Supporting Student Parent Success: Tips from Research and Practice

Authored by Victoria Fritz, PhD Candidate (Family Relations and Human Development) & Learning Specialist, University of Guelph

The university landscape in Ontario is changing, and our student body is becoming more diverse. As we see more students coming from non-traditional backgrounds (traditional being direct entry from high-school), we need to become more aware of the unique needs of our students in order to better support them as practitioners. One group, in particular, that I have had the privilege of interacting with both in my research and in my professional work, is student parents.

Beyond Thanksgiving

How educators can authentically honor and engage with Indigenous heritage and perspectives — all year long.

By Heather Watts

At Redefining Traditional we aim to share resources, stories, and experiences from a scope of virtual communities and educational spaces for student parents and supporters. This week, we’re excited to share a post by Heather Watts from Harvard’s ‘Usable Knowledge: Relevant Research for Today’s Educators’ blog series with the Graduate School of Education. We welcome you to take a look at many of the other important pieces they post at: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/20/11/beyond-thanksgiving

Journey of an International Student (Part Three): “Unless We Remember We Cannot Understand”

by Shamim Ahmed 

In our ‘Journey of an International Student’ series, Shamim shares his experiences and journey as an international student parent at the University of Toronto. This thoughtful monthly series aims to highlight experiences of international student parents, find connections in our community, and uplift voices of others. If you have story or idea for our Redefining Traditional community, you can submit it here! 


On December 2nd 2019, we were traveling to Bangladesh after almost 3 years of being in Canada! Everyone was so excited for this vacation. We saved money for several years to buy tickets and see our families again. December is a good time to visit Bangladesh. It is winter there and green landscapes, fresh vegetables, seasonal cakes, and warmth of your dear ones are waiting! Bangladesh is a tropical country and we have six seasons throughout the year. I know you might be surprised, and I will share all about these seasons in one of my blogs in the future. But today when I refer to winter, do not get confused, it is not like the winter we observe here in Canada. We have a lot of rainfall in Bangladesh, but apart from that, the temperature is high throughout the year. The average temperature during summer is around 39-degree Celsius. Therefore, when I talk about winter in Bangladesh, it is 15-20 degree Celsius, pretty much the summer in Canada!

The Importance of Meaningful Land Acknowledgements

Our land acknowledgements series highlights important stories and teachings from each of the Redefining Traditional team members – Heather, Shamim and Kaitlyn. Through these posts, we aim for our community to think about how land acknowledgments are immensely important, and to ensure we engage in teachings about specific cultures beyond a day or month of recognition. We also highlight important questions to support our community so that an acknowledgement moves beyond a ‘script’ and towards an ongoing conversation.

Our first installation is by Heather Watts!

What my Son Thinks About His Mom Being a Student

By Heather Watts

It feels like I have been in graduate school for quite some time. I can remember crossing the stage at my commencement from Columbia University Teachers College back in 2014. I was graduating with my first master’s degree, in Literacy Instruction. I was four months pregnant, and with a growing baby in my belly, was filled with excitement, wondering what opportunities were ahead for us. 

Fast forward four years and that growing baby was now a growing toddler, and we found ourselves at yet another higher education institution as I was working toward my second master’s degree. We made some big changes to be at Harvard. We sold our house in New York State to move to Massachusetts for a one-year program, and my mom even moved with us to help care for my son, Nico. He was not of school age and daycare costs were outrageous; we were so grateful to have my mom living with us during this time. 

A collage of images of Heather Watts graduating from her first two degrees, and a final image of her and Nico playing in the leaves outside.

There’s something you should know about me – I love getting involved, in clubs, causes, work, everything. I’ve always had a tough time saying no to an opportunity as I want to be involved in impact work and love learning from team environments. During my time at Harvard, I was a full-time student, Equity & Inclusion Fellow, co-chair of an Indigenous student organization (shoutout to FIERCE!), worked as a Research Assistant, Social Media Manager, and Curriculum Designer. Like I said, I LOVE being involved and hadn’t learned a lot about the concept of overextending oneself. Something I constantly struggled with was this question: 

Am I a bad parent when I choose school instead family time? 

Share Your Story: My Journey to Canada

by Farhana Safa

Our Share Your Story Series highlights individual’s stories in the Redefining Traditional community – and aims to bring in different perspectives by student parents and supporters. If you have a story you would like to share you can submit your story here!: Share Your Story Submission Form


A storybook opened up with colours bursting out of it.

My journey in Canada began on 14th July, 2018, and since then it’s been a roller coaster experience for me. By roller coaster I mean it has been kind of frightening, challenging, and at the same time super exciting journey. I came here with my husband and with my 1.5 years old daughter, leaving my well-built career and loving parents back home in Bangladesh. I was not intended to leave my country anyway, however, my admission in the MScCH program in the prestigious DLSPH (The Dalla Lana School of Public Health) at the University of Toronto made me end up with the tough decision of settling in Canada. Moving to a new country with a toddler seemed to be extremely challenging, but I didn’t recognized the actual depth of this challenge until I arrived in Canada for the first time! 

Journey of an International Student (Part Two): “The Heart Is Not A Lonely Hunter”

by Shamim Ahmed 

In our ‘Journey of an International Student’ series, Shamim shares his experiences and journey as an international student parent at the University of Toronto. This thoughtful monthly series aims to highlight experiences of international student parents, find connections in our community, and uplift voices of others. If you have story or idea for our Redefining Traditional community, you can submit it here! 


This week’s snowfall* was quite unprecedented. I was not expecting a heavy snowfall on the first day of November; not at least from my experience of living in Toronto for the last four years. Snowfall was heaviest when I came to Toronto in 2016. I remember our most adventurous journey to this city was then to visit the Queen’s Park, a 10-minute walk from our home. The park was full of snow. When we entered the field, it felt like we were about to drown into a rough white sea! It is such a fond memory. However, I think, snowfall gradually decreased in the following years. Is climate change started impacting the urban cities too? Maybe. There is no chance that we ignore or deny the effects of climate change on our beloved habitat. It’s true and it’s happening.  

Share Your Story: A Can of Soup on a Halloween Eve

By Kaitlyn Corlett – Senior Project Assistant at the Innovation Hub

Our Share Your Story Series highlights individual’s stories in the Redefining Traditional community – and aims to bring in different perspectives by student parents and supporters. If you have a story you would like to share you can submit your story here!: Share Your Story Submission Form

Kaitlyn Corlett smiling at the camera
KAITLYN CORLETT

I was raised by a single mother who pursued her education throughout my childhood. Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot on memories of when my mother was completing her Master’s degree online and we were navigating this reality in our home. Today, I share with you one memory that has always stuck with me.

It Takes a Village

By Heather Watts

Heather standing in front of a colourful background wearing a teal long sleeve shirt, smiling to the camera.

Throughout my childhood, I lived in a number of different communities and homes. Burlington, Ottawa, and Cambridge, Massachusetts are just a few placed I have called ‘home’ over the years. Our moves across Turtle Island were a result of different career opportunities my father pursuing. I remember the networks of friends and family that supported me as a young child: Anna in Burlington, Tara in Ottawa, and Robin and Charmaine in Cambridge. I’m sure there are many others, but these are folks I have vivid memories of riding bicycles in the driveway, taking long walks down our residential street, and playing hours of Monopoly with (you know you’re making an investment of time when you sit down to play Monopoly!) To these people, I thank you. You weren’t merely babysitters, or but people who I looked up to, confided in, and leaned on during my younger years.