Fellows Feature: Merita Limani and Exaucé Ngadande

There is only one more month left in this year's training program, and our Fellows are busy preparing their final deliverables: an ePortfolio and a Dragon's Den data visualization. Next month, they will join us in Montreal at McGill University for the annual hybrid CAnD3 Keynote Address. We are very excited to meet them in person and the CAnD3 team has been busy making preparations for the Keynote Address. In the meantime, we caught up with Fellows, Merita and Exaucé, to learn about their research and what they have gained from the program.

Featured image: Merita Limani (left) and Exaucé Ngadande (right).

Merita Limani

Prior to beginning her PhD, Merita worked for a decade in the international development sector with organizations including USAID, the Council of Europe, and the Swiss Development Agency. She led initiatives against gender-based violence, democratization, and on the implementation of the Human Rights Convention. Merita says that these professional experiences helped her develop a multidisciplinary approach to research problems and a deep understanding of the social, economic, and political contexts in which research and development interventions occur.

Merita is now pursuing doctoral studies in sociology at the University of Western Ontario. She is interested in understanding how gender influences health outcomes and how the healthcare system can better address the unique health needs of vulnerable populations. “My passion for research on gender disparities in health and public policy stems from my commitment to social justice and my belief that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve optimal health and well-being.” Merita wants to guide her future research contributions with the same passion for gender equality and women’s rights that drove her professional and advocacy activities.

In fact, her recent publication explores the increase in gender-based violence in Kosovo during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, she is presenting a paper on the impacts of gender quotas on political participation at the Canadian Sociological Association conference this year. In this paper, Merita argues that gender quotas can effectively ensure women’s numerical representation in politics, without guaranteeing substantial representation in decision-making. As part of her PhD, Merita is also exploring new research avenues and recently co-authored a paper on opioid use in the US and pain disparities among racialized populations in Canada.

Now, as part of the CAnD3 training program, Merita wants to foster an evidence-based and holistic approach to research and policy development. “The CAnD3 training has given another layer of skillset for me, that of using data to inform policy decision-making,” explains Merita. “The training in skills development has helped me develop a solid foundation in population data science, data visualization, and evidence-based decision-making.”

Merita loves to spend time with her family, visit new places in Canada, and walk in the snow. Merita has also been enjoying reading novels by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who explores themes of race, gender, and identity from a complex perspective.

“In addition to the training, the CAnD3 program has provided me with a unique opportunity to connect with other graduate students, academics, and professionals. These connections have not only expanded my knowledge and perspectives in various fields of research but also provided me with valuable opportunities such as pursuing an internship with Canadian Institute for Health Information.”

Following the training program, Merita aims to contribute to the development of evidence-informed interventions that promote equity and improve health outcomes for all individuals. You can learn more about Merita and connect with her here.

Exaucé Ngadande

Exaucé is interested in the ways that marital instability, including union breakdowns and blended families, impacts child development among sub-Saharan African immigrant populations in Canada. “I am passionate about this subject for two main reasons: scientific and social. Scientifically, it is a topic that is not widely addressed in the extant literature (especially in the Canadian context). And socially, marital stability and, therefore, family stability is one of the guarantees of good child development,” explains Exaucé. He points to studies showing that children whose parents separated or divorced while they were still minors are more likely to perform poorly in school and adopt risky health behaviors at an early age. Exaucé hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms of marital breakdown among this target population to determine what programs are needed to positively support child development.

To this end, Exaucé is pursuing a PhD in Demography at Université de Montréal. He shares that his quantitative background in economics and demography has been very supportive in his current research, his role as an analyst in the Ministry of Higher Education in Canada, and his training with CAnD3. In fact, one of the factors that drew Exaucé to the CAnD3 program is the potential to apply his quantitative skills to real-life problems. “I am currently doing an internship with Chantier de l'Economie Sociale du Québec, where my research explores the impact of economic situations and social networks on life satisfaction among elderly immigrants in Quebec. The uniqueness of the CAnD3 program comes from the fact that each theory is linked to practice.”

Exaucé says that he has very little time right now, juggling academics, an internship, and an analyst role. When he does have a second, he spends time improving his English language skills using resources like Duolingo and the BBC learning English curriculum.

Following his PhD, Exaucé hopes to be part of a large network of researchers studying population issues around the world. “The CAnD3 program has already been a major asset to this process as it has provided me with the necessary tools to make this kind of dream a reality (partnership with major research centers and professionals in Canada and around the world)”. Exaucé is happy that the CAnD3 program allows Fellows to connect their research interests to real-world scenarios. “I am confident that all Fellows can count on the unwavering support of CAnD3, even after our training”.

Learn more about Exaucé and connect with him.

About the training program

The Population Analytics in an Aging Society Training Program is a rigorous one-year fellowship hosted by the Consortium on Analytics for Data-Driven Decision-Making (CAnD3), funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and based at McGill University. The program upskills rising researchers in Master's, PhD, and postdoctoral programs in the areas of population data science and computational population social science from a multidisciplinary lens. It also connects Fellows to experiential learning opportunities, which include hands-on research projects and internships with government, not-for-profit, and private sector CAnD3 partners. Since the first year of the program in 2020, CAnD3 has trained 32 Fellows and welcomes 20 new Fellows for the 2022-23 Academic Year.

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