Alannah Dharamshi


Alannah Dharamshi is a research associate with the City of Toronto. Before that she was an Associate at Springboard Policy, a public policy research and advisory firm that provides a full range of services to help clients lead public policy conversations and shape government decision-making on issues that matter to them.

Dharamshi engages in public policy research and development, advocacy and strategy, and capacity building within organizations on a number of different types of policy topics. She draws upon the skills and education gained by completing a double major in Anthropology and Psychology from Western.

“I do a lot of interviews and stakeholder engagement so I have to meet people where they are,” she said. “Being able to take yourself out of your own context and empathize with others is critical to convening people with different perspectives and developing public policy that meets real needs.”

She also developed critical thinking skills, applicable to a wide variety of settings.

“I can get thrown into a project in any sector, and have to quickly develop a thorough understanding of the public policy issues at hand,” she said. “As a generalist, it’s important to learn how to take on research in different sectors and critically evaluate the evidence to deliver informed recommendations.”

While she ended up in social science, it was not a direct path.

“I thought I had to go into a STEM field to be successful, and this pushed me into science,” she said. She came to Western as a student in the Faculty of Science. “I realized I wasn’t happy in that space. I took a lot of elective courses in humanities, and social science and went into that field. I’m very happy I did that. It worked out well and I found there are a lot of career opportunities from a social science degree.”

Dharamshi traveled to Madagascar as part of a field course, led by Professors Andrew Walsh and Ian Colquhoun. The exchange gave her an opportunity to complete ethnographic fieldwork, prepare a research report, and present publicly on a project from start to finish.

“It’s not an opportunity many undergrads have,” she said. “It showed the full spectrum of what it can mean to be anthropologist on the ground.”

Following the trip, she received the Lee Guemple Award in Anthropology, which recognizes academic achievement and contributions to the department. “It prompted me to evaluate the impact I could have in my community and the contributions I could make in academic and applied roles,” Dharamshi said.

When considering her undergraduate path, Dharamshi said “It’s perfectly ok to change your mind and pursue your passions. At the end of the day, you do your best work when you’re doing something you’re passionate about and that motivates you. At the beginning, I had this idea that’s there was only one way to be a success, but there are so many different ways to make an impact on the world – public policy is one important way, and social science can prepare you for that.”