Celebrating our graduates: Samaa Kazerouni
June 21, 2021
by: Elaine Smith
All of Samaa Kazerouni’s studying and hard work have led her to a dream job.
Kazerouni is a recent graduate of the Master of Global Affairs (MGA) program at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, a path that brought her to Grand Challenges Canada (GCC). The Toronto-based, not-for-profit organization’s mission is to “catalyze innovation that saves and improves the lives of the most vulnerable in Canada and low- and middle-income countries.”
It’s a perfect job for Kazerouni, who has a passion for development work and focused her degree on global development and innovation at the Munk School. She is working with GCC’s Global Health Innovation team on improving women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights through projects worldwide.
“The co-CEO of Grand Challenges Canada spoke to us in one of my classes at the Munk School this year. This piqued my interest; I was excited because there aren’t many Toronto-based organizations doing this kind of work,” Kazerouni says. “Through the School’s network, I connected with former and current GCC staff to learn more about the work that the organization does. If I’d imagined a post-MGA dream job, this is it.”
Grand Challenges Canada is fortunate to have Kazerouni on staff, says Shiri Breznitz, director of the MGA program at the Munk School.
“Samaa was my research assistant and a teaching assistant in our COVID-19 course, responsible for liaising with 12 different faculty members,” Breznitz says. “Everything that she turns her attention to is done thoroughly and well. She was an excellent student and researcher and I’m having trouble finding someone to replace her.”
Kazerouni immigrated to Toronto with her family at age three, the child of parents from India and Pakistan. “I was exposed to inequalities at a young age when visiting my grandparents in South Asia,” she says. “Being a little girl noticing the stark differences between my circumstances and those of other children was jarring.”
She earned an undergraduate degree in International Development and Psychology from McGill University and spent six months in India after graduation working for Atma, an accelerator for education NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and social enterprises.
“I was motivated to pursue further education, but I wanted to get more exposure and experience outside of the classroom,” Kazerouni says.
Kazerouni chose the MGA program based on its excellent reputation and its Toronto location, since she wanted to start building a professional network close to home.
“The MGA program was great,” Kazerouni says. “The first year was rigorous, involving numerous group projects across a variety of disciplines, which allowed me to home in on my interests while also pushing myself out of my comfort zone.” One of the highlights of her first year was the opportunity to travel to Mexico City with some of her peers to attend the North American Colloquium, a conference put on by the Munk School, the University of Michigan’s Ford School, and UNAM, focused on North American migration.
“The people in my cohort are so inspiring and diverse. It amazed me how easy it was to build connections and how much I got to learn from my classmates.”
In addition to her classes, she joined the Program Team for the Global Ideas Institute, an initiative that focuses on encouraging teams of high school students to work together to find solutions to global challenges. During Kazerouni’s term, she helped the program expand beyond Toronto for the first time.
In the summer following the first year of the program, Kazerouni interned with the UNICEF Regional Office of South Asia. Given the pandemic, it turned out to be a virtual position – “I was at my dining table for five months, typing away” – but it was also “a fantastic learning experience.”
“I worked with the Business for Results team, focusing on non-financial methods of engaging the private sector to respect and promote children’s rights. Given the circumstances, there was also a lot of work involving the pandemic response in South Asia.”
Without pausing for breath, Kazerouni plunged into the final year of the MGA program, where she served as a teaching assistant during both semesters, worked with Munk’s Global Migration Lab, organized a panel at the annual MGA Career Week, and was an associate editor for the student publication, Global Conversations.
Now, as she moves into the working world, Kazerouni is equipped with the tools she needs to make an impact in the world of development and innovation – and there’s no doubt that it will happen.
Join the Munk School in celebrating our grads at the University of Toronto’s virtual Spring Convocation 2021 ceremony!
Visit https://www.utoronto.ca/convocation on June 23 at 12:00 p.m. EST to watch the ceremony and use #UofTGrad21 to share your well-wishes on social media.