Ceta Ramkhalawansingh ('74) - “I grew up in a family for whom “giving back” was an essential part of living. I am a firm believer in action, getting things done and facing social injustice head-on.”Ceta began her U of T career in 1968 by enrolling in New College. Upon completing her BA coursework in 1972, she went on to graduate studies at the Institute of Child Study. She received her first Diploma in Child Study in 1974 and undertook a second Diploma in Child Study program in 1976. She was awarded an MA from Oise (’80) and completed a two year residency requirement towards a Ph.D. In 1971 Ceta was a lecturer in the first Women’s Studies course offered at U of T.

She worked at Toronto City Hall from 1981 to retirement in 2010, most recently as Manager, Diversity Management and Community Engagement, City Manager’s Office, with responsibilities for the City of Toronto’s access, equity and human rights programs.

Currently, Ceta is the National Chair of The Word On The Street Canada, President of the LEARNXS Foundation and a board member of the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care. At the University of Toronto, she is a Principal’s Appointee, Innis College Council and represents New College Alumni on the College of Electors.

She initiated park revitalization efforts for Grange Park and had a leadership role in social housing, heritage conservation and land use planning, recognized by residents appointing her Honorary President, Grange Community Association.

Ceta was a member of the writing collective of Women at Work: Ontario 1850-1930, co-winner of the City of Toronto’s Book Award (1974). She received the LEAF/WIN Person’s Day Award (1994), the New Pioneers Award (1999) as well as a University of Toronto Arbor Award (2000). In 2002, she became an Honorary Member, Women and Gender Studies Institute, recognizing her as co-founder of Women’s Studies, University of Toronto.

 

Describe yourself in 50 words or less.

I grew up in a family for whom “giving back” was an essential part of living. Not only do I have many interests, I am a firm believer in action, getting things done and facing social injustice head-on.  I am deeply loyal to my family and friends who also share my conviction for contributing where we can to make our world better.

What are your most memorable stories of your time here at New College

I think I freaked out a few people by how outspoken I was and how active I became in campus-wide issues.  I was horrified to learn that the distribution of birth control information was still illegal, so my rebellious spirit was proud of the fact that SAC distributed the McGill birth control to all first year students.  So too was I astonished that women were not allowed into Hart House and that 1st phys ed was compulsory only for women and not for men.

 Was there anyone in particular at New College (staff, student or faculty) who had a strong influence on your life or made a lasting impression on you?

Principal Ivey certainly made a lasting impression and I was surprised that he was serious about the principle of “in loco parentis”, particularly since so many of us thought we were escaping our parents.

Some of my academic programs in Arts and Science had excellent teachers. I really benefited from the simulation course on Canada/US relations taught by Stephen Clarkson, Abe Rotstein and Mel Watkins.

As well, I was very impressed by Professor Geoffrey Payzant, a Glenn Gould Scholar, who chaired the Interdisciplinary Studies Committee which approved the first course on women’s studies.  Professor Payzant welcomed student input and was responsive to various far-out proposals when he could.

How did your academic and social experience at the University/College prepare you for life and your career?

Having leadership opportunities in a large institution, along with the experience of participating in working with groups especially on programs that did not have universal support, provided skills that became invaluable for the work that I eventually undertook as a volunteer in the non-profit sector, in neighbourhood projects as well as in my professional life.

Tell us about some of the lessons you learned and how valuable they are today?

I learnt many lessons: that research was necessary to building a case. That group discussion and decision was important for success and that the individual goal or desire may need to be reformulated. That students, no matter how limited their life experience, had ideas that should be considered. That it was possible to make change.