After Dr. Ulises Charles-Rodriguez (PhD '23) successfully defended his PhD dissertation in Population Studies and Health with no revisions, he felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.

Those four years had transformed me from a student seeking support into an instructor who could offer it.

Meet Ulises. Outdoor enthusiast. EDI advocate. Planetary health advocate.
Hometown: Guadalajara, Mexico
Program: PhD in Population Studies and Health

Why did you choose to pursue graduate studies at ULethbridge?

I embarked on my journey in graduate studies at the University of Lethbridge for several reasons. First and foremost, I was fortunate to find a supportive supervisor in Dr. Richard Larouche within the Faculty of Health Sciences. His commitment to fostering independent research, coupled with his guidance and mentorship, was a driving force behind my decision. Additionally, Lethbridge's welcoming environment was a significant factor in my decision, providing a children-friendly environment for my growing family. The existence of an on-campus daycare and the city's proximity to Calgary, a major urban hub and host of an international airport, further solidified my position that ULethbridge was the perfect place to advance my career without sacrificing my family’s quality of life.

What does your research/creative achievement focus on and what do you hope it will accomplish?

My research interests are at the intersection of health, sustainability and equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB). As a ULethbridge student, I actively engaged in numerous research opportunities that aligned with my central focus on health promotion, health equity and sustainability. I served as the leading author and co-author of multiple journal articles and presented my work at prestigious national and international conferences. Additionally, my final year of studies provided a unique opportunity to contribute to the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging office, allowing me to apply and expand my knowledge in stakeholder engagement, participatory processes and EDIB best practices.

My overarching goal is to leverage my research and practical experiences to drive meaningful change, advancing societal understanding and action in these critical areas. One notable achievement from my doctoral work was establishing a collaborative network of organizations dedicated to providing community gardening spaces for newcomer refugees. This initiative represents a concrete example of the practical impact I aspire to achieve through my research — fostering social integration and sustainability within our community. Importantly, my research is not just about academic exploration but also about making a tangible, positive difference in the world.

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What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

My most cherished memory at the University of Lethbridge was the profound moment following the successful defence of my dissertation without revision. As I took a step back and reflected on the culmination of four years of dedication, I was overwhelmed by a sense of accomplishment and growth. Those four years had transformed me from a student seeking support into an instructor who could offer it. During my last two years in the program, I witnessed a significant shift in my role, both personally and professionally. One of the most gratifying aspects of this transition was seeing some of my initial students gain admission to top Canadian graduate programs. It always reminds me that ULethbridge is a place of continuous personal and professional transformation.

What is the most important lesson you learned during your time as a graduate student at ULethbridge?

One of the most significant lessons I had as a graduate student is the delicate art of balancing intellectual humility with the defence of one's own ideas and creativity. Over the course of my studies, I came to realize the immense value in remaining open to diverse perspectives and being intellectually humble, recognizing that there's always room for growth and learning. At the same time, I learned the importance of advocating for my ideas and nurturing my creative spirit. This balance between receptivity to new insights and the confident defence of my research and innovations has proven to be an invaluable skill in the academic world.

Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

My experience was profoundly shaped by two remarkable individuals. Firstly, my supervisor, Dr. Richard Larouche, played an instrumental role in my journey. His dedication, mentorship and guidance were pivotal, particularly as I started my academic path. Dr. Larouche's support not only boosted my research skills but also fostered my confidence. Secondly, Martha Mathurin-Moe, Vice-Provost of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, provided guidance and mentorship that gave me a lived experience of what it means to foster an inclusive and diverse team. Through her guidance, I gained practical insights into creating environments where every voice is heard and valued.

Did you receive scholarships and awards?

I received several scholarships and awards which played a crucial role in supporting my academic journey during my time at ULethbridge. These scholarships included the PhD Admission Scholarship, the School of Graduate Studies Tuition Scholarship and the Prentice Graduate Research Fellowship. Together, they provided essential funding for my research. Additionally, the Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada i-HUB grant facilitated a Research Assistant for one of my projects, which was also extremely helpful.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

In the near future, my career path has taken me to a Postdoctoral Associate position at Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) affiliated with the University of Calgary. I'm excited to be part of a dedicated team of scholars with a shared mission of advancing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within child health research. Specifically, I'll be contributing to the development and implementation of an EDI Action Plan for the groundbreaking One Child Every Child initiative, a monumental project that has received a historic $125-million grant from the Government of Canada, making it the largest ever grant awarded to an Alberta university. This initiative, backed by over 130 organizations from 25 countries, including partners like UNICEF Canada and Children’s Healthcare Canada, is poised to revolutionize child health and wellness research. Working under the guidance of Dr. Salami, who leads the EDI Accelerator for One Child Every Child, I'm eager to play a role in co-creating this transformative EDI Action Plan alongside national partners representing equity-deserving groups. This endeavour aligns perfectly with my passion for promoting inclusivity and making a meaningful impact in the field of health equity.

What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

Seize every chance to learn, network and engage with the community — collectively they will provide priceless personal and professional growth.

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