Upon entering grad school, I thought that my research would be used to (potentially) publish articles and (ultimately) write my master’s thesis — and that is it. I am probably not the only one who believed that this was the dominant narrative in academia.
I have quickly realized, however, that research can be transferred into different outlets that does not only include academic articles. Contemporary research practices are often completed through colonized lenses: they do not take into account power differentiations and the privilege that exist in knowledge production. Graduate research can be generated and applied in other areas as well while maintaining its validity in academia.
As planned my master’s thesis, I attempted to find a way that this eventual research could be used to write article and also simultaneously generate community-based opportunities outside of fieldwork. I knew that I would need to be somewhat creative and ‘think outside of the box’ in order to find such opportunities — but I did not know I would find an answer within my newly established social enterprise.
I have recently launched an organization that aims to provide guidance, in terms of accessibility and disability, to business owners, corporations, public entities, and the travel industry. Ultimately, it seeks to reduce the gap in resources pertaining to service delivery for disabled communities. My organizations offers best practices, strategies, and tools to folks who wish to create spaces that are more inclusive for disabled folks.
When I first conceptualized this business idea, I believed that it would be an opportunity to gain employment experience while I pursued my education. I did not know I had the option to use my own organization to generate research that could eventually be applied in the academia, as well as community-based environments… but I do. I have been working alongside a wonderful team at the The Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) to ensure that this organization can be sustainable in both settings.
My master’s thesis project will examine both the current application of international disability policies in relation to the creation of opportunities for disabled persons within developing countries, and the meaningful participation of these individuals in decision-making and policymaking processes. My organization will potentially establish a program where disabled persons will participate in workshops and develop their own tools to then offer awareness sessions intended for various stakeholders. We will then gather data from this program, as well as various narratives, that will be transferable to my master’s thesis project.
My organization and thesis research complement one another in ways that I was not aware of. My ultimate goal is to generate research that will be used to grow my business while working towards the competition of my thesis. Case in point: I am currently in the process of writing grant proposals for one of my dream research project. If these proposals are accepted, both my organization and thesis research could reach levels that I did not imagine prior this journey. The possible growth could not be achieved, especially as a master’s student, without the opportunities I have received through my organization.