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Crisis Centre

Expert Centre


One of the most influential ways of stemming the cycle of inequity and inequality is through the telling of human impact stories of either those who have experienced these firsthand, or those who have demonstrated ways to improve communities. Shanti Fernando, PhD is a prolific storyteller who has dedicated her career to giving a voice to those who don’t have one. As the Political Science Program Director and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, her research agenda is grounded in Canadian politics and policies that support community development including adult education, mental health supports, immigration and settlement policies, anti-poverty and social service policies. Dr. Fernando advocates for evidence-based policy making that engages communities in questioning systemic discrimination and the interconnectedness of policies. For example, policies that increase support for adult education, infrastructure, affordable housing, social services, disability services and health services can all be part of a holistic anti-poverty strategy. Her collaborative research also explores the intersection between immigration and disability. She leads an interdisciplinary research team examining ways to improve adult supported education programs run by Canadian psychiatric hospitals. Along with her UOIT research team, she has helped create some of the few studies on supported education conducted in Canada. Growing up, she envisioned herself a writer and storyteller, and became fascinated with political stories. She earned her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English and Political Science from the University of Toronto, her Master of Arts in Political Studies from the University of Guelph, and her Doctorate in Political Studies from Queen’s University. Dr. Fernando spent four years as Assistant Professor in Political Science at York University in Toronto, then as an Assistant Professor of Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. She authored the well-known book Race and the City in 2007 in order to raise awareness of racism and its historical legacy in Canada. She came to UOIT in 2008 where she contributed to the establishment of the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities’ Community Development Program (now the Political Science program). For her research and community outreach, Dr. Fernando received the 2012 Extraordinary Partner Award from the Canadian Mental Health Association in Durham Region.


Chair, Board of Directors, Literacy Network of Durham Region

June 1, 2014

The Literacy Network of Durham Region provides literacy and basic skills support and resources for Employment Ontario stakeholders through research, public education, community planning, professional and community capacity development.

2012 Extraordinary Partner Award, Canadian Mental Health Association Durham Region

September 1, 2012

Dr. Fernando received the award for her expertise and counsel as a grant reviewer for the organization.

Queen's University

PhD - Political Studies

University of Guelph

MA - Political Studies

University of Toronto

BA (Hons) - English and Political Science
  • Increasing Literacies Through Supported Education and Policies of Inclusion

    $169389  | December 31, 1969

    Awarded by: Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant
    As principal investigator of this five-year research project, Dr. Fernando is focused on establishing best practices for supported education programs in four psychiatric hospitals, which offer mental health supports alongside educational programming, and life skills and socialization training psychiatric inpatients and outpatients with mental illness. She leads a UOIT research team that seeks to advocate for the continuation and expansion of these programs as well as providing research support for social and education policies that can improve literacy and mental health outcomes.

  • Supported Literacy Education for Persons Living with Mental Illness: Exploring Social and Economic Implications

    $50926  | April 1, 2013

    Awarded by: SSHRC Insight Development Grant
    Dr. Fernando was principal investigator of this two-year research project with UOIT faculty involving a case study of the supported education program at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, in Whitby, Ontario. The aim was to understand the social, economic and political implications of low literacy skills for people living with mental illness and to provide a program assessment and recommendations for the program coordinators.

  • Association of Canadian Studies

  • Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education

  • Canadian Disability Studies Association

  • Canadian Ethnic Studies Association

  • Canadian Political Science Association

  • Canadian Sociological Association

  • European Society for Research in Adult Education


  • Media appearances

    Building hope and confidence while living with mental illness
    Oshawa This Week print

    May 3, 2017

    According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), about 20 per cent of Canadians will have developed a mental illness by age 25, and more than two-thirds of them say their symptoms first appeared when they were children. This means that mental illness tends to emerge during the years when young people are normally attending school.

    Shedding blue-collar image, Oshawa offers lessons for growth online

    March 14, 2012

    New restaurants popping up, an art gallery opening, university campuses expanding — the changes have appeared over time, but to Shanti Fernando they’re all signs of an actively growing city doing everything it can to attract new residents...

  • Past speaking engagements
    • The Medium is the Message: Mediated Learning and Mental Health

      University Rennes 2, Rennes, France
      November 2, 2017

      European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Access, Learning Careers and Identities Conference

    • De/Constructing Exclusionary Immigration Law and Policy, Past and Present

      University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
      May 30, 2016

      Annual Conference of Canadian Disability Studies Association

    • Finding Hope Through Education: Student Experiences of Supported Education

      Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario
      May 29, 2017

      Canadian Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Congress of the Social Science and Humanities

    • SSHRC Insight Development Results: Relation to Literacy and Adult Education in Ontario

      Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
      November 11, 2016

      Festival of Literacies

    • Adult Educators as Community Developers

      University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
      May 29, 2016

      2016 Annual Conference of Canadian Association Studies of Adult Education

    • Education Interrupted: Learning Careers of Adults Living with Mental Illness

      Seville, Spain
      November 26, 2015

      European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Access, Learning Careers and Identities Network Conference

    • From Patient to Student: Study of a Canadian Hospital Supported Education Program

      Groningen, Netherlands
      November 16, 2015

      1st European Conference on Supported Education

    • Is Knowledge Power? An Exploration of an Historical Normative Framework for Literacy Policy, Adult Education and the Economy in Canadian Communities

      University of Warwick, Coventry, England
      June 30, 2015

      Warwick Lifelong Learning Annual Conference

    • Still on the Margins: English Language Learning and Mental Health in Immigrant Psychiatric Patients

      Dublin, Ireland
      April 20, 2015

      Ireland International Conference on Education

    • Keep Stop Start: Assessing a Supported Education Program for Persons Living with Mental Illness

      Honolulu, Hawaii
      January 5, 2015

      The Hawaii International Conference on Education

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