Emerging Leader Award winner has taken unique path in field of education
Chelsea Jalloh, a current PhD candidate in education, has done extensive work with non-profits and marginalized communities
Chelsea Jalloh’s career path came into clear focus during a bachelor of education science teaching class.
Her instructor had each student pick scientific topics out of a bag. They then had to create a lesson plan about that topic. Jalloh, currently a PhD student in the Faculty of Education who was chosen as a recipient of this year’s U of M Emerging Leaders Award, chose “the virus.”
She decided to do a lesson plan on HIV and AIDS.
“I was really struck by the role that education could play in terms of the disease. In terms of how it was spread, addressing stigma, encouraging people to get testing. There seemed to be such a strong role education could play in terms of HIV and AIDS.
“That really changed the entire direction of what I undertook after that.”
Instead of becoming a language arts teacher after receiving her B.Ed. in 2004, Jalloh worked in community health and at various non-profit organizations.
With the AIDS virus top of mind, immediately after she got her bachelor’s degree, Jalloh signed up for an internship in Tanzania to do AIDS education.
“That really solidified for me that I was interested in the role of education and health—specifically sexual health.”
From there, Jalloh, did a year of classroom teaching in Mexico. It was then that she really realized that being a “traditional” teacher wasn’t for her. “It was fine, but it wasn’t necessarily the best fit for me,” she says.
She returned to Africa to do another internship on HIV and AIDS.
“That was hugely instrumental and it all started because of my science class in my B.Ed.”
Finding her way
Jalloh then moved into the non-profit sector in Winnipeg in 2006, working for Child Find Manitoba doing education about the prevention of sexual exploitation. In 2008, she began work on her masters of education at the U of M and at the same time was doing part-time research assistant work, working with street-involved youth in Winnipeg to evaluate a sexual health resource.
In 2011, she got a full-time research job with the department of medical microbiology doing research into sexually transmitted diseases and sexual health. Because of her work with street youth in Winnipeg and a replication of the project in Medellin, Columbia, Jalloh was able to bring a lot of the “qualitative” research to the table. “For example, how is this group more affected by chlamydia, or this particular group doesn’t use condoms during sexual encounters, etc.”
She’s since also worked as an international study coordinator for a pilot study at the U of M, along with Medellin and Nairobi, Kenya, exploring the use of technology to share sexual health information with youth. During the study, Jalloh says the team was trying to find out how to use social media to engage with youth and provide them with the best possible sexual health information, and whether that was more successful than a “passive poster campaign.”
Jalloh says that students who graduate in the field of education should keep in mind that if they are looking for jobs outside the traditional classroom, they need to sell their skills to potential employers. “Employers are not going to necessarily think that hey, someone with a B.Ed. would be a great fit for this position. You do have to know how to spin your skill set.”
“Most of the things I have ended up doing haven’t been because someone was seeking someone with my exact skill set. It’s been because I have been able to explain why and advocate for why it would be a great fit.”
Since 2012, Jalloh has also been working with the Winnipeg non-profit Sunshine House in various leadership roles, including her current role as co-chair of the board of directors. Pilot projects have included one in which solvent users were engaged in positive recreational activities such as bike repair, photography, etc. and another which involved the creation of literacy program for street involved adults.
Award is positive recognition
Jalloh is now studying for her PhD in the Faculty of Education and hopes to have it completed in five to six years. Her advisor is Michelle Honeyford, whose specialty is language and literacy—a good fit for her PhD because she wants to examine literacy as a social determinant of health. “Literacy is not synonymous with education but both are very important when it comes to people’s wellbeing and I would like to understand that a bit more,” Jalloh says.
Honeyford says Jalloh’s research is well-thought out and the results could be powerful.
“Ms. Jalloh understands well the complex factors—poverty, trauma, mental health, housing, nutrition, substance use—that affect the health of street-involved adults. What she hopes to discover through her doctoral studies and research has the potential to provide important insights into the role of literacy…in terms of the kinds of resources, programs, and community supports and partnerships that might better facilitate literacy learning for these population,” says Honeyford.
“Ms. Jalloh has made, and will continue to make, important contributions to society through her scholarship and community involvement,” she says.
Along with working toward her PhD, Jalloh’s current day job is as an undergraduate coordinator for the College of Medicine.
How does she juggle all of this and maintain academic excellence—with a U of M graduate cumulative GPA of 4.21?
Jalloh says if students are truly interested and engaged in their work and the subject matter, high grades come naturally.
“I think that as you learn more about yourself and learn more about the things you are interested in, you get fired up. Those are the ones that make you work hard…it’s a process and I think it’s important for people to know.”
Being chosen to receive the Emerging Leader Award was a real honour, Jalloh adds. “It’s recognition. The very nice acknowledgement of things you have undertaken,” she adds.
Jalloh plans to continue in the areas of academic work and community involvement after she graduates with her PhD.
“I would like to keep my hand in international work. I really like being part of [this] institution. So I would be very interested to see if there would be a place to become an academic at the U of M and be involved in international collaborations.”
Jalloh says she discovered along the way that her bachelor of education degree was the key into all sorts of work that she had never envisioned.
“There was this whole other world that opened up to me in terms of what you can do with education and the role that education can play in partnership with other disciplines. That is really exciting and would be really good for people to know about.”