Envisioning a better world
Child and Youth Care MA graduate
Shay Erlich’s master’s research focused on understanding social circus – using circus arts as a medium for social justice – as child and youth care practice. With fellow wheelchair user Jen Roy, Erlich co-founded the Cyborg Circus Project a disability-led dance, circus and social service organization with the mandate to provide supports and services that allow disabled young people to thrive.
Why did you choose Ryerson?
Ryerson has always had a strong focus on social innovation and the strong Child and Youth Care MA program really attracted me. They helped me to not be so afraid of taking leaps. It made me feel that if I didn’t feel satisfied with what I saw out in the world, that I could go out there and dream something of my own into being.
How did faculty support you as a graduate student with a disability?
The professors at Ryerson are adept at systems navigation and helped me overcome many accessibility and systemic barriers I could not have asked for better folks than Kiaras [Gharabaghi] and Jennifer [Martin, former CYC graduate program director]. Without their support there would have been much more struggle.
My supervisor Dr. Stephanie Griffin was also pretty fantastic. She has a circus background and really helped me to crystallize my research vision.
What advice would you give grad students?
It’s important to go in with a clear understanding of what your goals are and how you want to accomplish them. For me, this meant saying no to a disability-focused internship that wasn’t actually the best fit for my goals, but doing so eventually led to an even better placement. Also, it’s always beneficial to seek out opportunities beyond your department, particularly if your goals fit between multiple departments and programs.
Photo: Ian Patterson