Evelyn Kalman

Evelyn with her aunt and grandmother
Evelyn with her aunt and grandmother outside her childhood home in Romania

Echoes of family’s experience in a community research project

When Evelyn Kalman and her family immigrated to Canada in 2005, Evelyn was too young to understand how her parents upended their lives for their children’s future. Now she’s very much aware of the sacrifices they made. 

“My parents are not the people they used to be when we lived in Romania,” Evelyn observes. “Moving here was very isolating and they often felt they were ‘lesser than’. Their identities shifted.”

She heard similar themes from the immigrants she surveyed for her capstone project at Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS). As part of her Master in Public Administration (MPA), Evelyn helped VIRCS evaluate the effectiveness of the Newcomer Wraparound Support Program, which supports vulnerable immigrants by connecting them to multiple organizations and resources. Her evaluation showed that the program was as successful as it can be with the current resources available in the community, but it still left Evelyn with the feeling that Canada has a long way to go until every immigrant feels they belong and can contribute fully to their new communities.

Social Justice Warrior

“I consider myself a social justice warrior,” says Evelyn. After completing an undergraduate degree in criminology and criminal justice, she entered the University of Victoria’s MPA program specifically because she wanted to work in public service.

“I realized that, while I like being a part of research, it can be difficult to work with a system from the outside. I saw the MPA as a way to learn how you can impact change from within.”

The John Shields Scholarship in Public Administration, which honours Shield’s legacy in environmental work and social justice, is awarded to students dedicated to community development and social justice through community based research. Evelyn’s always worked hard to maintain high grades, and when she received this scholarship, she experienced a financial and psychological recognition of those efforts.

“I was dedicated to my studies, but there were times when I was tired and wanted to take a break. After relying almost exclusively on student loans, I felt encouraged having donors invest in me,” she says earnestly. “Their belief in me was one of my biggest motivators to achieve the goals I set for myself.”

Learning to incorporate other’s voices

Part-way through conducting the VIRCS survey, Evelyn realized she needed to spend more time building trust with participants before they would be comfortable sharing their experiences of the program. The scholarship enabled her to drop down to part-time hours in her job so she could spend more time at the refugee centre.

That hands-on learning experience informs Evelyn’s current work as a policy analyst for the BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “My MPA taught me how to consider other’s thoughts and perspectives, and incorporate their voices into policy development.”

She hopes to continue using these skills by working in immigration policy, social justice and human rights. As a proud Canadian she wants to help newcomers have a more positive settlement experience.

“I believe people should have the opportunity to follow their dreams, and we have a responsibility to ensure the immigrant experience matches the story we told them before coming here.”- Evelyn Kalman