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Sociology scholar turned international adviser

By Janet Harron

Not every student takes on a controversial subject like video lottery terminals (VLT) in their master's thesis. But Ashley Laracy is no ordinary student.

Graduating with her master's degree in sociology, Ms. Laracy became interested in gambling as an academic subject after taking an undergraduate course about the sociology of gambling.

"I was interested in exploring how VLT players see themselves, including how they respond to any deviant identity that results, as well as how they cope with the label of compulsive gambler," said Ms. Laracy, whose research was featured in the latest issue of the Faculty of Art's Research Matters: Arts Edition (www.arts.mun.ca/rm/volumes/2011/fall/).

Looking for an international opportunity after completing her master of arts, Ms. Laracy discovered the Marine Institute's graduate student placement program and applied for a gender specialist position at TraVinh University in rural Vietnam.

"My job there involved teaching concepts of gender, gender equality and gender-based research methodologies," said the Cupids, N.L., native.

Having recently returned from her first international experience ("the biggest struggle was the language barrier"), Ms. Laracy is preparing to return to Vietnam as the World University Service of Canada's gender mainstreaming adviser.

"I'll be regularly visiting eight colleges and universities in Vietnam and ensuring that their programs are mainstreamed in terms of gender – for example, women have to be able to get into traditionally male fields such as engineering," she explained.

The program supports the Canadian International Development Agency's (CIDA) mandate to work towards the United Nations' (UN) millennium development goals. The UN's third goal is to promote gender equality and empower women. Vietnam and Nepal are two target countries.

Ms. Laracy will be in Vietnam for at least one year with the possibility of renewal. She is definitely planning to be in southeast Asia for the long haul.

"I'm planning to live outside of Canada for the next 10 to 15 years," she said, explaining that it's easier to network in a developing country. "My new position puts me in contact with the UN and the World Bank – it's just such a great opportunity."

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