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Doctoral student Sonja van der Putten receives 2020 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Scholarship

July 07, 2020

Congratulations to Sonja van der Putten, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University!

van der Putten, a student in the Educational Theory and Practice: Curriculum and Pedagogy Stream PhD program, recently was announced as a 2020 recipient of the prestigious Joseph-Armand Bombardier scholarship, valued at $35,000 per year for three years.

The Joseph-Armand Bombardier Scholarship, established by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) federal agency, provides financial support to scholars, allowing them the opportunity to fully concentrate on their studies and further develop their research skills.

van der Putten’s research proposal aims to explore the unique context, challenges, and individualized experiences young adult women (ages 19 – 25) from refugee backgrounds face when seeking post-secondary educational opportunities after settling in Canada.

“Displacement and conflict have interrupted the educational pursuits of many young adult women from refugee backgrounds,” says van der Putten. “This leaves them with few options but to restart their entire educational careers, in a new language, and in a new system that requires a large financial commitment.”

With this scholarship, van der Putten also hopes to address the issues present in educational policy development and their inability to keep up with the rapid rate of resettlement of newcomers to Canada, in particular young adult women who constitute a significant percentage of refugee arrivals.

"It is my hope that this study will help policy makers and practitioners make meaningful changes to better assist young adult females from refugee backgrounds [to] achieve their educational and career goals.” 

“I feel privileged to have received this scholarship,” said van der Putten. “I’m grateful [for] the continual support and guidance provided by Drs. Wanda Cassidy and Suzanne Smythe.”

Dr. Cassidy, van der Putten’s supervisor and mentor, has been a great support and inspiration during her time in this program. “Dr. Cassidy is an exceptional academic and inspiring teacher with the unique ability to support her students with wisdom, leading them with kindness, and guiding them with inspiration. I am privileged and honoured to be learning from and working with her,” says van der Putten. “Her work with marginalized and vulnerable populations in schools continues to both guide and support my research.

“Sonja is so deserving of this award and I’m thrilled that the decision-makers saw her potential to contribute in significant ways to a greater understanding of the structural and societal impediments facing young adult women from refugee backgrounds," says Dr. Cassidy. “I have no doubt that Sonja’s research will result in important educational policy and practice changes.”