Director’s Letter (June 2021)

June 2021

This past year has been like no other. We all confronted situations that pushed us to our limits in unanticipated ways. Some of us have endured profound losses: the loss of loved ones, the loss of health, the loss of economic security. Some of us have been the target of heightened racism. Many of us have felt isolated, missing community and face-to-face interactions. Whatever work-life balance working parents among us had constructed prior to the pandemic, it fell like a house of cards in the face of school and daycare closures and the demands of home schooling.

As I am writing this, we are once again confronted with the atrocities of colonization as we mourn the 215 children who did not survive the Kamloops Residential School and the 751 unmarked graves found at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School. We mourn with their families, communities, and survivors of the horrors of the Indian Residential School system. We recognize our own accountability to the first peoples of this land – the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) – on whose traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories we work, live, and play.

Barely three years after the creation of the Migration Research Excellence Cluster, we continue to grow, with an on-campus community of now more than 70 UBC faculty and nearly 60 graduate students. Our partnerships with community partners are stronger than ever. In late 2020, our application to be recognized as a research centre within the Faculty of Arts was approved, and the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS) established. This was a dream come true, even if we have not (yet) been able to celebrate together!

Before I share in more detail our plans for the upcoming year and reflect on some of the achievements of the past, I want to express my gratitude to the many people without whom none of this would have been possible. A heartfelt thank you to the 19 members of the CMS Executive Committee who have so freely given their time, energy, and expertise. Thank you especially to Dan Hiebert (Professor, Geography) for his work as the CMS Policy Liaison, Sean Lauer (Associate Professor, Sociology) for his role as Community Liaison, Sandra Schinnerl (Ph.D. student, Interdisciplinary Studies) and Molly Joeck (Ph.D. student, Allard School of Law) as our graduate student representatives, and Katie Crocker (CEO, Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC) and Kathy Sherrell (Associate Director, Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia) as our community representatives.

Just three days before we moved into remote work at the beginning of 2020, we were lucky to hire Doug Ober as our Manager of Programs and Initiatives. Without him, little of what we accomplished over the past year would have been possible. Our work has also been supported by the many graduate students who provided essential administrative and research support to CMS. A special shout-out to Emily Amburgey (Ph.D. student, Anthropology) and Atieh Razavi Yekta (Ph.D. student, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy) for hosting our Zoom speaker series, to Dustin Gray (Ph.D. student, Geography) for communications support, and to Saguna Shankar (Ph.D. student, Library, Archival and Information Studies) for her community liaison work.

We acknowledge the manifold sources of institutional support that UBC provides us. For continued financial support through the GCRC program we thank the Office of the Vice President, Research and Innovation. We are deeply grateful to the institutional sponsors of the Centre for Migration Studies for their generous support: The Faculty of Arts, the Departments of Political Science, Sociology, Geography, Anthropology, and the Peter A. Allard School of Law. For their willingness to believe in us and make the Centre happen, a special thank you goes to Dean Gage Averill and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Brett Eaton in the Faculty of Arts, and to Richard Price (Professor and Head) in Political Science.

I would now like to take the opportunity to reflect on the year behind us and offer a glimpse of our plans for the coming year.

Research Collaborations

The Centre for Migration Studies is a community of migration and mobility scholars who engage and collaborate across disciplines. Many of our collaborations take place in organized research groups. This year, we were delighted to welcome two new groups. The Research Creation group brings together researchers and artists at UBC and beyond to explore the intersection of the arts and scholarship in the study of migration. The group is coordinated by Erin Goheen Glanville (Sessional Lecturer, Coordinated Arts Program, English Language and Literatures) and Anne Murphy (Associate Professor, History). The Political Behaviour group, coordinated by Matthew Wright (Associate Professor, Political Science), engages with current research on immigration as it connects to topics in political behaviour and public opinion.

These new groups join longer established groups in the areas of Borders (Group Coordinator: Ben Goold, Professor, Allard School of Law), Community-University Partnerships (Group Coordinator: Suzanne Huot, Assistant Professor, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy), Migration and Indigeneity (Group Coordinator: Rima Wilkes, Professor, Sociology), Mobilities (Group Coordinator: Gaoheng Zhang, Assistant Professor, French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies), and Narratives (Group Coordinator: Markus Hallensleben, Associate Professor, Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies).

Each research group pursues its own initiatives and programing. Over the coming year, the groups will meet to discuss work-in-progress and readings (including migration comics!), apply for research grants and co-author work; organize conferences, graduate student roundtables, and webinars; network with scholars across North America, Europe, and Asia, and organize a public arts competition and documentary film screening.

CMS research groups are open to all of our affiliates, including faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and community partners. I encourage you to learn more about the groups on the CMS website. If you’d like to explore ways of becoming involved, simply email the group coordinator.


“CMS research groups are open to all of our affiliates, including faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and community partners…If you’d like to explore ways of becoming involved, simply email the group coordinator.”


A CMS research collaboration that began during the pandemic is “Belonging in Unceded Territory,” a community-engaged project funded through a SSHRC Partnership Development grant and led by Antje Ellermann (Professor, Political Science). The interdisciplinary UBC team includes 8 faculty members and several graduate students, working together with Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC (AMSSA), and Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC). The project seeks to bring settler colonialism into the center of debates on social belonging in Metro Vancouver. We ask: what does it mean for today’s settlers – those among us who have lived here for generations, and those who have just arrived – to acknowledge our own position in relation to Indigenous presence in these lands? Over the past year, we have collaborated with Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House to explore these questions through interviews with a wide range of organizational leaders and activists, as well as talking circles with Indigenous activists and community members. In the year ahead, we will work together with our three community partners to expand these circles to a wider range of community groups.

Over the past year, CMS provided matching funds for 4 SSHRC Connection grant-funded workshops: (1) “When Local Meets Transnational: The Effects of Immigrants Circulating Between Hong Kong and Canada,” organized by Miu Chung Yan (Professor, UBC Social Work), Sean Lauer (Associate Professor, UBC Sociology) and Eric Fong (Professor, Sociology, University of Hong Kong); (2) “New Media Aesthetics of Movement: Social Media, Digital Technologies, and Contemporary Migration,” organized by Biz Nijdam (Assistant Professor without Review, UBC Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies) and Gaoheng Zhang (Assistant Professor, UBC French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies); (3) “Storytelling as Research: Unsettling the Cultural Politics of Diversity through Filmmaking,” organized by Markus Hallensleben (Associate Professor, UBC Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies) and Erin Goheen Glanville (Sessional Lecturer, UBC Coordinated Arts Program, English Language and Literatures); and (4) “Graphic Narratives of Migration,” organized by Antje Ellermann (Professor, UBC Political Science), Mireille Paquet (Associate Professor, Political Science, Concordia University), and Frederik Køhlert (Lecturer, School of Art, Media and American Studies, University of East Anglia), and Sarah Leavitt (Lecturer, UBC Creative Writing). This workshop, which will involve over 30 CMS faculty affiliates and graduate students, is now scheduled to place in the spring of 2022.

In 2021/22, the Centre will once again make available financial support to new research collaborations through matching funds for SSHRC Connection grants.

In order to showcase the migration research happening at UBC, 2021/22 will further see the publication of an Open-Access CMS Working Paper series, edited by Antje Ellermann (Professor, Political Science). In the coming weeks, expect to see the call for papers as well as details about a new CMS grant competition for affiliated faculty that will offer Graduate Research Assistant support for collaborative work to be published in the series.

Immigration Data Hub

Over the past year, Dan Hiebert (Professor, Geography) and graduate student Sandra Schinnerl (Ph.D. student, Interdisciplinary Studies) have developed an impressive Data Hub that collates and graphically presents immigration-related statistics collected by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Statistics Canada. The Immigration Data Hub can be accessed through the CMS website and will go live later this year. It will be of interest not only to researchers – faculty, students, and independent researchers – who seek to analyze Canadian immigration data but also to instructors and community organizations looking for data presented in visually appealing dashboard form. The CMS will run training sessions and offer an annual prize for student papers utilizing the data. The Immigration Data Hub initiative builds on Dan Hiebert’s work as CMS Policy Liaison which, over the past year, has included regular immigration data presentations to B.C. immigrant serving agencies.

Community Engagement

We are thrilled to have received funding for a 2-year pilot initiative that will link UBC migration researchers from across faculties with the BC settlement sector. Beginning in September, a new community-university staff position will allow us to deepen and broaden relationships and collaborations with community partners focused on research, advocacy, and capacity-building. The position will be housed in the Centre for Migration Studies and will work closely with CMS Community Liaison Sean Lauer (Associate Professor, Sociology) and Katie Crocker, CEO of AMSSA).

As we put in place governance structures for the Centre for Migration Studies, Sean Lauer (Associate Professor, Sociology), Suzanne Huot (Assistant Professor, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy), and Katie Crocker (CEO, AMSSA) have held focus groups with community representatives to support the establishment of a Community Advisory Board. This process will continue over the summer months and we hope that, by the fall, we will have in place an advisory board composed of representatives of immigrant serving agencies and other community sectors.

It’s been a busy spring for our CMS Community Liaison! Sean Lauer (Associate Professor, Sociology), supported by Saguna Shankar (Ph.D. student, Library, Archival and Information Studies) conducted an Organizational Surveyto assess the research capacity, activities, and research needs of immigrant serving agencies across B.C. Through a GRA position, CMS further supported the Storytelling for Change Filmmaking Campaign organized by the Community-UBC Refugee and Migration Working Group. In the coming year, the CMS Community Liaison will support AMSSA in exploring the creation of a province-wide Research Advisory Council to guide community-university partnerships.


Policy-Engaged Teaching and Graduate Training

Supported by a Killam Connection Award, with matching funds from the Centre for Migration Studies and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, this fall Dan Hiebert (Professor, Geography) will teach a graduate course on Migration Policy in collaboration with two Washington D.C. based policy practitioners, Demetri Papademetriou and Margie McHugh. Papademetriou is the founder of Migration Policy Institute and convenes the Transatlantic Council on Migration, while McHugh is a leader in the field of immigrant education. We remain optimistic that both will be able to cross the border by September and join in person in what will be an exciting array of policy-related programming and teaching, ranging from a policy maker conference on “rebooting” migration in post-COVID Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., to a workshop on local immigrant integration.

More broadly, we are also exploring options of establishing a Certificate in Migration Studies for UBC graduate students. If you would like to be involved in this initiative, please get in touch with me!

This spring, Sandra Schinnerl (Ph.D. student, Interdisciplinary Studies), one of our graduate student representatives, created a Graduate Student Power Hour where UBC graduate students share their research on migration beyond their home departments and network with faculty and students from across the university and the broader community. In late May, Lisa Brunner (Ph.D. student, Educational Studies) kicked off the series with the topic of “‘Edugration’ as a Wicked Problem,” followed by Anne-Cécile Delaisse (Ph.D. student, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy) and Caitlyn Yates (Ph.D. student, Anthropology) in June. The initiative has been so popular that it will continue through the summer months with presentations from Maria Cervantes (Ph.D. student, Geography) and Natasha Damiano (Ph.D. student, Rehabilitation Sciences) in July!

As in past years, we will continue to support our graduate student affiliates by offering migration conference travel stipends. These travel grants allow graduate students to network and present their research to aninterdisciplinary audience – a must for any migration scholar!

In September 2021, the CMS will fund a virtual Migration & Citizenship pre-conference at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. Organized by Matthew Wright (Associate Professor, Political Science), the pre-conference will provide graduate students and early career scholars working on migration research with opportunities to network with more established scholars, as well as facilitate discussion on post-COVID immigration politics.

After a year of busy online programming – CMS has hosted more than 40 events since April 2020! – we are excited to return to campus this fall to reconnect in person. We look forward to seeing you at our Public Speaker Series and the many events organized by the Centre’s research groups. We warmly invite you to join us at our monthly Community Luncheons which give faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and community partners the chance to socialize over food and expand and deepen our connections. And of course we cannot wait to celebrate with you at our (belated) Centre Inauguration Party this fall!

I wish everyone a rejuvenating summer, filled with health and everything that brings you joy.

With gratitude,

Antje Ellermann
Professor, Political Science
Director, Centre for Migration Studies