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Global Health alumna Sylvia Gawad: Working to improve the newcomer experience

Global Health alumna Sylvia Gawad standing outside the YWCA building in Halifax.

MSc Global Health alumna Sylvia Gawad is making a direct difference in the lives of newcomers to Canada through her work as a program manager for the YWCA in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


January 29, 2019

Sylvia Gawad chose the MSc Global Health program because she wanted a hands-on education that would not only give her the knowledge, but the practical skills, to be a leader in the field. This preparation will serve the recent alumna well as she pursues her long-term goal of running for office.

Becoming a politician is just one of many unique careers chosen by recent Global Health graduates, as Gawad learned at her recent convocation. “When I reunited with my friends, it was exciting to see the many different paths that they’re taking,” she says. “It showed me the diversity of possibilities that this program opens up.”

For now, Gawad is working as a program manager for the YWCA in her hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. She helps newcomers navigate the services and supports they can access to achieve financial wellbeing, while also developing an entrepreneurship program for newcomers. “The Global Health program equipped me with skills that are crucial in my current role, such as grant-writing and project development,” says Gawad, who has a Bachelor of Science in biology and psychology.

One of the seeds of her interest in newcomers was her thesis on Canada’s immigration system – a topic which developed after she attended the Global Health Symposium in India. At the symposium, international teams of students created maps of the Indian health care system. “This exercise really highlighted how important it is to have a full understanding of the system in which policies and programs operate,” she says. 

During Gawad’s field practicum experience, she worked in the Global Health office as a research assistant examining the barriers faced by internationally educated nurses seeking credentials in Ontario. “The project allowed me to develop my ability to use different research methods, analyze data and write research results,” she says.

Today, through her work with the YWCA, Gawad is making a direct difference in the lives of newcomers to Canada. And soon, through her future work as a politician, she hopes to influence policies that positively impact and support immigrants. Most recently, Gawad joined the board of the Atlantic Immigration Summit, which aims to develop innovative, practical and actionable solutions to enhance immigration practices, improve economic performance, and build inclusive communities in Atlantic Canada. She is also a member of Future City Builders' 30Lab project, which aims to address challenges and opportunities around housing-related issues including access to community transit and food, inclusionary zoning for social housing, homelessness, and financing. “We'll work with city experts to build accessible, healthy, and livable communities for all," says Gawad.  

Her advice to current and future MSc Global Health students is to seek out every chance to grow their practical and theoretical skills: “Don't expect to learn everything in a classroom. Go to meetings and conferences, and say yes to opportunities that come to you.”