RDI 2023 Fall Engagement  

By: Felix Ntenhene and Nicole Breedon
November 23, 2023

Over the past year, all of us at RDI have been working to build relationships with folks both on and off campus. The ability to engage with students, staff and community members is of utmost importance, and we believe that these connections are what lay the foundation for actionable research to take form. With the fall semester coming to an end, we began to reflect on how we have worked to engage folks here at BU. 

This fall, the Department of Rural Development collaborated with RDI and the Office of the Dean (Faculty of Arts) to host a Student Reception. With 45 attending students and faculty, we were able to kick off the 2023-2024 academic year by welcoming new and returning Rural Development students. After welcoming words from Dr. Wilder Robles, Dr. Balfour Spence and Timothy Olaseinde, students and faculty had the opportunity to get to know one another over a hot, Halal African meal. While September is a very busy time for both students and faculty, this dinner offered a fantastic opportunity to continue building relationships with those involved with the department.  

Alongside the Student Reception, RDI held an Open House with the hopes to engage students in a comfortable setting. During this event we were able to talk with students, and share some of the work we’ve been doing. Not only did this showcase the breadth of opportunities and research avenues when it comes to Rural Development, but we worked to ensure students that our doors will always be open. RDI has been producing valuable research content for 34 years, and we want to continue to share these resources as new students come to BU.  

In addition to building connections across campus, RDI has been working to enhance the relationships with those in our networks from across Canada and beyond. As the fall semester progressed, opportunities to engage with international research partners emerged, and we were more than happy to build on these connections. Dr. Junichiro Koji, Associate Professor at Hokkaido University of Education, Hakodate Campus, visited RDI, as he was in Manitoba conducting research regarding the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP). During his stay, he also provided a public talk focusing on his community-based work in Japan. Alongside Dr. Junichiro Koji, two research partners from Brazil have been working within the RDI space throughout the months of October and November, going into December. Alvaro Marques is a Project Research Manager at UNESP located in Brazil, and has been working alongside Bruna Costa, a researcher in the Emerging Leadership of the America’s Program (ELAP).  

With the semester coming to an end, RDI has been working to ensure that there are opportunities for research connections addressing a variety of themes in relation to rural development in the New Year. Through the variety of current and upcoming projects, we are proud to note that multiple new Research Assistants have been hired to build research skills as well as enhance the work at RDI. As a new member to the Knowledge Mobilization team, we asked Masters student Felix Ntenhene if he would be interested in sharing his thoughts and experiences from BU and RDI.   

Student and Researcher Perspective: Felix Ntenhene 

When I contemplated leaving Sweden for Canada, it involved deep introspection before finalizing my decision. Despite living in Sweden for nearly four years and obtaining a master’s degree in international migration and ethnic relations, finding a job related to my field was a struggle, dimming my hopes each passing day. The Swedish system’s promise of social and economic equality felt out of reach for me, prompting my decision to relocate. Canada’s diversity became an attractive prospect, especially considering my interest in studying development alongside migration. While exploring Canadian universities offering development studies, Brandon University, highly recommended by friends, stood out. Especially after I perused the RDI page on the BU website. The application process was smooth, leading to my acceptance into the Master of Rural Development program. However, upon arriving in January 2023, Canada’s extreme cold made me question my decision. Navigating through my first winter in Canada was challenging, but I persevered. 

My journey in the Department of Rural Development commenced in Dr. Wilder Roble’s class, where my educational background proved valuable, making me feel significant. The warm welcome at an RDI welcoming program at Baileys left me astounded. Learning about the multitude of opportunities within RDI left me excited.  

RDI offers avenues for students like volunteering and research assistant roles, refining students’ research skills. I was thrilled to take on a volunteering position within RDI and I am currently working as a research assistant focused on knowledge mobilization. This new role presents a platform to cultivate my career profile and realize my potentials. RDIs research projects aim to produce scientific knowledge that transforms societies and leaves a lasting impact. Therefore, being part a part of it all feels rewarding.