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Graduate student and 2021 3MT finalist, Kwene Appah

3MT finalist’s own experience propels research to improve integration of immigrants

April 16, 2021 — 

Kwene Appah was four years old when her family arrived in Canada. Her parents’ multiple degrees were one of the reasons they qualified as good candidates for immigration. However, upon arrival, they were hit with the reality that many immigrants face to this day – their foreign credentials weren’t valid once they arrived. Like many immigrants, they went back to university for degrees they already had. As newcomers with young children, this meant additional financial, emotional and social strains while also navigating the typical challenges of moving to a new home and country.

Fast forward to today, and Appah [BA (Hons)/2018] is a finalist in the University of Manitoba Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition. On April 21, she’ll be presenting her research on Nationalism and integration policy: A comparative cross-national examination and attempting to earn a spot in the national competition.

By analyzing the immigration policies of Canada, Hungary and Sweden, Appah’s research provides recommendations for policies to better support the integration of newcomers. “Integration is the key to making individuals feel they belong and are respected parts of a country,” says Appah. “Social phenomenon such as nationalism can negatively impact immigration and integration policies. By understanding how nationalism alters these policies, I am better able to provide tangible recommendations to improve the lived experiences of immigrants.”

“Societies are strongest when there are policies in place that ensure individuals feel they are valued members who belong.” 

Appah is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in sociology. “I am endlessly fascinated by people, their differences and their ability to change societies in remarkable ways,” says Appah about her enthusiasm for her studies. “Through sociology, I can use what I’ve learned to advocate for others and support change that lasts.”

As an immigrant herself, Appah recalls experiencing first-hand the barriers and limitations that exist in immigration policies. Those barriers her parents faced back in 2001 are still the reality for many newcomers to Canada. “Reworking the current approach to foreign credentials in Canada would make the integration of newcomers more successful,” she says. “Nothing makes people feel they don’t belong like being unable to contribute after the promise that they would.”

She feels fortunate to pursue studies in a field and at a university that is “eager to explore ways to change the traditional ways of doing that which we’ve become accustomed to.”

“I’ve learned through my research that there is nationalism in the immigration policies of each country I’ve studied, even Canada,” she adds. “This might seem discouraging, but it also means that there is ample opportunity to create a better system and country.”

Appah describes 3MT as a fun, nerve-wracking and rewarding experience all-in-one. She acknowledges that the competition provides the opportunity for graduate students to strengthen their research communication skills in front of a variety of audiences, which also helps in her current work at the Social Innovation Office for the Government of Manitoba. After her degree, Appah looks forward to “continuing learning, advocating and working toward making Manitoba stronger as a future Policy Analyst.”

During the finals, Appah hopes she’ll be able to follow research supervisor Dr. Lori Wilkinson’s advice to be confident, speak passionately about her research and, above all, enjoy the experience.

What message does she hope she can leave the judges and audience with after her virtual presentation? Appah says, “societies are strongest when there are policies in place that ensure individuals feel they are valued members who belong. When everyone feels valued that is when a country can thrive!”

Catch Appah and the other eleven finalists livestreamed via YouTube on April 21 starting at 7:00 p.m. as they present their thesis research in just three minutes.


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