“Chutes and Ladders”
With a degree in medicine, and a Masters and Ph.D. in public health, Vathsala was a university professor in her home country of Sri Lanka prior to immigrating to Canada. Within the academic stream, she had conducted her own research, and collaborated with researchers in Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Her work on violence against women was very well published internationally and she was leading an action committee on women’s health in Sri Lanka.
In preparation for her move, Vathsala researched her job opportunities within her field. She quickly realized that getting an equivalent teaching position within a university was going to be difficult if one is coming from outside. She applied for over 40 positions and was called for only two interviews. The questions were so narrow that she knew she says she did not stand a chance. She looked into bridging programs, however, she felt they were not specific nor advanced enough for her needs.
With all these roadblocks, she felt like she was playing a game of “chutes and ladders.” With her one move, she slipped back to where she was 10 years before, and she had to re-build everything again.
Vathsala was determined not to take a “survival job” but rather to re-chart her way within her field of expertise. She took a very strategic and entrepreneurial approach, recognizing that her highest value was in her international research experience and connections, she leveraged her prior professional connections to bring forth a collaborative research opportunity. Although she was not the principal investigator on the project, she was able to secure funding and line up her first job in her field of expertise. This provided her with sufficient financial stability and allowed her to understand the academic track, from within the university. This experience made her realize that the best way to re-establish herself in academia was to enroll in a second Ph.D. program to continue her work on violence against women. You can learn more about Vathsala’s work here.