This post was written by graduate, Brittney Van Beilen.
Throughout my last year in the disability studies program I didn’t quite feel ready to leave my studies behind just yet, so I decided I would pursue a Master’s degree. I did some research online to find a program that would suit my needs and allow me to continue to engage in disability studies enquiry. The Social Justice Education program at University of Toronto – Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) seemed to be the perfect fit, so I went to an Open House that was held at the OISE library. There I was able to meet some of the professors, hear testimonials of current and past students, and learn more about the courses offered. It wasn’t long after that I made my decision to apply.
I began preparing my application in late fall of my final year. As part of the admissions requirements, I had to write a 2-3 page statement of academic and professional intent relevant to Social Justice Education and list one or more faculty member/s whose work is relevant to my interests and concerns I was also required to obtain two letters of reference – one academic and one professional, provide a resume, transcripts from previously attended post-secondary institutions, and provide a sample of written work related to social justice education. For this, I had many options thanks to the coursework and experience from the Disability Studies Program. Once I had all the required documents, I was able to easily apply online via OISE’s admissions application. I have to admit, it was quite a busy and stressful time, and as daunting a task it seemed to be, it was all worth it in the end. My advice for applying to grad school is to do a lot of research to find out what programs are available, which ones will work for you in terms of delivery and timing, which ones match your interests, goals and lifestyle, what the admissions requirements are, what types of courses are offered, when they’re offered, who the faculty is and who you might want to work with (especially if you plan to pursue an MA).
The Social Justice Education department offers both MA (Master of Arts) and MEd (Master of Education) degree options and students may choose to study full time or part time. This was one of the aspects that drew me to the program. It was a nice transition from the Disability Studies program, allowing me to continue to work full-time while pursuing my education part time. The MA requires less coursework but students write a thesis – something graduates of the Disability Studies program are well-equipped to do after completing the capstone project. MEd students complete more coursework but do not write a thesis. The Social Justice Education program offers studies in education, with a focus on equity and social justice from various perspectives such as history, philosophy, sociology and political science. Students are encouraged to focus their studies on one area or discipline as courses are offered in a variety of studies and I am focusing on disability studies. The Disability studies program at Ryerson helped me to think critically about my role within a “helping profession” and to consider the power relations at play that work to individualize and pathologize disability. It taught me to analyze and critique the social, cultural and political aspects of disability, giving me a solid critical framework to move forward with and at OISE I feel like I’ve picked up right where I left off at Ryerson.