Concordia University

http://www.concordia.ca/content/concordia/en/artsci/scpa/programs/ced-graduate-diploma/alumni.html

Alumni

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Aziz Choudry

“[T]he program is a rare and valuable space within a university where critical ideas for community organizing - including the knowledge arising from practice and theoretical contributions from other sources- can be tackled, explored and thought through.”  More


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Lex Gill

“Do it! And consider taking it in your second language, even if you feel shy. Build relationships with your classmates — they're guaranteed to be doing exciting things after graduation!”  More


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Chantel Henderson

“I highly recommend it to people of all ages from various backgrounds, experience, and education levels who are not afraid to expand their vision of the world through the eyes of Community Economic Development.”  More


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Marc Nesbit

"Use the opportunity to expose yourself to as many different ways of doing things (approaches) as possible.”  More


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Vicky Pearson

“You do almost as much learning from the other students in your classes as you do from the CED program.”  More

 


Aziz Choudry

Aziz Choudry is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production for the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. He acknowledges the Graduate Diploma in CED as his “route into further graduate studies,” because his “non-academic prior learning was recognized and valued.” Before he was a student in CED, Aziz was very experienced in “activist education, research, publication and organizing.” He hopes that the program can “serve a similar role for others who bring experience and knowledge that does not always ‘fit’ within university walls as neatly as more traditional scholarly work.”

For Aziz, the people, their “lively dialogue,” and sharing his first Montreal winter at a demonstration with them were also highlights of the program.

Year of graduation: 2003
Current job title and role: Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University

How are you applying your degree in CED from Concordia?
The CED program was my route into further graduate studies, given that I never completed an undergraduate degree but had a lot of experience in activist education, research, publication and organizing.  So the CED program was a kind of bridge into the university because (at the time, at least), my non-academic prior learning was recognized and valued by the program and the School of Graduate Studies at Concordia.  I would like to think that the CED program could serve a similar role for others who bring experience and knowledge that does not always ‘fit’ within university walls as neatly as more traditional scholarly work.

What do you value most from your CED experience?
The people. Several classmates remain good friends, colleagues and comrades, and I am in periodic contact with several others. Indeed, the year I took the program was memorable for the great camaraderie among a number of us who came from various activist/organizing backgrounds, and especially those of us without any or many formal qualifications who tended to be older students. But there were also (often younger) students who had degrees but relatively less experience in community organizing or working in non-profits.  So there were some good opportunities to bring these experiences into dialogue with each other. For me, it was a chance to pull back, but not retreat from the politics and struggles that have been central to my life for a long time, and to reflect on these in a lively dialogue with others.  Being new to Quebec, it also helped me get a critical sense of some of the history and dynamics of struggles for change in Montreal and Quebec.

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?
Sharing my first subzero Montreal winter marching with classmates on one of the huge anti-war demonstrations in the 2002-2003 winter.

What advice would you give to someone considering CED? 
Based on when I took it, the program is a rare and valuable space within a university where critical ideas for community organizing - including the knowledge arising from practice and theoretical contributions from other sources- can be tackled, explored and thought through. I’m afraid that “community” has become a very fashionable word for many university administrations to use these days, which all too often seem like branding; but critical educators and students working and thinking together in the CED program have made some real contributions to progressive social and environmental action.

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Lex Gill

As an alumna from the Class of 2014, Lex Gill has nothing but positive words about the Community Economic Development (CED) Graduate Diploma at Concordia University. The connections and experiences she made within the program “informed how I think about all aspects as of my work, and particularly how I think about the relationship between law and social change,” which is particularly important as she is now a BCL/LLB candidate with the McGill University Faculty of Law.

The CED program was also her first academic opportunity to study completely in her second language of French, as the program is offered in English and In French in alternating years. “It offered a supportive space for me to practice and build a technical vocabulary [and] allowed me to connect more deeply with French-speakers in the social and solidarity economy,” she says of her experience.

Year of graduation: 2014 (French cohort)
Current job title and role: Privacy and Technology Researcher, Canadian Civil Liberties Association; BCL/LLB Candidate, McGill University Faculty of Law (Graduating Spring 2017)

How are you applying your degree in CED from Concordia?
My CED degree has helped me to connect with the practical issues faced by social economy actors and innovators in Montreal and beyond. These experiences have informed how I think about all aspects of my work, and particularly how I think about the relationship between law and social change.

What do you value most from your CED experience?
The CED program was actually my first academic experience working and learning completely in French. I really valued that it offered a supportive space for me to practice and build a technical vocabulary for the policy sphere while I developed other skills. It also allowed me to connect more deeply with French-speakers in the social and solidarity economy.

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?
What about a flashlight-guided tour through an abandoned 1920's theatre in the middle of a Montreal winter? We have Dr. Mendell to thank for that one!

What advice would you give to someone considering CED?
Do it! And consider taking it in your second language, even if you feel shy. Build relationships with your classmates — they're guaranteed to be doing exciting things after graduation!

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Chantel Henderson

Chantel Henderson is an advocate for Missing Justice, “which focuses on bringing awareness to the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women happening across Canada.” For this crucial work, she applies the methods and principles she learned from the Community Organizing class to “ensure inclusive participation of diverse groups within this context.” She is also an aspiring social entrepreneur, and hopes to start her own renewable energy cooperative using her learnings from the Social Enterprise Development courses and Financing CED.

From her CED experience, Chantel most values the diversity within her class, who were “just as passionate about the same issues as me, [...] and continue my work within the Montreal community.” She also appreciated her professors’ active engagement and involvement within solidarity campaigns and community activism, saying that it showed her to “stand up for what you believe in!”

Year of graduation: 2015
Current job title and role: Entrepreneur and Anti-Colonial Facilitator within Montreal's community conducting Anti-Racism workshops and KAIROS Blanket Exercises.

How are you applying your degree in CED from Concordia?
I continue to volunteer for my chosen organization from my CED field project, Missing Justice, which focuses on bringing awareness to the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women happening across Canada. I'm applying what I've learned from the Community Organizing class methods and principles I've learned from coursework and classes to ensure inclusive participation of diverse groups within this context.

My aspirations to be an entrepreneur were encouraged through the Social Enterprise Development and Social Entrepreneurship course as well as the Financing CED Initiatives course. As a result I was able to turn my idea into a business plan and examine various sources of funding for its future startup, including how to crowd-fund and raise money for special projects.

Currently, I am doing facilitation work within an anti-colonial framework conducting Blanket Exercises and Anti-Racism workshops by applying an Indigenous perspective. I recently completed the 20/20 Catalyst Program that focuses on clean energy development and self-determination within Indigenous communities across Canada. I plan to work in this sector, gain experience, and start my own renewable energy cooperative as a result.

What do you value most from your CED experience?
I appreciated learning from my diverse group of classmates, who came from around the world, their experiences, skills, and activism work. I especially valued the fact, some of my teachers were involved in protests, community activism, and standing up for their beliefs, even if that meant being jailed for their actions. They taught me that you must figure out what you're passionate about in life, don't give up on your dreams, and stand up for what you believe in!

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?
I enjoyed the time spent with classmates outside of class, such as the time a bunch of us went out to sing karaoke together, despite the fact some of us were tone deaf! As well, I enjoyed finding people just as passionate about the same issues as me, which gave me the confidence and motivation to finish this program, and continue my work within the Montreal community.

What advice would you give to someone considering CED?
Be prepared to know which organization you want to work for, or at least what you're passionate about, when it comes to taking the CED Field Project class. If you're interested in the social economy and starting up a social enterprise, this program is definitely for you! If you are an aspiring activist or community organizer, this program will help you understand the history, context, and proven methods of organizing to apply within your organization or within your own personal life. I've learned so much from this program, that I highly recommend it to people of all ages from various backgrounds, experience, and education levels who are not afraid to expand their vision of the world through the eyes of Community Economic Development.

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Marc Nisbet

“The blend of theoretical and practical work in the [CED] program, paired with the small cohort size, allowed me to really gear my learning to what I wanted for my practice,” says Marc Nisbet, who is now a Community Credit Advisor. Through this work, Marc does analysis for loan programs and coaches small businesses and social enterprise ventures through their initial start-up phase. He also notes that he was impressed by the School’s “culture of self-evaluation” and adopted it into his work.

As an alumni from the program’s very first cohort in 2001, Marc shares that, “the people I met in the program were the beginning of my professional network.” He also adds that the students in the program will have “no shortage of opportunities within the cohort to learn about new organizations, their work cultures, and practices.”

Year of graduation: 2001 (The very first cohort)
Current job title and role: Community credit advisor at ACEM (Montreal community loan fund). I am an analyst for the loan programs and coach for small businesses and organizations starting up their ventures.

How are you applying your degree in CED from Concordia?
In my current role, and a small business coach I am using the business planning components of my degree most directly. The strategic planning and strategy modules have also been very useful. 

The blend of theoretical and practical work in the program, paired with the small cohort size, allowed me to really gear my learning to what I wanted for my practice.

What do you value most from your CED experience?
It was during my courses, surrounded by a diverse group of CED practitioners that I started building a solid network. As a relative newcomer to the field of CED, the people I met in the program were the beginning of my professional network.

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?
The culture of self-evaluation at the SCPA is something I was impressed by and have adopted in my work in various organizations since.

What advice would you give to someone considering CED?
Use the opportunity to expose yourself to as many different ways of doing things (approaches) as possible. There will be no shortage of opportunities within the cohort to learn about new organizations, their work cultures, and practices.

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Vicky Pearson

Anyone that has been to the School of Community Affairs Building during working hours will have likely met Vicky Pearson, who is the Assistant to the Principal and Graduate Program Assistant for the CED Program. She is also an alumna from the Class of 2003. Of her experience in the program itself, Vicky says it’s “better than you can imagine,” and that “the whole experience was great.”

To her, the most valuable aspects from the CED Program were the other students she met. Vicky fondly remembers a project where her and a small group of her classmates worked on developing a credit union for women of colour.

Year of graduation: 2003
Current job title and role: Assistant to the Principal and Graduate Program Assistant for the CED Program- School of Community and Public Affairs Concordia University

How are you applying your degree in CED from Concordia?
I am the Graduate Program Assistant for the CED Program and I assist the students as they go through the CED Program

What do you value most from your CED experience?
The whole experience was great but the best part was the other students I met in the Program

Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?
One of the projects that a small group of us worked on together – The Women of Colour Credit Union.

What advice would you give to someone considering CED?
The Program is better than you can imagine.  You do almost as much learning from the other students in your classes as you do from the CED program.

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