School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Joanne Linnay

Environmental Studies

Around the world and back again: MES student's CIDA funded Cape Town Research


Joanne Linnay at a Recycle Swop Shop Du Noon

By Christine Elie

March 2013

Master’s of Environmental Studies candidate Joanne Linnay has worked on all corners of the world. After completing her B.A (Honours) in Political Science and International Relations at Carleton in 2007, Joanne launched into a dynamic three-year period of travel. She began in Korea where she taught English and she then worked as a tour leader in Central America and Mexico. In 2010, Joanne found herself in Zambia where she worked for Engineers Without Borders as African Program Staff. Recently, Joanne returned from a research trip to Cape Town, South Africa.

After three years of international travel, her decision to return to academia was not an easy one: “It was a big decision to return to school. The School of Environmental Studies is incredibly supportive, and we’re fortunate to have access to academics across a wide range of disciplines.”

Joanne’s return to academia did not hamper her international expeditions. She recently embarked on a 7-month field research excursion to Cape Town, South Africa with financial support from the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through the research grant of Dr. Allison Goebel of the School of Environmental Studies.

Her current research focuses on the opportunities and limitations of social entrepreneurial approaches to affect positive change in low-income communities. In Cape Town, she researched trends in the social entrepreneurial sector, focusing on the recycling sector. More specifically, she says: “my research examines the various social entrepreneurial approaches adopted by diverse organizations, as well as interactions and collaboration among stakeholders.”

“International field research was invaluable to my academic work,” says Joanne, “My time in Cape Town allowed me to better understand trends and nuances that otherwise I would not have acknowledged.” While in Cape Town, Joanne was able to interact with both people and organizations that she credits with grounding her research and ensuring her findings were both tangible and practical.

During her time there she says: “I developed a large network that helped expand the complexity of my research findings.” Joanne also acknowledges the advantages of the Queen’s connections: “I also benefitted from the connections and knowledge from previous Queen’s researchers in South Africa.”

Joanne partook in a variety of workshops and events during her time in South Africa. For instance, she was able to visit the city of Greyton that is located roughly 140 kilometers from Cape Town. Greyton is a Transition Town that hosted a Trash to Treasure Festival (for more on Greyton or the Festival see links below). Joanne was also able to participate in a Sanitation Hackathon, where she worked with an interdisciplinary group to discuss challenges and potential solutions facing the sanitation sector in Cape Town. (Link included below).

collage of townships in Cape Town

From L to R: Imizamo Yethu Township, Du Noon Township (centre & right photo)- all in Cape Town

At Queen’s, Joanne is involved with many different organizations and groups. She has participated in several professional development programs, including the Emerging Leadership Initiative and Expanding Horizons. “I’ve recently become involved with WIDEN Queen’s (Workshops for Inter-Discipline Exchange & Novelty) which brings 3 speakers from three different disciplines to speak on a common theme.” She has also been involved with Toastmasters since her time in Cape Town and is now involved with the Queen’s chapter. This term, Joanne is one of the co-facilitators for the School of Environmental Studies Seminar Series, which has seen both internal and external speakers from the humanities, social sciences, health sciences and natural sciences.

Joanne is also one of the co-facilitators of the Cultural Exchange Group (CEG), having been involved since its inception in the fall of 2011. “As one of the co-facilitators, I help to organize speaker series, restaurant outings and social activities that bring international and domestic graduate students together,” she says, “These are fun, informal ways that students can meet new people and learn about new cultures.”

Her attraction to the CEG is undeniably rooted in her legacy of international travel: “Before attending Queen’s, I worked overseas for 3 years and thought CEG would be a perfect place to meet people from different cultures and disciplines.” Her participation in the CEG also helps contribute to a sense of community for Joanne: “my involvement in CEG has helped achieve a life/study balance, as well as improving cross-cultural interpersonal and communication, and project management skills.”

Gearing up to finish her Masters, Joanne aspires to focus on environmental programs. She says: “I hope to gain employment within a research capacity with a social enterprise or non-profit organization, focusing on environmental programs.”

 Joanne on-lions-head-hike

Photo of Joanne on Lion's Head Hike

Visit the Cultural Exchange Group's website for more information.

Visit the WIDEN Queen’s website for more information.

Visit the Transition Towns website for more information.

Visit the Greyton and the Trash to Treasure Festival website for more information.

Visit the Sanitation Hackathon website for more information.

For more information on the School of Environmental Studies Seminar Series, please visit the department website.

For more information on the Master’s of Environmental Studies Program, please visit the program page on the department's website.

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