By Ellen Tsaprailis

Five undergraduates and one graduate student have won the inaugural Summer 2021 Carleton University Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Research Awards.

Their EDI-related research projects will be conducted through August in collaboration with faculty supervisors in what is a landmark recognition for EDI scholarship in Ontario higher education. The graduate student award is $15,000 and each undergraduate was awarded $10,000.

The awards align with the strategic directions of Carleton’s Strategic Integrated Plan and respond to a specific recommendation in Carleton’s new EDI Action Plan.

Of the 43 applicants, here are the six winners:

Sami Islam

Sami Islam is a third-year Journalism and Law student who will research how prosecutorial discretion is influenced by guidance from attorneys general using a multi-jurisdictional analysis.

Sami Islam in front of MacOdrum Library

Sami Islam

“Prosecutors are given the discretion to make decisions based on their own assessment of a situation,” says Islam. “This individual discretion is a very important part of the job. It is also what sometimes causes the great variance we see in responses to two people who have committed very similar offences.

“My hope is that by understanding how individual prosecutors respond to attorneys general, I can contribute to a reimagining of justice systems which sees prosecutorial discretion being used as a tool to work against mass incarceration.”

Islam looks forward to the impact the award could have on his future.

“I hope that the work I’m doing will inform my career goals and what I hope to see in the legal field in years to come.”

Khaled Madhoun

Khaled Madhoun is graduating in June with an Engineering Physics degree.

He plans to catalogue case studies of bad design in technology, locally and around the world, which demonstrate design biases and propose methodologies that can help reduce them. He hopes to disseminate the findings from this analysis as ‘best design practices’ for use at Carleton and beyond.

Khaled Madhoun

Khaled Madhoun

“Unfortunately, there are still many exclusionary designs in technology today. Devices that cannot be used by people with certain disabilities, function variably depending on skin colour, sex, etc. I plan to catalogue many of these case studies and create a best practices protocol to be potentially used by the Faculty of Engineering and Design and other engineers/designers,” says Madhoun.

Exclusionary designs include the first Apple watches which had issues with properly measuring heart rates for people with darker skin, he says. Similarly, some soap dispensers frequently do not dispense soap to people with darker skin pigmentation.

Meral Jamal

Meral Jamal is graduating in June with a Bachelor of Journalism and a minor in History.

She will research how Canadian journalism students, and specifically those at Carleton, have challenged institutionalized racism in their programs over the past year since the killing of George Floyd.

Meral Jamal in a park

Meral Jamal

Jamal also wants to analyze the response students received from Carleton, and what more needs to be done to address racism and anti-Black racism, as well as ensure greater diversity and inclusion in journalism schools moving forward.

“I was delighted and so grateful to be one of the students chosen for this award,” says Jamal. “I also remember having the distinct feeling that the real work begins now.”

Rumbi Chimhanda

Rumbi Chimhanda is pursuing her PhD in Political Science.

Rumbi Chimahanda

Rumbi Chimahanda

Her research will examine how everyday multiculturalism and the African diaspora interact to shape gendered racialization processes in multiple spaces, through an exploration of African immigrant women’s beauty practices. The main spaces analyzed will include the self, the home, the church, social media and the workplace.

“Since formal public channels of expression are often denied to Black women generally and African women specifically, many immigrants struggle to express their everyday lived experience of diversity in terms of the official rhetoric of multiculturalism and racism,” says Chimhanda. “It is my hope that this project begins to demarginalize African women in discussions about multiculturalism by emphasizing their cultural and racial identity as displayed through everyday beauty practices.”

Alexis White

Alexis White, a second-year Sociology student, is grateful to have a research opportunity as an undergraduate.

She will look at the history of racialized student activism on campus.

“Protests and discussion of racism, diversity and persecution have only now become more common in mainstream media as of late, but racialized student groups have continuously led these discussions for social change for much longer,” says White.

“I hope my research will give a platform to racialized student activists at Carleton, as well as explore the intricate reality and history of institutionalised racism that they are working to uproot.”

Samira Amid

Samira Amid is a fourth-year student pursuing an honours BA majoring in Law and Human Rights.

“I have been working towards my undergraduate degree full time, year-round and under course overload to quicken my graduation process,” says Amid. “This is amazing news for my family and I. It truly represents a moment of light for us all.”

Samira Amid

Samira Amid

Amid will review literature exploring gang involvement, criminalization and policing in impoverished areas of North America, with a qualitative analysis of social media products created by young racialized males from social housing communities in a major Canadian city.

“Such products regularly feature direct or symbolic references to youth’s perceptions of and interactions with police. I will also draw from critical race theory scholarship to examine the effects of systemic racism on policing in marginalized communities,” says Amid. “My intention with my research is not to further stigmatize these youth, but instead to redress their biased portrayal and underrepresentation in academic literature and broader society.”

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