You are now in the main content area

Choose Ryerson

Female grad student standing in front of Queen's Park

Standing up for immigrant women

Vathsala Illesinghe, Policy Studies PhD candidate

Vathsala Illesinghe understands the challenges faced by immigrant women—because she is one herself.

For her Policy Studies PhD dissertation, Illesinghe is investigating how immigration policies affect immigrant and refugee women’s experience of violence. Her research involves examining  a complex set of social, economic and political factors in new ways.

Before arriving in Canada in 2013, Illesinghe was a doctor in Sri Lanka. Her frustration with the lack of resources available to women facing domestic violence led her to become a prominent academic and activist, publishing papers on violence against women; helping establish care centres in hospitals, co-founding a non-profit community organization for empowering youth, and collaborating with an international community of violence against women researchers.

Her journey eventually led her to Ryerson for graduate studies as a mature student. “I never imagined I’d go back to school but I felt right at home with others in my cohort,” says Illesinghe. “Because Policy Studies is an interdisciplinary program, it attracted many others who, like me, are going back to school or taking a new career path.”

Recently, Illesinghe was named Ryerson’s first Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar. Awarded to only a handful of doctoral students in Canada for academic excellence and civic engagement, the prestigious three-year scholarship is valued at over $200,000.

While Canada is considered a leader in immigration, Illesinghe recognizes there is more work to be done. She hopes to better understand how immigration policies shape people’s experiences, how women become vulnerable to violence and ultimately help develop a more transnational approach to immigration policy-making.

At Ryerson, we are committed to finding new ways of understanding our increasingly complex world and making a difference in it.

Read Vathsala's article "Immigration Policies and Immigrant Women’s Vulnerability to Intimate Partner Violence in Canada", external link

Photo credit: Narrative Drive



Ella Dubinsky, Psychology MA student, holding guitar

Flipping the script on Black men's pain

David Grant, Master of Social Work alumnus

Ella Dubinsky, Psychology MA student, holding guitar

Indigenizing fashion

Riley Kucheran, Communication and Culture PhD student

Female grad student standing in front of Queen's Park

Standing up for immigrant women

Vathsala Illesinghe, Policy Studies PhD student

Dr. Kamal Al-Solaylee, award-winning Ryerson Journalism professor

Telling the brown story

Dr. Kamal Al-Solaylee, Journalism professor, Faculty of Communication & Design

Male grad student standing outside model home

Dreaming of greener living

Jamie Fine, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering PhD student

Female grad student on rooftop with cell tower

Maximizing mobile networks


Richa Siddavaatam, Computer Science PhD student


Travonne Edwards, Ryerson Child and Youth Care MA

Helping young people thrive

Travonne Edwards, Child and Youth Care MA alumnus

Two women discussing in boardroom

Giving refugees a second chance

Adrienne Smith, Immigration and Settlement Studies MA alumna

MBA-MTI alumnus Mauricio Meza demonstrates Tecla-e to user Neil Mercer

Opening possibilities with inclusive tech

Mauricio Meza, MBA-MTI alumnus

Ella Dubinsky, Psychology MA student, holding guitar

Singing meets science

Ella Dubinsky, Psychology MA

Kate McKenzie and male marathon contestant running on road in Afghanistan

Secret marathon meets social change

Kate McKenzie, Master of Digital Media

Julie Robertson, Environmental Applied Science and Management MASc student

Inuit insight meets big data

Julie Robertson, Environmental Applied Science and Management MASc

Jake Pyne, Master of Social Work, sitting on couch

Transgender research meets transformed lives

Jake Pyne, Master of Social Work

Steve Naraine holding cannabis plant

Cannabis research meets new potential

Steve Naraine, Molecular Science MSc

Noura Sakkijha, Ted Rogers MBA

Jewelry business meets digital disruption

Noura Sakkijha, Ted Rogers MBA

Male student with right hand in shirt and left hand covering left eye

Masculinity meets diversity

Dr. Ben Barry, Professor and Director, Centre for Fashion Diversity and Social Change

Dr. Samin Eftekhari using imaging equipment in Ryerson lab

Incubation meets innovation

Dr. Samin Eftekhari, Chemical Engineering PhD

Dr. Colin Robert Phillips in his office using a computer

City issues meet the big picture

Dr. Colin Robert Phillips, Policy Studies PhD

Dr. Michael Kolios and graduate student in hospital imaging lab

Cancer research meets better patient care

Dr. Michael Kolios, Professor and Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of Science

Ariana Cancelli standing in Toronto laneway

Laneways meet new life

Ariana Cancelli, Master’s in Urban Development, MPl

Jacky Au Duong with fellow graduate student in classroom

Professional passion meets real-world opportunities

Jacky Au Duong, Master of Professional Communication

Dr. Amira Abdelrasoul in engineering lab

Inspirational faculty meets innovative research

Dr. Amira Abdelrasoul, Chemical Engineering PhD

Maayan Ziv in a hallway in RCC

Entrepreneurship meets accessibility

Maayan Ziv, Master of Digital Media

Adedoyin Adesemowo at Toronto Beaches boardwalk

Life-changing experience meets long-term success

Adedoyin Adesemowo, MBA in the Management of Technology and Innovation

Réal Carrière talking with professor in Ryerson Quad

Ancient traditions meet empowered youth

Réal Carrière, Policy Studies PhD