National conference highlights refugee research; child soldier keynote

WINNIPEG, MB –The University of Winnipeg’s Faculty of Education is hosting a national conference from July 12 to 15, 2017 where results from a three-year study led by UWinnipeg on refugee youth will be the main theme. The conference will also feature keynote speaker, Ishmael Beah, former child soldier from Sierra Leone and best-selling author.

The theme for the fifth annual Lost Prizes/ International Centre for Innovation in Education Conference is informed by the three-year research project Dr. Jan Stewart (Professor, Education) and her team have been conducting nationally.

“Integration is a two-way process and a welcoming community for newcomers is incumbent on the collective compassion and support from all ecological systems. We need to be better informed about the experiences of refugees and the impact of displacement, trauma and loss,” says Stewart.  The research has identified the need for trauma-sensitive schools, culturally responsive programs and services, and multi-sectoral training for all newcomer serving organizations.

The conference will include keynote and breakout presentations focusing on refugee and newcomer journeys. Topics to be covered include supporting trauma affected youth and their families, the power and importance of storytelling, and various topics related to effective and relevant teaching practices including transcultural literacies, building holistic learning environments, and career development, in an effort to prepare students for life beyond secondary school. It will conclude with a panel of parents and youth who will share their experiences as newcomers. It is expected that 200 participants from across Canada will attend the conference.

Companion courses are held concurrently for the Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Education program.

Find Conference details here.


The plight of families desperate to leave Syria and find a safe haven is dominating world news. But what happens to the children and teenagers who have experienced war and upheaval and finally land in a Canadian school?  Almost a quarter of a million newcomers settle in Canada each year – and 6,000 are refugees under the age of 18. How do they adapt and how can they thrive? The University of Winnipeg’s Dr. Jan Stewart is leading a Canadian study aimed at helping youth refugees navigate school and transition into meaningful careers.

Nearing completion, the three-year study has received financial support of $154,000 from Mitacs Canada, in addition to original funders Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC – $126,000) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC – $196,475). The Werklund School of Education has also granted $40,000 and ten major partners are contributing in-kind consultation time towards this project. To date, this project exceeds $600,000 in funding and support from stakeholders sharing the common goal of supporting newcomers.

Over 320 interviews were conducted across the three provinces: Manitoba, Alberta, and Newfoundland including participants from inner city schools, settlement agencies and community organizations. What the researchers are finding is that overall, while the community is welcoming for newcomers and refugees, numerous challenges remain with the long-term adjustment and settlement needs of youth. The national conference and course offerings were specifically developed to address the need for capacity-building in these identified areas.

SHORT BIO – Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah (photo submitted).

Ishmael Beah, born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, is the New York Times best-selling author of A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier and Radiance of Tomorrow, A Novel both published by Farrar Straus & Giroux.

His Memoir has been published in over 40 languages and was nominated for a Quill Award in the Best Debut Author category for 2007. TIME Magazine named the book as one of the “Top 10 Nonfiction books of 2007,” ranking at number 3. His novel written with the gentle lyricism of a dream and the moral clarity of a fable is a powerful book about preserving what means the most to us, even in uncertain times. Already available in several foreign languages, the New York Times finds in his writing an “allegorical richness” and a “remarkable humanity to his [Beah’s] characters”.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine, International Herald Tribune, Globe & Mail, Rutgers University Press, Vespertine Press, LIT, The Guardian, Parabola magazines and numerous academic journals. He is based in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and children.

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Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg

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