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Passion for helping others leads SOC grad to Carleton University MA program

Mon. Jun. 7, 2021

Kassandra Nelson, SOC grad
SOC grad Kassandra Nelson heads to Carleton University this fall.

Congratulations to UWinnipeg’s Kassandra Nelson, who is graduating in May with a four-year BA (Honours) with a major in Sociology. Nelson has accepted an offer for more than $30,000 to continue her studies at Carleton University in the MA program where she will continue the work she started at the honours-level at UWinnipeg.

When she started university, Nelson had planned to go into education. Later she changed her mind, and decided to do a degree in nursing. It was when Nelson was taking a sociology course as prerequisite for nursing that she says, “I fell in love with the [Sociology] program!” 

 Kassandra Nelson, SOC gradCarleton University was Nelson's first choice for her grad program.

At this time, Nelson was also volunteering with the Joyful Project, which was started in 2017 in Winnipeg by Andrew Benson. The organization, she says, sells fair trade and organic products, which are made in India by women who have been victims of sex trafficking. The women receive fair wages and benefits, as well as trust funds for their children’s education. As well, she adds, they learn life skills so they can return to their communities.

As a result of her work with the Joyful Project, Nelson decided to finish a BA, Honours in Sociology to study sex trafficking. At that point, she says, she made a conscious decision that it was important “to share as much as I know.”

Dr. Kimberley Ducey, Associate Professor in Sociology, was Nelson’s supervisor for her honours-level research on sex trafficking. Jonathon Franklin, Chair of the Department of Sociology, was the second reader for Nelson’s honours paper.

In Nelson’s paper, “Intersections and sociological perspectives on human trafficking,” she applied celebrated feminist and lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality, which Crenshaw introduced in 1989 in her paper, "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics." Looking at factors such as poverty level, social class, race, and gender in relation to sex trafficking, Nelson says that she found that basically anything that can be seen as making a person more vulnerable could lead traffickers to see that person as a victim.

In the course Liberation Sociology, Ducey introduced Nelson to influential sociologist Herbert Gans who described three mechanisms at play when scholarly work becomes public sociology: it must be pertinent to publics; we must embrace non-specialized vocabulary; and presenters must be willing and able to propose that our work is worthy of becoming public.

“Kassandra believes that maintaining some relationship with the public is part of our responsibility as sociologists, members of society, and as beneficiaries of funding, including through scholarships, salaries, and grants,” said Ducey. “Her research interests align with these beliefs.”

Nelson says if there’s one lesson she takes away from her time at UWinnipeg, it’s talk to your professor. She remembers when she started university. She says that she’d go to class, take notes, study, and go home. Being able to talk to your professors is major, she says emphatically - even if it’s just asking for clarification in person or by e-mail. She adds, “It’s the only way to get to know them.”

Nelson sees the opportunity to continue in an MA program as her chance to really make a positive difference in the world.