Meet the Team

Gillian Parekh, Project Director

Dr. Gillian Parekh is a Canadian Research Chair (Tier 2) in Inclusion, Disability and Education at York University. Dr. Parekh’s primary research focus explores how ability is constructed and mobilized in schools through the organization of students across various academic opportunities. Dr. Parekh will assume responsibility for the coordination of the research project. She will hire and supervise research assistants as well as oversee administrative and financial aspects of the project. Dr. Parekh will coordinate training for research assistants, conduct data collection and analysis, assume primary writing responsibilities for forthcoming articles and reports, as well as coordinate the dissemination of results through the knowledge mobilization plan. As evidenced through her past work with students, Dr. Parekh will ensure that the graduate students hired to the project will have opportunities to publish and utilize their experience and analyses for their own Masters' and/or Doctoral work.


Dr. Robert S. Brown has worked in educational research for 25 years and is an Adjunct Professor at York University. His areas of study include the time structures of schools, including absenteeism; secondary achievement; special education needs; postsecondary student pathways; longitudinal tracking studies; and socioeconomic and demographic patterns. With his in-depth knowledge of the TDSB census and program data as well as his capability to build and conduct sophisticated statistical modelling, Dr. Brown will be a quantitative expert for this research project and support student training in this area. 

Dr. Carl James holds the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora at York University, Toronto, where he is also Senior Advisor on Equity and Representation. He teaches in the Faculty of Education and holds cross-appointments in the Graduate Programs in Sociology, social& Political Thought, and Social Work, His research interests include examination of the schooling experiences, employment opportunities, and social achievements of racialized people – particularly Black youth, noting the ways in which societal and institutional cultures shape their lived experiences and outcomes. 

Dr. Molade Osibodu is an assistant professor of mathematics education at York University. Her research interests include harnessing mathematics education to redress injustices related to race (particularly anti-Blackness), equity, and power; understanding how to make mathematics humanizing for Sub-Saharan African youth; exploring immigrant and refugee math experiences; and African indigenous mathematics practices. Dr. Osibodu situates her work in decolonial theory and uses decolonizing, participatory, and critical methodologies in her research. 

Dr. Karen Robson is the Ontario Research Chair in Educational Achievement and At-Risk Youth from McMaster University. Dr. Robson holds several research portfolios and is the Principal Investigator on the Gateway Cities project – a transnational quantitative project examining post-secondary access across global gateway cities. Dr. Robson specializes in the area of sociology and education and bring an extensive quantitative skill set. She has written books on statistical computation and analysis and has in-depth experience working with the TDSB’s student demographic, program and administrative data sets. Dr. Robson will be key in our quantitative data analysis and can provide a critical sociological theoretical framing of results for when we merge both the qualitative and quantitative data sets together.  

Dr. Vidya Shah is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University. She specializes in the area of Leadership and Education. As a former teacher, Dr. Shah has worked with the TDSB within their Model for Inner City Schools Program. Exemplifying her commitment to research and work in equity and social justice, Dr. Shah is co-organizer of York’s Faculty of Education Summer Institute which brings together scholars, advocates and educators from across the country to discuss issues around identity, intersectionality and structural barriers to education. Dr. Shah has also created a documentary and leads a podcast series exploring issues in education and promotion of authentic student voice. She will be instrumental in knowledge mobilization and data analysis. 

Dr. Kathryn Underwood is an Associate Professor at the School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University. Dr. Underwood’s research experience includes work in family school relationships, special education policy, and early childhood education and care policy. Dr. Underwood has extensive experience in training and supervision of graduate students. She has experience with a range of methods including Institutional Ethnography and Conceptual Mapping. She has extensive experience with interview, focus group, mapping, and participatory data collection methods. Dr. Underwood will guide the qualitative work on this project. Dr. Underwood will assist with supervision and training of research assistants. Dr. Underwood will also assist with the collection, protocol development and analysis of interview material.  

Dr. Sue Winton is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University. Dr. Winton has an extensive research and publication portfolio in the area of Critical Policy Analysis in education as well as school, family and community partnerships. For many years, Dr. Winton has worked closely with the TDSB on issues of access and equity. Dr. Winton also has rich expertise in Institutional Ethnography and we will be drawing upon her experience and skills to help develop our instruments and analysis.  Dr. Winton will also contribute to the training of graduate students hired to the project.  

Research Team

Firrisaa Abdulkarim is a PhD student in the sociology department at York University. He completed his BSc in psychology, with a minor in economics at York University. He has also completed master’s degrees in economics and sociology. Throughout his educational journey, Firrisaa’s research interest has always revolved around the intersection of inequality and race, particularly within the educational system. He has experience in community development, including international experience, where he has been a part of several projects that tackle the issues that youth from marginalized communities face. 

Katie Barron is a Doctoral student in the Faculty of Education at York University. She has extensive experience as a Special Education teacher, classroom teacher and Learning Coach in the TDSB. Her research sits at the intersection of Special Education policy, Critical Disability studies and Critical Race studies. Specifically, she is investigating Who benefits from curriculum modifications?

Project Coordinator

Kim Tran is a Master of Education candidate at York University and is the new Project Coordinator for Critical Transitions. Her research interests include Indigenous conservation, experiential education, place-based learning, and equity/policy issues in education. As a new educator, she is passionate about continuing the equity work needed for all learners; as a lifelong learner, she hopes to gain more knowledge and insights into the experiences of others so that she can give back to others too.