Unlocking Research Potential: A Grad Student’s Perspective

Photo: Carly Fraser

Carly Fraser completed her master’s degree in Geography in 2017. Growing up, she did not have much exposure to higher education and struggled initially to see the value of research and a graduate degree. She credits her advisor, Kate Parizeau, associate professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, with taking key actions that helped remove barriers and supported her in reaching her academic goals.

EDI Practices Supporting Carly’s Success

• Mentorship centered on personal goals.
• Freedom to explore research approaches.
• Culturally safe space within the research group.
• Regular group and one-on-one meetings to address challenges.
• Trust-building leadership focused on listening and responding.

Challenges in Research Pursuit

Some of the challenges Carly faced were related to the type of research she decided to pursue. Her research applied a feminist analytical perspective to questions about household food waste. She recalls being asked to explain the value of using feminist analysis in the research and publishing process. This created pressure to justify the theoretical grounding for her research and convince people of the validity of the research design. At times, these additional pressures, combined with Carly’s doubts about her academic trajectory, created significant disincentives to continue the work. However, the richness of understanding from the research itself was the greatest incentive to carry through and complete the research.

Research Journey and Impact

Carly used photovoice methodology and feminist analytical perspectives to glean insights about food and food waste practices from 22 households in Guelph. Her findings are published in a 2018 Canadian Food Studies report co-authored with Kate Parizeau, outlining the evidence for understanding household food waste management as a domain constructed along gendered lines.

Continuing the Journey

Since graduating, Carly has continued to find waste an exciting domain. She has since worked for a company that coordinates on-farm plastics recycling. She encourages researchers to value their graduate students’ diverse interests and be open to unfamiliar angles of inquiry.