Message from CIRHR Director, Rafael Gomez

Photo of CIRHR Director, Rafael GomezDear CIRHR Community,

I’ve been very much looking forward to the start of this fall term - the opportunity to welcome the newest members of our community,  reconnect with our current students and colleagues, and resume some in-person activities after a prolonged separation. The Centre continues to take direction from the broader University, but I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to see students on campus once again.

As always, we’ve had a busy summer here at the Centre, and I’d like to acknowledge the milestones of some exceptional people, and share some updates on the exciting initiatives we’ve been working on over the last few months.


First, a piece of news worthy of celebration: I’m thrilled to extend my congratulations to Alycia Damp, Kourtney Koebel, and Qian Zhang who have each successfully defended their doctoral theses.

The PhD road is a long journey and as Associate Professor, Greg Distelhorst, has said so eloquently, “It is especially worthy of recognition in light of the transformation of university learning that struck in the middle of their studies.  Alycia, Kourtney, and Qian persevered to complete ambitious, high-impact thesis research.  I am so pleased that they will represent the CIRHR community to the wider world.”

As the first of the three to defend, Alycia sat down with us for a retrospective on her experience at the Centre, her dissertation, and the advice she’d impart to incoming PhD students to help maximize their CIRHR experience – I would encourage all of you to check it out!

Alumnus, Travor Brown, who was featured in a 2020 PhD Alumni Spotlight,  has also reached a new milestone with his appointment as the new Interim Dean of Memorial University’s Faculty of Business Administration. There are few things as special as seeing our alumni excel, and it was our pleasure to chat with Travor about this new milestone, what it means to him, and his time as a fledgling PhD student at the CIRHR.


With that mind, I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our newest PhD students, Fangjun Dong, Beth Corcoran, and Shawn Meikle, some of whom might be familiar to you.

We had the opportunity to ask Beth and Fangjun some questions about their primary goals and what drew them to the Centre; if you check out the interview, you’ll also find out which life experiences (books, activities, travel destinations, mantras) have inspired them most.

I’m also very happy to be introducing visiting researcher, Dr. Kantha Dayaram, an Associate Professor in Employment Relations who comes to us from Curtin University, Australia, with a background in labour health economics.

While at the Centre, Kantha is “interested in researching how years (if not decades) of neoliberal employment regulations are impacting current work arrangements and the risk they pose on workers’ mental health.”  We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome her to the city – you can learn more about Dr. Dayaram’s background, and her primary goals for her time at the CIRHR by clinking the link above.


The Ontario Assembly on Workplace Democracy (OAWD) initiative, led by visiting researcher, Andrew Gibson, is currently entering a new phase as members head into the consulting phase to gather the information necessary to deliberate and provide recommendations to amplify and empower worker voice in the workplace.

To supplement the initiative, the OAWD steering committee and project team held “Speaking Up at Work,” a spirited workplace-democracy policy debate between employment and labour-law lawyers, Simran Prihar of Goldblatt Partners and Kathryn Marshall of Levitt Sheikh Law. Moderated by Professor Anil Verma, the debate saw our two debaters advance and defend their best solutions for protecting workers’ voices in the workplace. If you missed it, I highly recommend watching the recording.

We’re also looking forward to the resumption of Wednesday WIP, our CIRHR Work-In-Progress Seminar series which allows members of our community to discuss early-stage research, as well as our CIRHR Research Seminar series which invites industry leaders and researchers to present their findings.


Finally, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to our CIRHR staff, librarians and faculty, without whom dissertation defenses and virtual debates would not run smoothly, and our students would not experience the degree of care, guidance and support that has become synonymous with our Centre. Your work is deeply appreciated, and I look forward to our continuing to deliver a superior academic experience this term, and in the terms ahead.




Dr. Rafael Gomez, Professor
Director, Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources
University of Toronto