Sara Pavan

Study program:
Killam Postdoctoral Fellow
Current affiliation:
University of British Columbia

Her postdoctoral research will focus on the psychological underpinning of immigrants' political voice.

Making Diverse Democracy Work: Multiculturalism, Social Networks, and the Political Engagement of Immigrants

Successful democracy requires the active participation of all citizens. Sara Pavan’s research looks at what institutions in immigrant-receiving countries can do in order to facilitate the political engagement of new citizens. It focuses on two cities that have adopted different policy approaches to immigrant integration: Toronto, which has an established history of implementing settlement programs and multicultural policies, and San Francisco, which adopts a more laissez-faire approach.

Sara’s research suggests that by actively encouraging immigrants’ participation in the public realm, Canadian multicultural integration policies give newcomers the opportunity to get to know a wider variety of people and diversify their social networks in terms of both social positions and ethnic groups.  This increased diversity of social networks is associated with political attitudes (such as political trust) and behaviours (such as electoral participation) that are conducive to democratic engagement.

Sara Pavan received her doctorate from the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University.

Sara’s research focused on the democratic polities of North America: Canada and the United States. While immigration has transformed and enriched these two countries, making their population ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse; the Canadian and American political spheres have not changed accordingly. With her study, Sara aimed to understand the conditions under which immigrant minorities can become adequately represented in the political systems of their adopted countries.  

Drawing both from comparative political studies and political sociology, Sara explored the effects of different integration policy contexts on the levels and types of political participation among immigrants.

Born in Southern Europe with cosmopolitan aspirations, Sara developed her interest in immigration studies while reading for her Master’s in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. While observing the recent dramatic gains of the anti-immigrant rhetoric in a country previously known for its long-standing commitment to multiculturalism, she became interested in the role that immigrant organizations’ play as catalysts for immigrants’ political engagement. Her current research aims to unravel how policy contexts affect immigrants’ organizational life and, thus, political participation.

In addition to the Trudeau Scholarship, Sara has also received a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. In 2013, she received the Mandelbaum Award for Excellence in the Social Sciences by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association. Prior to starting her doctorate, Sara gained professional experience in human rights and development work. Sara is trained in, and passionate about, cross-cultural communication.

  • February 21, 2018
    Congratulations to 2012 Foundation scholar Carla Suarez, who joins 2013 scholar Sara Pavan as one of five 2017 Killam postdoctoral fellows. Carla joined the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs in January 2018 and examines the role of social ties in influencing combatants to demobilize and return to their communities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.