Reflections on Migration, Resilience, and Graduate Education

Supporting Female Students with Refugee Backgrounds


  • Snežana Obradović-Ratković Faculty of Education, Brock University
  • Vera Woloshyn Faculty of Education, Brock University
  • Bharati Sethi King’s College, University of Western Ontario



female students with refugee backgrounds, access to higher education, social justice mentoring, inclusive scholarly communities


In response to the refugee crisis, it is important to invest in and support refugee education especially at the tertiary level. As displaced individuals rebuild their life upon resettlement, education opportunities are vital to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to gain meaningful employment, especially since displacement often puts refugee’s education and careers on hold. Displaced girls and women, who might be unaccompanied, pregnant, or disabled, are especially vulnerable in the process of forced migration, education, and resettlement. In this chapter, we explore our personal and pedagogical narratives of migration and resilience as they relate to learning, teaching and mentoring in graduate education. Consistent with the principles of reflexive ethnography and cultural humility, we examine our experiences, beliefs, and cultural identities using semi-structured reflective processes to share and deconstruct our individual and familial experiences as displaced persons, graduate students, instructors, and mentors in the era of heightened economic and political uncertainty, global environmental crises, and the worldwide forced displacement of people. We highlight the importance of honouring the strengths and capacities of female graduate students with refugee backgrounds while creating safe spaces for listening to the women’s learning needs and desires. Finally, we discuss our engagements in labour intensive and time consuming mentorship that afforded academic coaching, skill training, and professional capacity building while supporting women’s sense of agency and socialization into academia and Canada.


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Author Biographies

Snežana Obradović-Ratković, Faculty of Education, Brock University

Dr. Snežana Obradović-Ratković is a Research Officer and an Instructor in the Faculty of Education, Brock University, Ontario, Canada. She immigrated to Canada in 1998 as a refugee woman teacher from the former Yugoslavia. Snežana is published in the area of forced migration, education, and teacher identity. Her master’s research explored the influence of media on first and second generation immigrant children’s values, self-concepts, and future aspirations while her doctoral research investigated experiences, transitions, and identities of 10 refugee women teachers from the former Yugoslavia who immigrated to Canada between 1993 and 1998. Since 2005, Snežana has supervised and mentored a number of master’s students with refugee, immigrant, and international student backgrounds. Her scholarship focuses on migration and indigeneity, transnational and transdisciplinary teacher education, social justice leadership, research education, and knowledge mobilization.

Vera Woloshyn, Faculty of Education, Brock University

Dr. Vera Woloshyn is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University and Registered Psychotherapist with advanced degrees in education, counselling, and psychology. Vera is a second-generation Canadian and the only child of immigrant parents [deceased] who were trauma survivors. Vera holds a strengths-based, holistic approach to learning, mental health, and wellness that recognizes the interconnectedness of individuals’ cognitive, emotional, social, cultural, familial, physical, and spiritual experiences. Her current research and teaching interests include exploring individuals’ learning, mental health, and wellness experiences in context of developing and implementing effective programs and mentoring relationships that work to support all learners' academic success and wellbeing. Related interests include exploring the identity and experiences of those who serve as administrators, work in the helping professions, and use popular culture as learning tools. She has authored numerous research articles, book chapters, and texts in these areas.



Bharati Sethi, King’s College, University of Western Ontario

Dr. Bharati Sethi is an Assistant Professor at King’s College, University of Western Ontario. As an immigrant, she has a passion for creating a welcoming community where newcomers can thrive. She utilizes Community-Based Participatory Research, Arts-based methodologies, and Intersectionality to address issues of equality, equity, and social justice impacting immigrants and refugees to Canada. She is a co-investigator in four research projects impacting immigrant/refugee integration in Canada amounting to $1.75 million dollars. Bharati received the Governor General Award, Ontario Women’s Health Scholarship, Tutor-Primary Health Care Fellowship, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, and Hilary M. Weston Scholarship. She was recognized for her tireless efforts to collaborate with diverse stakeholders and create lasting solutions for newcomer resettlement. In 2013, she was nominated as the “Top 25 Immigrants to Canada.” She is the recipient of the Federal Newcomer Champion Award and Provincial Citizens Award as a Community Diversity and Inclusion Champion.


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How to Cite

Obradović-Ratković, S., Woloshyn, V., & Sethi, B. (2020). Reflections on Migration, Resilience, and Graduate Education: Supporting Female Students with Refugee Backgrounds. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 12(Winter), 81–111.



Winter 2020 Special Edition: Thriving in the Face of Adversity (Refugees)