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MDP Students Join Annual Summit

Fri. Sep. 1, 2023

UWinnipeg’s Master’s in Development Practice: Indigenous Development students made an impressive showing at the 15th Annual MDP Summit this June. Three students – Amber Balan, Bunmi Afolabi, and Daniel Nychuk – travelled overseas to network and share their research with development practitioners from seven different countries.

Amber Balan, Daniel Nychuk, and Bunmi Afolabi in Dublin, IrelandAmber Balan, who is completing her second and final year of the program this summer, presented her major research paper “Indigenous Health: Returning to Traditional Birthing Practices”. Amber’s research, under the supervision of Dr. Jaime Cidro, is part of the She Walks with Me Urban Indigenous Doula Project, which seeks to improve Indigenous infant and maternal health outcomes and reconnect women to culture by supporting the formation of a sustainable service delivery model for Indigenous doulas.

Bunmi Afolabi, also a second-year student, presented “Towards Indigenous Data Sovereignty”. Bunmi’s paper is based on research she performed in preparation for her 2023 summer field placement with Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. She reported on the steps and initiatives being taken by Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to collect, keep and be stewards of their own data, and how those processes relate to sustainable development and decolonization efforts.

Daniel Nychuk took a different approach. As he is completing the first year of the MDP program this summer, and entering the second year in the fall, Daniel’s major research paper is in the earliest of stages. So, Daniel took the opportunity to present the topic of his paper —  Supporting Urban Indigenous Expectant Mothers through Culturally-Based Doulas – for feedback prior to any intensive research or writing.

Once they returned and recovered from jetlag, we checked in with Amber, Bunmi, and Daniel to learn more about their time at the conference.

Congratulations on being selected to participate in the conference! Can you tell us about what made you decide to apply?

Amber: I thought it was an extraordinary opportunity to present to an international audience and gain valid experience in presenting during a global summit.

Bunmi: It provided a unique opportunity to meet and connect with other students in the MDP program worldwide. The conference also fostered an environment to learn from students and professionals about the research and practical work they are engaged in to support sustainable development.

Daniel: What made me decide to apply was the opportunity to share my Major Research Paper to the program directors and students from across the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) network. This allowed me to present on my future topic before I start the research allowing me the opportunity to gather feedback before I begin the actual research.

What were some of the connections between your research and other events at the conference? Did you have a chance to connect or socialize with researchers and practitioners from other institutions?

Amber: Throughout conference I was able to network with students from Harvard and many different program directors from countries such as Israel, Ireland, China and the United States. The subject matter of my research ignited much interest from the audience and opened many powerful discussions related to Indigeneity and issues facing Indigenous people in Canada.

Bunmi: There was a shared desire and approach to take collective action toward decolonizing development practice in academia and in the field.

I connected with researchers and faculty from the University of Minnesota, Monash University in Australia, Harvard University, and Milken Innovation Center/Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research.

Daniel: This was a great opportunity to connect with the other programs from across the world. Hearing about all of the exciting opportunities that are available in the MDP network was great for me. As one of four students who attended the event, it was also great to give a student’s perspective on some of the exciting things being shared at the conference. As a student, it motivated me to get more involved on a global MDP level.

What was the highlight of the conference for you, and what are you going to take away from your experience there?

Amber: The highlight of the conference was a walking tour of Dublin in which we were educated on the unique city planning and history of Dublin and how it has shaped and influenced the culture of the city.

The overall experience was enlightening and expanded my understandings of various research projects in the area of environmental justice and sustainability as related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Bunmi: The highlight of the conference was visiting Dublin and learning about its rich history and culture. Additionally, hearing about some of the initiatives and projects that have come out of the MDP programs to address issues such as environmental sustainability, Indigenous sovereignty, and food security.

My key takeaway from this experience is the importance of listening and valuing Indigenous knowledge systems and also the need for collaboration across disciplines to learn from one another and work together to create innovative solutions that can contribute towards sustainable change.

Daniel: There were many highlights for me. The first thing was the opportunity to strengthen my presentation skills. The opportunity to present in front of all attendees was a great experience for myself. I also enjoyed the networking aspect. I got the opportunity to hear about all of the great research opportunities and work that is being done across the world. The conference also gave me the chance to give a student’s perspective and input to how I feel the MDP can succeed. This conference made me feel fortunate to be a student in the MDP network, hearing about alumni and knowing how well our program at the University of Winnipeg is conducted made me feel great about my future career and aspirations. The final highlight of the conference was the chance to learn more about Ireland and its history. I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend and look forward to any future opportunities to attend similar events.

Thank you, Amber, Bunmi, and Daniel!

To hear more from these students, and learn about their summer field placements, stop by the MDP Field Placement Symposium on Friday, September 8!