Image credit

Black Graduate Student Spotlight

As a first step in the celebration of Black History Month, CAGS is joining forces with PhD Candidate Karine Coen-Sanchez (University of Ottawa) to spotlight some of Canada’s most talented and engaged graduate students. Join us in February and beyond as we showcase scholarly and creative excellence from across the country!

Karine Coen-Sanchez

Karine Coen-Sanchez is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa. Her research explores the construction of Blackness and the mobilization of social and cultural capital within the racialized society of Canada and, specifically, the ways in which cultural capital is concretized and contested by Haitians and Jamaicans living in Canada. Karine’s dissertation research proposes a new analytical model that highlights social and cultural capital based on resistance, identity, and multi-positionality by respecting the categories of race, gender, and class.

A highly engaged activist, organizer, and scholar, Coen-Sanchez has worked tirelessly to forge relationships and initiate systemic change among Black and racialized graduate students in Canada. She has steered numerous anti-racism initiatives on her home campus as well as on a national stage, including stakeholder mobilization efforts, the development of institutional diversity and inclusivity statements, and the hosting of community-building events. Coen-Sanchez is a frequent participant in webinars and panel discussions dealing with race and racism in Canadian higher education, and was a recipient of the 2021 Congress Graduate Merit Awards. She has directed a Mitacs Acceleration Grant focussed on inclusivity within the Canadian education system, and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s (SSHRC) Advisory Committee to Address Anti-Black Racism. A powerful voice both on the ground and in print, Coen-Sanchez has published her research in two peer-reviewed journals, and has authored pieces in University Affairs, The Sociological Review, Troy Media, and The Conversation.

Karine was awarded the 2023 President’s Award in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion from the University of Ottawa, and the 2023 Student Award in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion from the Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada (SWAAC). In 2024, Karine was honoured to be named one of the top 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women.


Xaand Bancroft is inherently passionate about education. Her interdisciplinary academic background includes a BSc in Psychology and a BSc in Zoology from the University of Guelph, a Master’s in Environmental Studies from l’Université de Moncton, and a Master of Health Administration (MHA) from the University of Ottawa. Xaand is currently a PhD candidate in Population Health at the University of Ottawa.

In November 2022, Xaand received the Dean’s Award of Excellence: Student Award – Graduate Level in recognition of her academic excellence, leadership, community engagement and exceptional achievements, highlighting both her involvement in academic associations and her scholarly achievements. In 2023, Xaand was awarded the awarded Bourse de doctorat from Institut du Savoir Montfort (ISM).

Xaand’s academic areas of interest include maternal and newborn care, health inequities, feminism, abolition, social justice and reproductive justice. Her PhD thesis explores care delivery to pregnant individuals incarcerated in Ontario by investigating how government carceral policies and guidelines (mis)align with perinatal-care best practices. She also explores the experiences of both individuals who were pregnant while incarcerated in facilities located in Ontario and the experiences of social and health care providers who work with this population.


A doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Ottawa, Walner Osna is a Haitian citizen and activist. He is interested in the following themes: social movements, the state and decoloniality, racism and anti-racism, ecotourism, megaprojects, land grabbing and food sovereignty. His decolonial thesis examines peasant experiences of land grabbing in relation to food sovereignty in Haiti. He is co-applicant in a research project entitled Towards a Gender-Inclusive, Food Sovereignty Assessment of Health (GIFSA): the case of Haiti, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This research has led to several publications, of which he is co-author with Canadian and Haitian colleagues. He is also a collaborator in a partnership research project with Canadian and Haitian researchers on land grabbing and peasant resistance in Haiti, funded by Carleton University’s International Research Seed Grants (IRSG) program (Carleton International). Walner completed a master’s thesis in sociology at the University of Ottawa on ecotourism and peasant resistance in Haiti. He received the Emerging scholar Award from the Haitian studies association (HSA) in 2022. He has more than a dozen publications, ranging from think pieces and opinion pieces to peer-reviewed academic articles.

In addition to his academic and university commitments, he is also a committed activist believing in the social transformation of the world and of societies. He is currently a trustee with the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2626 (CUPE 2626, University of Ottawa). He was a CUPE francophone shop steward 2022-2023. He is currently on several committees of the Haitian studies association (HSA). He is currently involved with the Coalition haïtienne au Canada contre la dictature en Haïti (CHCDH). He has also been involved with the University of Ottawa’s graduate student association in sociology and anthropology as president in 2020-2021 and vice-president of socio-cultural affairs in 2018-2019. He has over ten years’ experience with Haitian organizations and institutions such as the Cercle d’étude en littérature gramscienne (CELG), the Groupe de recherche et d’appui au développement des collectivités territoriales (GRAD) and the Institut culturel Karl Lévêque (ICKL).

Links to Work Portfolio:





Sommer Knight is an award-winning leader, advocate, and student. She completed a BA in Psychology (Honors) at Western University, an MSc in Psychiatry at McGill University, and is currently a PhD Candidate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa. Sommer’s doctoral research uses an intersectional and systemic lens to explore the chronic exhaustion of coping with and fighting against anti-Black racism and its relation to mental health in the Black community. For this research, Sommer was awarded the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

Sommer is currently involved in her school and wider community on many levels. She sits on several equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) committees, and is currently a radio anchor for the African Canadian Association of Ottawa, where she uses her platform to speak to issues related to Black mental health. Sommer served for two years on the Canadian Psychological Association’s inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee. Sommer’s longstanding civic and academic contributions have been recognized through a Black Studies Centre Scholarship, the BBPA National scholarship, the Audrea Golding Black Student Leadership Award, and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Her experiences have motivated her to be a dedicated change-maker with a vision to impact her academic and community environments.

Links to work portfolio:




Google Scholar:


Landry Kalembo is a graduate student at the University of Ottawa, and an aspiring Global/Population Health Scientist with an interest in maternal-perinatal health, and the Developmental Origins of Health and Diseases (DOHaD). Landry has a deep passion for health equity, and a strong interest in the complex biopsychosocial interaction between an individual’s health and their socio-environmental background. Landry’s master’s thesis explores the complex relationships between the social determinants of health, maternal food insecurity, and heightened stress during the COVID-19 pandemic in a pregnant Canadian population within a DOHaD framework. Landry has presented his research findings at several conferences, including the National Nutrition and Mental Health conference, and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute Research Day Conference where he was a finalist in the elevator pitch competition. Landry’s research and community-building activities have been recognized by an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) scholarship, the Strategic Research Grant Support from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Health Sciences, the Dean’s Award of Excellence (Teaching Assistant category), and the Community Advocate Award from the University of Ottawa’s Black Student-Athlete Advocacy Council (BSAAC). Landry works as a junior epidemiologist with the Sexually Transmitted and Blood-borne Infections (STBBI) Surveillance Division of the Public Health Agency of Canada, and has previously served with the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, where he was awarded the 33 Signal Regiment Foundation Bursary, a scholarship offered to a deserving soldier who has shown dedication to their military service while excelling in post-secondary education.

Beyond academia and professional work, Landry has been an active community leader involved with several local and national not-for-profits. He was the youngest Board Member of the Parkdale Food Centre (PFC) from 2019-2023, and a volunteer since 2015. Landry wrote and performed the concluding monologue for the Parkdale Food Centre’s short documentary on food insecurity, titled “Sitting at the Table – A Human Right to Food,” which raised awareness about food insecurity and inequality among the vulnerable populations. PFC’s successful advocacy and negotiations led to the declaration and celebration of the first ‘Right to Food Day’ in the City of Ottawa, an event that featured a spoken word performance by Landry. Landry currently serves on the board of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, and as President of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (Master’s).

Links to Work Portfolio:

“Right to Food Day,” City of Ottawa

“Sitting at the Table – A Human Right to Food,” Parkdale Food Centre

News Story:

Child and Nature Alliance:




Wina Paul Darius is a Haitian-Canadian first-year PhD student in Experimental Psychology at the University of Ottawa. Throughout her academic journey, she has been actively engaged in community-centered research, with a particular focus on mental health disparities within Black communities. She has also examined the mental health impact of the Ebola Virus Disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the overrepresentation of Black youth in Child Protection Services in Ontario, as well as topics such as COVID-19 and cancer in Canada.

Her doctoral thesis centers on the prevalence, risk and protective factors, and mental health correlates of intimate partner violence among Black individuals in Canada.

Passionate about mentoring and working with marginalized populations, Wina is currently developing an initiative aimed at mentoring and supporting BIPOC individuals. Her work is rooted in principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Link to Work Portfolio: