by Meredith Dault
28 September 2010
For Becky Pero, the decision to pursue a graduate degree came down to a single conversation. "I'd wanted to do my Master's degree," she explains with a smile, but I was looking at other options, too. But it was essentially a conversation that I had with a professor in the (sociology) department that sealed the deal. It just happened that a good deal came up."
But it also happened that Pero was perfectly positioned to pursue graduate work. A Kingston native with lots of ties to the community, Pero had already earned her undergraduate degree in sociology from Queen's. When she graduated in 2006, she found herself working as a fundraiser and development officer with Easter Seals, a major not-for-profit organization with a branch in the city. She also started learning spanish -- and found that she loved it.
Not long after, Pero got involved with the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association, later winning a scholarship to travel to Santa Clara, Cuba with the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade. "We worked at a factory where we wrapped books that were being sent out to schools," she explains. She also had a chance to sit in on lectures about Cuban culture. Pero later facilitated a five-week-long cultural exchange to Mexico City.
"It was those experiences, cumulatively, that first got me interested in these issues," Pero explains, tying her life experiences in to her research. Now in the second year of her degree, Pero's work is around social control and surveillance within Caribbean and Latin American populations. She is also interested in international migration, diaspora, transnationalism and security. "There are a lot of gaps in the literature when you're talking about social control as it relates to Cuba," says Pero, whose research fits under the umbrella of the Surveillance Studies Centre, within the department of sociology.
Pero's interest in international travel and immigrant issues now extends into her working life as well. Recently named as one of two international students coordinators for the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS), Pero's job is to communicate with international students to ensure that they're finding their feet in Kingston. "I'm on the ground," she says with a smile, "ensuring that they have personal and social development opportunities."
Again, the job, a new position at the SGPS, is a perfect fit. "With my coordination experience at Easter Seals, as well as my being a native Kingstonian and being involved in the community here through things like the Canadian Cuban Friendship Association and Immigrant Services, it just made sense! I was really excited about making those connections."
Though Pero says she's open the idea of pursuing a PhD, she's currently interested in doing work "within the realm of immigration." "I feel that the process for newcomers is a bit onerous - it's challenging," says Pero. "So I'm not sure whether I'd like to work in a settlement services agency, or do community work, or whether I want to work for the government and do more embassy or policy driven work."
In either case, there's one thing that Pero is more than confident about: that having a Master's degree will mean a few more open doors.