Izumi Sakamoto

Associate Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
Collaborative Master's Specialization in Contemporary East and Southeast Asian Studies, Asian Institute




Room 432, 246 Bloor Street West




Izumi Sakamoto is Associate Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. A former Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Sakamoto received her MSW, MS and Ph.D. (Social Work & Psychology) from the University of Michigan and her BA and MA from Sophia University, Japan.

With five grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) as the Principal Investigator, Dr. Sakamoto’s research has focused on equity, anti-oppression and social inclusion of immigrants as well as people who have experienced homelessness.  Dr. Sakamoto has focused on the issues of (im)migrants and sojourners for the past 15 years and specifically on the issues faced by skilled immigrants to Canada for the 10 years, including employment, structural, and psychosocial issues.  Her current research projects problematize the notion of “Canadian experience” (CE) as it is often used as an exclusionary hiring criterion for skilled immigrants in Canada, who are often from the Global South countries. In one project, Dr. Sakamoto explored what “Canadian experience” means for service providers, mentors, immigrants and human resource professionals. In another project, she and her colleagues (Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan, Dr. Jane Ku, Dr. Lin Fang, Dr. Daphne Jeyapal) also examined media representations of “Canadian experience” and skilled immigrants in leading English and Chinese-language print media in Toronto. Recently, Dr. Sakamoto has led a university-community coalition called, the Beyond ‘Canadian Experience’ Project (BCEP), which includes University of Toronto, Mennonite New Life Centre Toronto, Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, and Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.  This coalition aims to challenge the notion of “Canadian experience” and create dialogues through public forums, website and research (www.beyondcanadianexperience.com).  Dr. Sakamoto and the BCEP Team contributed to the development of the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on removing the “Canadian experience” barrier, released on July 2013. These contributions recently led Dr. Sakamoto to receive 2014 Pioneers for Change Women in Leadership Award, given by Skills for Change in association with CIBC.

Dr. Sakamoto is an Academic Fellow of the Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research, and has expertise in qualitative research, community-based participatory research, and arts-based research methods.  She has taught master’s and doctoral-level courses, such as Social Work Practice with Immigrants and Refugees, Qualitative Research, Promoting Empowerment, Globalization and Transnationalization, Social Work with Organizations and Communities, and Social Work Practice with Groups.

Research interests

Social Inclusion
Marginalized Communities
Gender Identities


Ph D. University of Michigan (2001)
M.S. University of Michigan (2000)
M.S.W. University of Michigan (1994)
M.A. Sophia University (1993)
B.A. Sophia University (1991)

Awards and distinctions

Pioneers for Change Award, Women in Leadership category, Skills for Change (in association with CIBC), Toronto, Canada, 2014
Community-Based Research Award of Merit Honourable Mention (individual award as the PI), the Centre for Urban Health Initiatives (CUHI), University College, University of Toronto & the Wellesley Institute, 2007
Teacher of the Year Award, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, 2004

selected publications

Sakamoto, I., Jeyapal, D., Bhuyan, R., Ku, J., Fang, L., Zhang, H., & Genovese, F. (2013). An overview of discourses of skilled immigrants and “Canadian experience”: An English-language print media analysis. CERIS Working Paper #98. Toronto: CERIS – The Ontario Metropolis Centre. Available at: http://www.ceris.metropolis.net/

Sakamoto, I., Chin, M. & Young, M. (2010). ‘Canadian Experience,’ employment challenges, and skilled immigrants: A close look through ‘tacit knowledge.’  Canadian Social Work Journal, 10(1), 145-151.

 Sakamoto, I., Ku, J., & Wei, Y. (2009). The Deep plunge: Luocha and the experiences of earlier skilled immigrants from Mainland China in Toronto. Qualitative Social Work, 8(4), 427-447. 

Sakamoto, I., Wei, Y. & Truong, L.(2008). How do social service organizations and social policies ‘acculturate’ to immigrants?: Social service provision forChinese skilled immigrants in Canada. American Journal of Community Psychology, 42(3/4), 343-354.

Sakamoto, I. (2007). A critical examination of immigrant acculturation: Toward an anti-oppressive social work with immigrant adults in a pluralistic society.  British Journal of Social Work, 37(3), 515-535.

Recent Courses

Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees
Research Knowledge for Social Justice
Qualitative Research Methodology
Promoting Empowerment: Working at the Margins
Social Work Practice with Organizations and Communities
Introduction to Social Work with Groups
Globalization and Transnationalization: Social Work Responses Locally and Globally


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