Womens Studies student looks at intercultural friendships
By Ann Dumonceaux
"My ultimate goal, my mission in life, is to make a difference in the lives of women and children."
For Kim Morrison, that has meant leaving a successful career in accounting and undertaking graduate work in Womens and Gender Studies at the University of Saskatchewan though she notes that her experience in business was primarily responsible for sparking her interest.
"After graduating with my commerce degree, I worked at the Provincial Auditors office in Regina for five years, and I really enjoyed it. But as I got into human resources, I started working on maternity leaves, harassment policy, and employment equity, and I found myself tapped into a whole body of knowledge about womens history and equality that I didnt even know existed. I just got hooked on it."
Kim was hooked enough that when she and her family moved to British Columbia from Saskatchewan, she both worked as a business consultant for different non-profit groups, as well as enrolled in the womens studies program at Simon Fraser University.
While completing her post-Baccalaureate diploma, she read a journal article by Diana Relke of the U of S Womens and Gender Studies Dept. and knew that she "could come home and still pursue womens studies."
The timing was also right for her family.
"Wed really enjoyed it in B.C., but we were always using most of our holidays to travel home. We started to look forward to coming back."
Describing her interest as "applied feminism", Kim explains that she wanted to develop theories "in interaction with womens lived experiences and womens real lives."
Her project involved conducting oral history interviews with members of International Grandmothers Uniting, a Regina-based group of First Nations, Métis, and other Canadian women, toward examining the dimensions of intercultural womens friendships.
Noting that the Grandmothers are extensively involved in literacy projects, projects with youth, and projects against violence, Kim wanted to determine whether the basis for overcoming barriers against intercultural friendships can lead to social action.
"The Grandmothers start from their shared identity as grandmothers, and their shared concern for future generations of grandchildren" explains Kim.
"However, because they come from many separate cultures, they have to work through many different ways of doing things, things as simple as how to eat together at a table."
Kims research concluded that the Grandmothers believed that working through their differences in a respectful manner allowed them to develop and maintain friendships.
Further, she noted that the relationship between social action and intercultural friendships was extensive.
"I found that the Grandmothers believed that one could not be separated from the other the friendship made the activism better, and the activism made the friendship stronger."
Crediting supervisor Pamela Downe as an excellent mentor and role model for combining academics and community service, Kim insists that her work includes a social component.
"I still want to work with people in the community."
After the completion of her thesis, Kim is considering an interdisciplinary doctoral project looking at womens friendships within the accounting profession.
"I still find accounting interesting," she admits. "I liked the symmetry of accounting, and how we can explain whats happening somewhere through numbers, providing information and advice for effective decision-making."
She continues to teach Commerce classes at St. Peters College in Muenster, Sask.
Ann Dumonceaux writes profiles of U of S graduate students as part of a fellowship with the College of Graduate Studies and Research.