Project Updates

Explore this section of the website to find data as it is being collected.

Settlement, Integration, and Stress: A 5 year Longitudinal Study of Syrian Newcomer Mothers and Teens in the GTA (Professors Neda Maghbouleh, Melissa Milkie, and Ito Peng)

The recent resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada—in a unique approach bridging government and private sponsorship—has captured the attention of the world. Amidst the excitement and anticipation of their arrival is an urgent need to assess the well-being and integration of Syrian newcomers, as fully 60 percent are children under the age of 15. A pilot study by Professors Maghbouleh, Milkie, and Peng identified key points of stress and provided tangible strategies for service providers and sponsors in their efforts to support refugee families. It did so by interviewing Syrian newcomer mothers to identify parental role strains that undermined their’ well-being and the social and personal resources that buffered the stressors or strain experienced. The team included five UTM undergrads who assisted with transcription, translation, analysis and coding of two waves of in-depth interviews with mothers.


The Effects of UTM's Walls to Bridges Program on Students, Staff, and Organizations (Professor Phil Goodman)

In this research project, the team (supervised by Professor Phil Goodman) investigated the myriad effects of UTM’s Walls to Bridges program on students, staff, and organizations. In UTM’s version of the Walls to Bridges program (, half the students are criminology, law and society majors or specialists at UTM, and half are incarcerated people at a jail or prison in the Greater Toronto Area (the latter are enrolled, for the term, as University of Toronto, Mississauga students). The team conducted approximately 15 interviews with ‘outside’ students (i.e., University of Toronto, Mississauga); future research by the team may also interview additional outside students, as well as currently and formerly incarcerated ‘inside’ students. We are also interested in reaching out to staff working at the provincial and/or federal level involved now or in the past with Walls to Bridges. Findings include:

* Prior Knowledge and Assumptions

‘Outside’ students held varied assumptions regarding ‘Inside’ students. Some expressed empathy in their consideration of the potential social and structural barriers that may have influenced their peers’ engagement in crime and subsequent incarceration. Alternatively, other Outside students described how before taking the course they perceived Inside students as being less able to be engaged, critical, or knowledgeable; they expected their Inside peers to be less able to contribute at a University level, thus reflecting a process of ‘othering.’ Of those originally holding these more negative views, however, many described how their assumptions changed dramatically over the duration of the course. Outside students consistently discussed how the comprehensive insight and knowledge that Inside students contributed to discussions, as well as evoking critical dialogue within the seminar space, expanded their own understandings of punishment and prison.

* Educational and Pedagogical Context

In reflecting on their educational experience, Outside students consistently positioned the communication and acquisition of knowledge as incomparable to that of a traditional university course, beyond that which can be acquired through a textbook and lecture or seminar. Outside students discussed how SOC450 humanized Inside students in ways that reconceptualised prisoners beyond mere objects of academic study and criminal classification. Emotional responses evoked during discussions, (i.e. scepticism, frustration, or anger) toward the criminal justice system, aroused a desire among outside students to raise awareness, create transparency, and to produce change surrounding social injustices associated with the penal context.

* Community Impacts

The intimate space of the classroom was established on mutual equality and respect, the integration of experiential and academic knowledge, collaborative and inclusive opportunities for teaching and learning, and the development of friendships; all combined, these contributed to Outside students’ understandings of SOC450 as creating a community. Although students did not themselves perceive a sense of community at the institutional level, many Outside students did express the belief that universities and prisons should have a central role in creating educational opportunities for both prisoners and students – a collective responsibility toward building healthier communities more generally. 


Diary Tool to Study Sexual Violence on Campus: A Pilot Study at UTM (Professors Erik Schneiderhan and Anna Korteweg)

Institutions of higher education across Canada are working to respond to the problem of sexual violence on campuses, but there are few evidence-based interventions that address these issues at the individual and group-level, and no evidence-based interventions for prevention at the environmental or structural level on college campuses. The majority of research on sexual violence on campuses is U.S. based, with very little research from within Canada. Research that does exist tends to focus on individual factors of sexual violence, with little focus on social and institutional related factors.

Our research investigates the social and structural factors, campus climate, and individual attitudes and behaviours that produce a propensity for unwanted sexual contact at the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM). Unwanted sexual contact is an umbrella term that helps capture several instances, degrees, and types of sexual contact ((un)wanted, (non)consent, violence, assault, harassment, etc.)

We are currently piloting a project with 100 UTM undergraduate students that includes three components: (1) a baseline survey, (2) a 60-day diary survey, and (3) focus groups for evaluating the diary component. With the baseline and diary components, we are able to capture both stable variables (e.g., situational characteristics and location) and dynamic daily process variables (e.g., fluctuating day-to-day experiences, behaviours, changes in mental health). The research involves a team of eleven UTM interdisciplinary faculty, Ph.D. research assistants, an undergraduate student advisory committee, and is led by Dr. Erik Schneiderhan and Dr. Anna Korteweg (Co-Principal Investigators) of the UTM Sociology department.

In our diary project, we seek to answer the following broad questions:

1. Why is the university context conducive to unwanted sexual contact?

2. What is the relationship between everyday campus life spaces (e.g., libraries, class changes, campus pubs, residence halls) and unwanted sexual contact?

3. What relational and dynamic opportunities, events, and interactions shape how and why sexual violence emerges? Specifically, how does mental health, mood, distress, and substance use relate to unwanted sexual contact on campus?

4. What are the consistent spatial, social, contextual, and cultural conditions that longitudinally correlate with incidents of unwanted sexual contact?

Using a diary tool provides a strong foundation for a long-term project on campus sexual experiences that goes beyond individualistic explanations or retrospective account of unwanted sexual contact.


Social Inequality and Urban Politics (Professors Hae Yeon Choo and Sida Liu):

As a course supported by the Peel Social Lab, SOC440 “Research Projects in Criminology, Law and Society” provides UTM students an opportunity to conduct empirical research and write up a research paper for their course projects. This is a seminar course where students will pursue advanced research supervised by a faculty member in Criminology, Law and Society. In the 2017-2018 academic year, ten students took SOC440 under the supervision of Prof. Sida Liu. The seminar discussions focused on the craft of sociological research, including both theory and methods. Every student pursued a research question of hisor her interest in the area of criminology, law and society, developed a research proposal, conducted independent research using qualitative, quantitative, and/or historical methods, analyzed empirical data, presented findings, and completed a final paper by the end of the academic year. Most students collected their data in the Peel Region and the GTA. Examples of student projects include racial profiling and attitude towards the police, the carceral space and its impact on prisoner behaviour,  health services and social welfare for the indigenous people, and public attitude towards death penalty. With the support of the Peel Social Lab, the course gives students hands-on sociological training of conducting empirical research on issues related to crime and law.


Utilization of Nursing Home Services Among Older Chinese Canadians: A Brief Report (Professor Weiguo Zhang)

The proposed research investigates and fills in the knowledge gap on service utilization by migrant Chinese seniors from mainland China in comparison with those migrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and native born Chinese seniors. Following the critical gerontology, this project investigates the effects of the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and migration status on social meanings of aging and choice of care services. Andersen’s (1995) conceptual framework is adopted in the study of factors influencing service utilization among the senior Chinese Canadians. Those factors include individual’s predisposition to use services (e.g., age gender, education, marital status, family size), their enabling and impeding characteristics (e.g., income, pension, insurance), and their need for care (e.g., perceived and actual needs, health).

The research team, consisting of graduate and undergraduate students, helped conducted 41 interviews and 9 focus group discussions among Chinese seniors in the GTA. One RA has also analyzed all Canadian population census data from 1981 to 2011, and part of 1911 and 1921 census data.  Research reports are in progress and will be uploaded upon completion.


Multiculturalism at UTM (Professor Luisa Schwartzman): Here are some updates from Professor Schwartzman on the project:

The goal of the project was to investigate the experiences of university students at the University of Toronto Mississauga with regard to issues surrounding “diversity” and “multiculturalism.” This meant asking UTM students how they understand these concepts, as well as more concrete questions about their life experiences that could provide insight into the role that race, ethnicity, gender, religion and national identity plays in their lives within and outside the university.

I have used the funds for the Peel Social Lab to hire an undergraduate and a graduate student, who helped me define the questionnaire, get the project through ethics review, and for initial help with recruitment and interview of research participants. Then, since the Fall of 2016, used the Research Opportunity Program to add three undergraduate students to the project and, with additional funds from the Peel Social Lab project, I have hired an undergraduate for the Winter semester, and was able to maintain the graduate student in the project. The undergraduate students were an essential component in the project, conducting all the interviews themselves, using the questionnaire and the guidance provided by me, and using their own social networks to help find participants.

So far, we have completed much of the data collection process. We have recruited widely within the university through emailing course instructors, going into classes, and using our research assistants own social networks. We managed to collect about 30 interviews with a diverse set of students (in terms of ethnicity, race, national origin, gender, religion, citizenship status, fields of study and year in the university), ranging from 40 minutes to 2 hours long. Right now the undergraduate students are in the process of transcribing the interviews (we have finished transcribing 15 so far), while the graduate research assistant and I are in the process of reading through the interviews and finding patterns for coding and analysis.

I have sent an abstract of a paper for a special issue of the journal of the journal International Studies in Sociology of Education on the topic of “Migrations, Borders and Education,” which asks for articles connecting themes of international migration with themes of education. The deadline to send the complete paper is May 30, 2017. Thus, the plan is to finish data collection and transcription by March or April, so that the graduate student and I can do the analysis and writing in April and May. By the summer, we will therefore have transcripts available for being stored at the Peel Social Lab repository early this summer (for the overwhelming majority of interviews, respondents have consented this). As I finish the academic article, I also plan to share some of my results with colleagues at the university who may be interested in improving students’ experiences.