University of Alberta student Marlene Mulder was awarded the inaugural Alberta Award for the Study of Canadian Human Rights and Multiculturalism for her study on the social challenges and experiences of immigrant groups in Canada.
Mulder, whose previous research includes the settlement experiences of refugees in Alberta and the settlement of Kosovar refugees in Alberta, is a sociology PhD student currently working at the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration. Her interest in immigration studies has led her to accumulate years of community work experience before entering graduate studies.
"Immigration has always been my focus. I have personally worked with refugee sponsorship since 1979 when the first families came from Vietnam. So it has been a personal interest of mine to support and help refugees settle in Canada since then," Mulder said. "My interest is driven by my experiences."
The $10,000 award is given to graduate students attending an Alberta post-secondary institution whose area of study contributes to the advancement of human rights, cultural diversity and multiculturalism. The award is administered by the Alberta Advanced Education through the Alberta Scholarship Programs in recognition of Alberta's centennial.
For her dissertation, Mulder plans to examine the various cultural stresses that Canadian immigrants experience in order to adapt to this country. The main factors that she will explore include marginalization, separation, assimilation and integration of Canadian immigrants and how they relate to Canada's immigration requirements.
"I'm going to be looking at whether the points that people get in order to qualify for immigration to Canada - such as age, education, employment experience, contacts in Canada - are actually the factors that they need in order to be successful in Canada," said Mulder.
Mulder said there is an increasing federal government interest in encouraging immigrants to settle outside traditional destinations such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, in areas where there are fewer support services available to immigrants. She is interested in compiling data on the factors that would make a community a good place for immigrants to settle.
Geographical location and size of the city definitely influence the success of immigrants, since this can translate into job opportunities, community resources and support systems in place for newly landed immigrants.
"A city like Edmonton or Calgary, a mid-size city, would have full services for immigrants and that would be much different than smaller cities, such as Wetaskawin, that doesn't have the same services for new comers," Mulder said. "That's probably fine if people already speak English or have been educated in a system that is comparable to the Canadian system. But that's certainly going to be more difficult if they need integration services."
Mulder is also interested in the settlement of refugee groups compared to other immigrants, since they immigrate under different circumstances and are likely to face different obstacles.
"Refugee groups usually have to leave without all the choices, resource, and preparations that others have. And in terms of refugees too, there has been a growing interest in bringing people in as groups ... so I think we need to do some research and look into how it benefits the immigrants and the communities.