Woodsworth College's Joanne Cave

Joanne Cave, a fourth-year Woodsworth College student and Alberta native, is a peer mentor with the First in the Family Program at the Office of Student Life and is co-president of the Women & Gender Studies Students’ Union. She is Woodsworth’s first Rhodes Scholar. She spoke recently with Jessica Lewis of the Faculty of Arts and Science.

What’s it like to win a Rhodes scholarship?
Absolutely incredible. It was an exhausting interview weekend in Saskatoon and I received the congratulatory phone call from the Prairie committee secretary at 3 a.m. on Sunday. It’s completely surreal – it hasn’t fully sunk in yet, and I don’t think it will for a while!

What do you plan to do with the scholarship?
I’m particularly interested in studying the changing relationship between the non-profit sector and welfare states, but I’m also hoping to research gender, income inequality and Aboriginal issues from a social policy perspective.

What drew you to the University of Toronto?
I was drawn to the diverse programs and strong faculty. The Women & Gender Studies Institute here is top-notch, and I find the campus has a lot of energy and engagement in equity issues. I was also excited to live in Canada’s largest city – Toronto is a really interesting and innovative city to live in right now, and I’ve been able to settle into the non-profit community here quite easily. The Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation’s Loran Scholar Program provided me with the resources to move across the country for university, and very much shaped my undergraduate experience and the opportunities I had available to me.

How have you gotten to this point in your academic career?
I have to give a lot of credit to the support I’ve had from my academic departments, professors, and mentors here. U of T can be, at times, very difficult to navigate – and my community here is what helped me thrive. All of my academic interests are very much shaped by the work I do in the community – the link between research and practice is very clear for me, and it’s how I plan to approach my graduate work at Oxford as well.

What work that you’ve done has made the most impact on you?
The First in the Family Program is a mentorship program for students who are the first in their family to attend university, and it’s the only program I’ve found to directly address how class is experienced at U of T. I’m also the first generation in my family to attend university, and to receive the Rhodes is so humbling from that perspective.

Why is volunteer work important to you?
I think it’s important to think about social issues on a broader systems level, rather than as experiences we have individually. This is why community advocacy is so powerful – it helps us influence the policies and decisions that affect inequality from a systemic level, rather than trying to offer “Band Aid” solutions.

What do you hope for your future studies and career?
One of the foundations of the Rhodes Scholarship – to “fight the world’s fight” – is what resonates with me most. I hope to always carry that value with me in my academic and professional life.