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OISE grad student receives prestigious City of Toronto Women’s Studies scholarship


By Fred Michah Rynor

March 25, 2013


Yukyung Kim-ChoYukyung Kim-Cho, a Leadership, Higher and Adult Education grad student, knows how to live within the budget of the typical university attendee but her recent City of Toronto Women’s Studies Scholarship will certainly help her continue her academic goals.

Kim-Cho received the honour (in this case worth $1,000) March 13 at U of T’s Women & Gender Studies Institute with Toronto councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam among those singing her praises.

This is the 25th anniversary of the scholarship which is awarded to students of women/gender studies on the basis of academic merit and financial need studying women’s studies in areas of urban planning, employment, municipal studies, public policy and community studies.

“I was thrilled when I found out I’d been given this scholarship,” states Kim-Cho who was born in South Korea. “It’s such an honour and I was quite shy about the whole thing for a while,” she adds with a laugh.

“Finances are always scarce and this will certainly help with some basic needs,” says Kim-Cho, a full-time OISE student. “As a grad student in an economic environment of limited options, I’m always looking for funding opportunities and this is certainly very encouraging. It’s not just the amount that matters so much but also the recognition of my work and vision.”

Kim-Cho, in the fifth year of her PhD program, has already received the OISE Funding Package for her first four years in the program and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. She says she chose Toronto in 1999 because she realized she could continue her education in women and gender studies “in a city that is known world-wide for its diversity. I knew I’d learn from the different cultures and stories that this ethnically rich city could offer along with a social security net that is better established than cities in the U.S. for example.”

Kim-Cho recalls being “burned out and exhausted” from working long hours for the Korea Women’s Hotline in Seoul where she was in charge of international relations. “I was looking for a complete break from my personal and activist network and I needed to not only improve my English but to decide what was next in my life.”

At OISE, Kim-Cho is exploring what it’s like for women moving to or returning to Canada within the last ten years who are ethno-culturally marginalized and striving to settle and belong in their adopted society while maintaining their feminist and social justice values.

And she’s using herself as one of her investigative subjects knowing only too well the challenges and issues that face women just like her.

“I say I’m from Toronto now and I call this city my home because I believe that home is in our minds and nowhere else,” she states. “I don’t believe one has a permanent home in a transnational world now that there are many things crossing artificially set borders.”

She’s also working part-time as a teaching assistant for the Women and Gender Studies Program on the Mississauga campus as well as doing graduate research assistant duty at the Centre for Urban Schooling at OISE where she's investigating Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood where she lives. “In this study we’re looking at methods that both prevent and intervene in youth gang violence.”

As well, she’s a relief worker for Sistering, a Toronto Women's drop-in centre that provides meals, counseling and support for women at risk such as those struggling with addiction, poverty, violence, lgbtq issues and those new to Canada.

“My goals are supported by OISE and this institution allows me to have total reflection on my previous and current experiences,” she says. “Before I came here I didn’t know what to do next with my life. I needed a new vision based on my experiences with insights from what others have discovered with similar concerns."

“Yukyung's doctoral research project will definitely add a rich dimension to the conversation about city building and social inclusion as her work validates the lived experiences of immigrant and Aboriginal women who are often unseen, unheard and unrecognised,” says Wong-Tam. "As elected officials and policy makers, we should all care and give consideration to the excellent work coming from U of T's Women and Gender Studies graduates and faculty."