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Podcasts as research reports: classes mark Canada 150 with insights into immigrant Scarborough

Paloma Villegas's Advanced Seminar in Migration and Ethnicity (SOCD15H3) was one of the classes to create podcasts based on their research about newcomer experiences in Scarborough.

As Canada approaches its 150th birthday, University of Toronto Scarborough’s Paloma Villegas has used this opportunity to reflect on Scarborough’s diverse past and how it continues to develop into an equally fascinating future.

“Scarborough is an immigrant gateway, through their research students uncovered why that was happening, and what that means,” Professor Villegas says.  

Students in two of Professor Villegas senior seminar courses in sociology, Immigrant Scarborough (SOCD21H3) and the Advanced Seminar in Migration and Ethnicity (SOCD15H3) explored the idea of Canadian values and what it truly means to be ‘Canadian.’ First they learned about Scarborough’s Indigenous history, assessing its invisibilization in stories about the development of the region.   

In collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care, students enrolled in Immigrant Scarborough, investigated healthcare access for uninsured immigrants (refugee claimants, non-status immigrants, international students and newly arrived permanent residents who have to wait 3 months to receive OHIP), exploring topics such as chronic illness, mental illness, pregnancy and immunization.

The students uniformly discovered the lack, or sparse access to healthcare, negatively affects the sense of belonging within new immigrants.

 “Canadians understand themselves through universal healthcare, it’s a part of the Canadian identity,” Professor Villegas says.

With backing from the U of T 150 fund and the U of T Scarborough Dean’s office, the class had the opportunity to take their findings to a digital dimension. Instead of simply writing an essay, and doing a presentation the students had the chance to participate in digital storytelling workshops and learned to transform their findings into podcasts.     

“Having to create podcasts promotes experiential knowledge and students get a better understanding of what’s happening in their community,” Professor Villegas says. “Also the presentation of their research in a digital format provides them with new skills they can use in their future studies and employment.”

In addition to the UTSC sociology website, the podcasts are also shared through CCRIHC platforms, to provide immigrants with more information about their healthcare options. 

“CCRIHC is an immigrant serving organization and by working with them, students gained valuable research experience in and for communities. It is a mutually beneficial process,” Professor Villegas says.  

When Professor Villegas assigned this project to students in her Advanced Seminar in Migration and Ethnicity course, their focus wasn’t healthcare, instead they realized there were other areas to be explored such as South Asian food in Scarborough and how international students adjust to Canada.

“Through these podcasts students develop critical research skills and learn that we have a normative narrative about Canada and it’s important to show where gaps lie,” Professor Villegas says.  


© University of Toronto Scarborough