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Lingering trauma from a brain injury can increase challenges facing survivors of intimate partner violence in child custody and access cases, according to new research from UBC Okanagan.
Dr. Paul van Donkelaar, a Professor in the Faculty of Health and Social Development, oversaw the research conducted as part of UBC’s Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury Through Research (SOAR) project. Researchers explored the ethics of how a woman with a brain injury, sustained through partner violence, might be treated in Canada’s justice system.
“A brain injury will contribute to the way the person behaves in fairly predictable ways, and that needs to be considered during legal proceedings between survivors and perpetrators of intimate partner violence,” he says. “This paper is the first of its kind that looks at how the legal system might use a brain injury diagnosis in parenting disputes, and how women are unfairly treated—including during a custodial challenge.”
As many as 92 per cent of women who experience violence at the hands of a partner may experience brain injury, which can lead to chronic and sometimes debilitating physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, memory issues, trouble with sleep and difficulty regulating emotions.
The research, published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, was conducted by Quinn Boyle, a doctoral student working with Dr. Judy Illes at Neuroethics Canada. While there have been recent improvements when it comes to mental health issues in custody disputes, Boyle says this is not the case with a brain injury.
“If a lawyer raised the diagnosis of depression, anxiety or PTSD as a reason why a woman would be unfit to parent, they would be scoffed at,” says Boyle. “For the most part, basic mental health disorders are no longer used against a woman during a parenting dispute where intimate partner violence is involved because evidence has shown that they can be managed effectively.”
There is a lot of overlap between mental health symptoms and those of a brain injury, he adds.
“If we’re now saying there is a likelihood of brain injury, we may have a situation in the Canadian justice system where that brain injury is used against the woman during a legal challenge for custody of her children,” he says. “A lawyer could hypothetically say the brain injury is a concern and that the woman is unfit to parent.” More specifically it is the lack of gold-standard treatment for brain injury that creates uncertainty about a woman’s recovery trajectory and timeline. It is this uncertainty that will likely be weaponized against women.
Current legislation and confidentiality laws surrounding health information leave these women vulnerable as the brain injury can be disclosed in court regardless of their preference, and also be critically examined and weaponized by opposing counsel. The lawyers interviewed unanimously expressed their strategy as opposing counsel would include using a brain injury to argue the mother is unfit to parent, as their professional duty is to represent the best interests of their client. This is despite them acknowledging it as abhorrent, immoral behaviour earlier in the interview.
Dr. Deana Simonetto, Assistant Professor with the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and co-author of the paper, says this research provides good insight into a family’s experience of parenting with a brain injury and what the legal system does in terms of parenting disputes.
“It’s important to think through how the legal system is structured and how women have been historically treated in parenting dispute cases,” she says. “We want to do the best for them, so our solutions need to change these structures. However, they are not easily changed.”
In a crime that is under-reported, and where there are often no witnesses, it’s already difficult for survivors of intimate partner violence to receive the supports they need. Given brain injury often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed, the challenges facing survivors are even greater.
“A brain injury can leave a person seeming out of sorts and confused. The police might think they are acting erratically, and interpret the behaviour as being caused by substance use or mental health issues, rather than a physical injury to the brain,” says Dr. Simonetto.
Current and previous SOAR research has focused on developing education and training for frontline workers—including police, paramedics and shelter workers—to better recognize and respond to brain injury from intimate partner violence.
The next step, says Dr. van Donkelaar, is to raise awareness in the legal system of brain injuries caused through intimate partner violence. This latest paper provides four recommendations, including training lawyers and judges about brain injury and its effect on survivors of intimate partner violence. The authors also propose organizations conduct brain injury assessments on survivors of intimate partner violence to prioritize allyship with medical experts who are willing and able to advocate for women in parenting disputes. Lastly, they recommend that women are offered complete transparency so they know how a brain injury diagnosis might be used against them in court.
“We need to work with the relevant agencies at the provincial levels—those that work with lawyers and judges—and help them recognize that brain injury is likely occurring in victims of intimate partner violence,” says Dr. van Donkelaar. “When a brain injury is involved, we need to better understand the injury and do the right thing both from a medical and legal perspective.”
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A team of UBC Okanagan researchers is investigating a new method to monitor underground gas pipelines with high-tech sensors that can make it easier to find weaknesses, discrepancies and even a diversion in residential natural gas lines.
While there has been considerable research into diagnosis methods for steel pipes such as radiography, ultrasonic testing, visual inspection and ground penetrating radar, Master of Applied Science student Abdullah Zayat says little has been done on the commonly used high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, which carries natural gas to homes.
“Early detection of structural degradation is essential to maintaining safety and integrity. And it lowers the risk of catastrophic failure,” he explains.
Zayat and his supervisor Dr. Anas Chaaban, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, tested a technique that allows for the inspection of HDPE pipes with ultrasonic sensors—which transmit ultrasound signals through the pipe.
The new monitoring method limits the likelihood of gas diversions—where gas is siphoned to an unmetered location for unmeasured consumption.
“This tampering with the pipe poses many risks since it is unrecorded, violates pipeline quality standards and can lead to potential leaks and possibly explosions. This can pose a significant risk to public safety, property and the environment in the vicinity of the altered gas line,” says Dr. Chaaban. “Such diversions have been discovered in the past through word of mouth, leaks or unexpected encounters with an unrecorded natural gas pipe in a construction site.”
Previous research has studied the inspection of metallic structures using ultrasonic-guided waves (UGWs). But this type of testing has not been done to inspect non-metallic structures such as HDPE pipelines.
“Given the concealed nature of underground pipes, it is very challenging to inspect them. Existing solutions include ground penetrating radar and endoscope cameras, which are both invasive and expose inspectors to potential risk from the suspects. As a result, it is better to use non-invasive methods to inspect pipes.”
This method enables the inspection of buried, insulated and underwater pipelines using ultrasonic sensors. It also provides a larger range of inspection than traditional ultrasonic testing because it uses the structure of the pipe itself as a waveguide, explains Zayat.
“UGW sensing is getting a lot of attention from the industry because of its long-range inspection capabilities from a single test location. They can inspect more than 100 metres of pipeline from a single location,” he adds.
This type of detection system is unique because the sensors clamp onto the exposed portion of the pipe and connect to the section of pipe that emerges above the ground where it connects to the metre.
While the technology is still in the early stages, Dr. Chaaban notes the majority of this current research involved the development and assessment of a deep-learning algorithm for detecting diversions in pipes. The results suggest that the method has 90 per cent accuracy when one receiving sensor is used and nearly 97 per cent accuracy when using two receiving sensors.
Future use of the sensors may include the inspection of buried, insulated and underwater pipelines.
“By combining classical signal processing with machine learning, we can more efficiently and accurately determine if there is an issue,” adds Dr. Chaaban.
The research appears in the latest edition of the journal Sensors, and was funded in part by Fortis BC and Mitacs.
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While research at a university can take on many shapes and forms, students, faculty and staff with UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering have found a way to combine winter sports and the thrill of competition into their daily work.
This year, UBCO’s School of Engineering is hosting the Great Northern Toboggan Race—a multi-day, student-led event where universities from across Canada race their hand-built concrete toboggans down steep hills. UBCO also hosted the event in 2015.
Though the competition is heavily focused on the design and manufacturing aspects of engineering, faculty supervisor Dr. Ahmed Rteil says lots of learning and professional development takes place during the design, construction and eventual race event.
“There is a lot of business and logistics planning that goes on behind the scenes so the teams recruit students from other areas of study,” he says. “The experience of participating in this event has helped students make connections with industry and round out their resumes which will potentially help them find employment after graduation.”
So, what exactly is a concrete toboggan?
It’s not completely concrete, says event co-chair Kyle Lessoway, who is working on his doctorate in mechanical engineering. In fact, the only parts of the toboggan that must be concrete are the actual runners that contact the snow during the downhill race.
Competing teams must design and build a custom-made toboggan capable of steering, braking and, most importantly, safely carry five people down the mountain. The toboggan with concrete skis, metal roll cage, and steering and braking mechanisms must weigh in at less than 350 pounds, explains Lessoway.
“The competition is unique compared to other engineering competitions in that it adds a spirited side to the event with themes designed into the toboggans,” he says, adding UBCO’s toboggan this year has a cow theme. “The event also allows competitors to also practice their soft skills such as communicating with industry partners and members of the public who are not engineering experts.”
For months the students have been preparing budgets, writing funding proposals and engaging with stakeholders. Even getting the team, and the sled, from their home to the competition city is a massive undertaking that a lot of undergraduate students don’t have experience with, explains co-chair and UBCO alumna Janessa Froese. She joined the team while studying sciences at UBCO.
“The skills I developed while I was on the concrete toboggan team were the reason I got my first job when I completed university,” she says.
First established in 1975, the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race is the largest and longest-running engineering student competition in Canada. This year, there are 15 competing teams, plus four non-competing teams, meaning there will be more than 385 participants arriving in Kelowna this week. Events kick off with a competitor interaction day where the students will participate in downtown tours including the heritage museums along with some events on campus.
Students will also participate in a concrete testing demonstration at UBCO’s campus and the Tech-Ex display at the host hotel the Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort on January 27. Race day takes place January 28 at Big White’s Tube Town.
Before hitting the slopes, each toboggan will be judged on a number of categories, such as the design of the toboggan as a whole, the level of ingenuity and innovation as well as how well it performs on race day. Each toboggan must pass a safety inspection prior to racing and any entries that fail will not be permitted to race.
The UBCO team has a track record of success in the event, including podium finishes at several events and placing second overall the last time the competition was held in Kelowna.
More information about the 2023 Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race can be found at: www.gnctr2023.ca
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THROUGHOUT HIS TIME AT UBC OKANAGAN, psychology student Hoky Hsu sometimes felt “left out” of his course content.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning about psychological topics like family processes and socioemotional development,” Hsu mentions. “However, as a psychology major, I grew to realize that the majority of psychological research and teaching at large are still often oriented around a western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic cis-heterosexual male perspective. What about the perspectives of other races and people of different sexual orientations?”
Armed with this knowledge and the passion to make a difference, Hsu applied for UBC Okanagan’s Student Directed Seminar (SDS). The program, offered in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, empowers students to propose, coordinate and lead their own three-credit seminar on a topic of their choosing that has been identified as a gap in the current curriculum.
Hsu proposed a class exploring the psychological experiences of the LGBTQ2SIAA+ community from an intersectional lens. Intersectionality refers to the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, class and other forms of discrimination intersect to create unique dynamics and effects.
According to Dr. Jessica Lougheed—an Assistant Professor in UBCO’s Department of Psychology and Hsu’s SDS faculty sponsor—courses in the social sciences, and especially psychology, tend to assign topics related to diversity to “a single week or a single chapter, where they get relegated to the sidelines of the course material. As an instructor, I’m always trying to include these topics in all my lectures while also looking to adequately represent various issues from queer perspectives.”
Dr. Lougheed points to the vast cultural differences that exist not only in diverse geographies, but also in terms of different identity groups in the same region. “The environment shapes all these things so we very much need to explore topics related to diversity. But, unfortunately, our department doesn’t have any courses specifically focused on queer identities and the psychology of that.
“Hoky identified this gap and pitched his idea. When I saw his application, I was 110 per cent on board because this seminar will expose students to really important areas of psychology that we don’t currently have as part of our offerings,” Dr. Lougheed explains.
Through the SDS, Hsu and students explored relevant theories like minority stress and resilience, as well as how similar or different LGBTQ2SIAA+ community members experience their everyday lives as compared to non-LGBTQ2SIAA+ community members. To develop the course Hsu worked alongside Dr. Lougheed, regularly meeting to discuss his proposed syllabus and plan assignments. He was also offered the opportunity to enrol in the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s (CTL) Instructional Skills Workshop. Typically only offered to new faculty and graduate students, the course offered a hands-on experience to develop learning outcomes, lesson design, receiving and giving effective feedback, as well as other instructional strategies.
“The SDS is a wonderful personal development opportunity for students looking to teach for the first time,” says Dr. Lougheed. “It provides them with a whole host of opportunities that could meaningfully translate into skills that are useful after graduation—whether that’s pursuing graduate studies, or entering teaching or another professional field.”
For Hsu, he points to another benefit of an SDS: learning through discussion with peers. “Our current educational structure often has a teacher talking to students while they hastily write their notes, and students are meant to absorb everything from that person. But I feel like there’s another way to learn things; I feel like student-to-student learning works because we’re peers. There’s less stress from students, combined with the fact that a seminar is about discussion rather than lecturing.”
Hsu encourages anyone who feels there’s a need for courses with different perspectives to apply for the SDS. “The support you’ll receive from your sponsor, the SDS staff and CTL will be incredible, because that’s how it was for me. They offered me a lot of ideas and recommendations to ensure this seminar was a success.”
Dr. Lougheed agrees. “It’s not often at large, research-intensive universities that students get opportunities for teaching-related programs that give them such close contact with mentors and faculty sponsors. I think this is a special and important aspect that sets UBCO apart from other universities.
“This program not only gives students the chance to participate as facilitators in developing the SDS, but they also have the opportunity to participate as enrolled students. It’s a unique opportunity for intellectual development on all sides of the equation.”
What: Pony Cabaret, an evening of drag and musical entertainment
When: Thursday, February 9, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Where: Mary Irwin Theatre, Rotary Centre for the Arts, 421 Cawston Ave., Kelowna
Cost: Suggested fundraising amount of $10 to $40. Pony Cabaret is 18+.
Top-class entertainment, queer culture, music and food combine for a good cause as Pony Cabaret returns to Kelowna.
The cabaret is queer-run and stocked full of talented queer performers featuring drag, storytelling, comedy and burlesque, as well as hosted by Miss Cookie LaWhore and Erin Scott. Miss LaWhore is the alter-ego of UBC Okanagan Professor Michael V. Smith and her role is to be the biggest freak in the room so everyone else can feel a little more normal, he explains.
“The goal of this event is to make a space where everyone can feel welcome, regardless of who they are or where they come from,” adds Smith.
The event showcases artists across a variety of disciplines. This is the seventh year it has been organized in Kelowna and Smith says there will be local and national talent including Ivan Coyote, Rose Butch, Tanya Lipscomb, Mother Girth and Ella Lamoureux performing.
“I’m most excited for our big names. Ivan Coyote—who is Canada’s best storyteller—and the magical Rose Butch from Canada’s A Drag mix with all the amazing local talent we have here in the Okanagan,” adds Smith “At Pony, we’re always bridging communities, on and off the stage.”
Smith has partnered with the Inspired Word Café (IWC) to organize this year’s event. IWC is a literary arts non-profit society that provides accessible and inclusive programming.
After years of partnering on Pony in a smaller capacity, performer Erin Scott—former IWC executive director—and Smith made IWC an official partner thanks to a funding boost from Canadian Heritage. Additional support comes from the Government of Canada and UBCO’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, explains Scott.
“Pony is a breath of fresh air for our community and we are tickled pink that UBC Okanagan continues to support us as we get bold on stage with some of Canada’s best queer artists,” she adds. “I encourage people to come for the performers, stay for the looks and drink for the cause. Come and get in the saddle and get ready to go for a ride.”
All proceeds from the event go to the Living Positive Resource Centre, which provides harm reduction, prevention and education resources along with supportive services that focus on individual and community health and wellness to anyone living with, affected by, or at risk of HIV, Hepatitis C or related health issues.
A bar and concession will be available before and during the show. The venue is wheelchair accessible, has gendered washrooms and a gender neutral, accessible washroom available by request. The show is for adults, 18 and over.
Pony Cabaret is a fundraiser and tickets are available on a sliding scale between$10 to $40. More information can be found at: ponycabaret7.eventbrite.ca
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What: Fifth annual Life Raft Debate
Who: UBC professors compete to win a role to lead society
When: Wednesday, January 25, beginning at 7 pm
Venue: COM 201, Commons building, 3297 University Way and over Zoom
As the Okanagan winter progresses some people might dream of being cast away on a deserted beach.
But a few UBC Okanagan professors have now landed on a fictional island and have their work cut out for them.
Each year UBC Okanagan’s Society of Scholars hosts a Life Raft Debate, pitting faculty against each other as they maintain why they alone have the skills to help save the world and therefore deserve the last seat on the life-raft.
The premise for the fifth annual Life Raft Debate involves faculty who have crash-landed on a fictional tropical deserted island, explains Society of Scholars spokesperson Aimee Davarani. Recognizing the necessity for governance in their new home, the survivors must hold an election to determine who will become their leader and last hope for a civilized society.
“This is their chance to campaign as the new leader of the island,” she says. “With all the resources provided to stay alive, the chosen one must take on the challenge of forming a new culture that can be sustained for the future. Because who knows when help will arrive? But first, they must win the debate.”
“The members of the audience are the ones who will vote for their new leader, making this an entertaining and interactive evening,” Davarani adds, a third-year psychology student.
This year the debating professors include Dr. Jordan Stouck from the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, School of Engineering’s Dr. Alon Eisenstein and Dr. Renaud-Phillippe Garner from the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
“We invite people to come and watch the professors from different faculties debate against each other to prove that their discipline is superior to all others when it comes to creating and maintaining a new society,” adds Davarani.
To add intrigue to the evening, the final debater, Dr. Matthew Nelson, will play the role of Devil’s Advocate. The biology professor will campaign that none of the academic debaters deserve to be in a leadership role and the fate of society should rest with the audience as a whole.
“We really encourage our community to come watch our faculty members as they deal with this unique twist on defending their expertise,” says Davarani. “The annual Life Raft Debate has become a fun and entertaining way to help people discover how different points of view and areas of expertise can work together, or against, improving our society.”
More information and registration can be found at: students.ok.ubc.ca/life-raft
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Most people, whether they are shift workers, first responders, students, new parents or those working two jobs, have experienced feelings of fatigue through sleep deprivation. And many also know if they are overtired, even the simplest tasks may seem more difficult than usual.
Brian Dalton, an Assistant Professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, says despite the high prevalence of sleep deprivation, little is known about its effects on perceived and performance fatigability.
Perceived fatigability, he explains, refers to how a person feels about the amount of effort required to do a task, such as curling a dumbbell. It’s different than performance fatigability, which is an actual decline in the physical execution of a task. Both can be negatively impacted by lack of sleep, which raises important health, safety and performance concerns for sleep-deprived people.
Dr. Dalton and his team of researchers, including Dr. Chris McNeil and doctoral student Justine Magnuson, recently published an exploratory study that takes a closer look at the physiological changes that occur within the motor pathway from the brain to the muscle as a result of sleep deprivation.
“A person’s perception of the effort needed to perform a physically fatiguing task might be markedly different from that person’s true performance capacity,” says Dr. Dalton. “This is an important consideration given that work and daily life activities are typically carried out based on perceptions of effort and fatigue.”
The research was designed to independently assess excitability at the level of the brain and spinal cord during a fatiguing task after sleep deprivation, explains Dr. McNeil. The team also examined the effects of sleep deprivation on the actual performance—monitoring maximal strength of the muscles that bend the elbow and the capacity of the brain to drive these muscles maximally—and a person’s perceived fatigue.
Nine participants visited the lab in the late evening, remained onsite overnight and engaged in sedentary activities, such as reading and watching movies, until testing began about 25 hours from their reported wake time the previous day.
For the physically fatiguing task, participants completed a sustained, moderate-intensity elbow flexor contraction, like curling an arm with a dumbbell, for 20 minutes. Before, during and following the task, participants performed maximal effort contractions to test the capacity of their neuromuscular system, while also rating their perceived effort throughout the task.
On a separate day, the participants performed the same procedures but in a well-rested state. By comparing data across the two sessions, the researchers were able to determine the effects of sleep deprivation on the physically demanding task.
The researchers determined that performance-based measures were not affected by sleep deprivation, before, during or after the fatiguing task. However, sleep deprivation increased the perceptions of effort, task difficulty and overall fatigue—making the task seem more difficult than it is when well-rested. Therefore, a person’s perceived fatigability is different than their performance fatigability, especially when they are sleep deprived, adds Dr. McNeil.
“A person might be able to maintain their maximum strength when sleep deprived, but sustained or repetitive tasks can be more affected as motivation decreases and perception of fatigue increases,” he explains. “These findings could have important implications for workplace safety and everyday tasks.
“Despite our novel findings, owing to the limited sample size, further research is needed to investigate the relationship between the underlying mechanisms of fatigue and determine the potential functional consequences of the incongruent sleep deprived-related effects on performance and the perceived fatigability.”
The paper, published last fall in the European Journal of Sport Science, was supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
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As an undergraduate student, what kind of research do you conduct and what inspired you to head down this path?
I’ve always dreamed of becoming a scientist. By the time I arrived at UBC Okanagan, I knew I was most excited about chemistry and biology, so that’s why I chose to major in biochemistry.
Over the last few years, I’ve been doing research on putative cell wall remodelling enzymes in the lab of Dr. Michael Deyholos. This work incorporates analytical methods I developed in Dr. Wesley Zandberg’s lab, related to the characterization of complex polysaccharides.
What makes this specific research relevant?
Although people commonly associate carbohydrates with energy and nutrition, they have many other biological functions. For instance, if you take a walk outside you’ll see plants with cell walls composed of polysaccharides. Those polysaccharides make a dynamic barrier for interactions between plants, making their study relevant for agriculture, medicine and human physiology.
You’re the recipient of an International Community Achievement Award (ICAA), which recognizes international students who contribute to the UBCO campus and community while maintaining an excellent academic standing. What does it mean to you to be an ICAA recipient?
Winning the ICAA validates and encourages my love of learning. Alongside my great passion for research in biochemistry, I’ve always been intellectually curious, enjoyed learning about various topics and nurtured a great love for music. Receiving the ICAA meant being recognized for the entirety—rather than just a part—of my endeavours. This has emboldened me to continue embracing all of my inclinations as best as I can and allowing them to reinforce each other.
How do you balance school and home life?
I spend a lot of time on my academic work. Because I am drawn to academics, to me balance consists of interspersing my academic work with other things I am also drawn to, while also embracing the idea of taking time to rest. I love to compose music and improvise, so I try to make time for that. When the weather permits, I also like to mountain bike on nearby trails. Occasionally, I enjoy nice food and wine around the city and literature.
Do you have a mentor? If so, how have they influenced you?
Dr. Deyholos first gave me the opportunity to become an undergraduate researcher as soon as I started my studies—before I had any transcripts or experience—based solely on a conversation we had. His mentorship has been life- and career-defining, because in addition to setting me on my desired path, he has remained available and very supportive throughout my degree. Dr. Deyholos also introduced me to Dr. Zandberg, who I worked under for 31 months learning analytical chemistry. Dr. Zandberg heavily influenced my topic of interest—glycoscience—and more broadly reinforced my fascination for biomolecular structural elucidation. It was under his supervision that I wrote my two theses and won the Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award, among others. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Zandberg has encouraged me to have confidence in my abilities, pursue opportunities and continue with my music.
What do you think makes UBCO great?
I think our campus has lots of engagement and mentorship opportunities for all students, as well as incredible faculty. For instance, I was very fortunate to have the highly dedicated mentorship of Drs. Zandberg and Deyholos, with extensive access to undergraduate research opportunities. This has been the most impactful aspect of my education. I also really like the location and the quiet, pleasant environment of the Okanagan campus. I think getting involved on campus is a great way of nurturing one’s enthusiasm, skills, and wellbeing. It also increases the beauty of our surroundings.
What’s the best advice you have for new undergraduate students?
Be openly enthusiastic about the things you care about and your education, regardless of how that may be perceived.
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SEGUN DAVID FATUDIMU SAYS THAT EVEN AS A YOUNG CHILD in Nigeria who had no idea where to begin, all he wanted to do was help change people’s lives.
Now an international doctoral fellow pursuing Global Studies in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies program at UBC Okanagan, Fatudimu is building off an impressive career dedicated to helping others.
Fatudimu started his career as a dentist but soon found the work had limited scope for change. To make dental practice more affordable and accessible, he and a friend began their own mobile dental clinic, which has since grown to two clinics. Building off this success and his resulting speaking work, Fatudimu organized the Securing Africa’s Future through Education conference, empowering teenagers to become leaders before they turn 18.
It was when this work grew and garnered interest from foreign organizations that Fatudimu started questioning the power dynamics in international aid. He noticed foreign donors were often interested in altering organizations’ mission or programming for their own needs, as opposed to listening to and supporting local approaches and community development organizations on the ground.
Fatudimu has probed this issue of power dynamics ever since. A Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders gave him the opportunity for additional training and networking in Washington, DC, where he was first introduced to the larger world of international development. When Fatudimu returned to Nigeria, he taught other non-profit organizations the same skills he’d acquired.
“As I grow, I lift others,” says Fatudimu. “As I’m learning, I’m thinking about how I can maximize this knowledge, both by disseminating it to people who would never have the opportunity or by determining how I can do something more practical than theory.”
In 2019, Fatudimu was selected as a prestigious Obama Foundation Scholar to study international development and public policy at the University of Chicago.
There he founded Impact Toolbox, a digital incubation platform that gives young leaders the education, connections and resources to transform their ideas for social change into viable projects. One of the ventures they nurtured was U-recycle Initiative Africa, an award-winning non-profit organization founded by then 17-year-old Oluwaseyi Moejoh that now has projects across 11 countries in Africa.
Fatudimu was ultimately inspired to pursue doctoral studies by his current advisor at UBCO, Dr. Helen Yanacopulos and her work on the intersection of theoretical and practical, on-the-ground perspectives on international development. In the Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies program, he has the flexibility he craved in his master’s degree to tailor the coursework to his interests and needs. Fatudimu also appreciates the diverse perspectives within class discussions, since student backgrounds range from politics to nursing to global development.
“It’s bringing fresh air into the academic space where people who have real-life experiences and professional experiences can participate in academic discourse based on that practical perspective.”
While Fatudimu spends his weekends listening to social change pitches from young people in countries from Uganda to the Philippines, he’s also looking to give back to his new community. Recently, Impact Toolbox taught Kelowna Secondary School the digital skills needed to make a website for their non-profit thrift store, benefitting local charities.
“Kelowna is emerging,” says Fatudimu. “There are a lot of opportunities for people who are entrepreneurial-minded like me. I’m always curious about where I can help, what I can do and how can I plug in. Kelowna provides immense opportunity to be able to do that.”
In Fatudimu’s doctoral research, he draws on his practical experience in social development. Often, organizations are celebrated for their input and output, or how much money they donate and how many people that money affects. Fatudimu’s research seeks to develop better impact measurements that include the outcomes for those affected people and the impact on the larger community.
“I’m for chasing an ideal world where we don’t celebrate success based on mere input or output but based on concrete, proven socioeconomic results that actually change the lives of local people.”
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