay tuned for details on our 2022 CEI Student Research Symposium.