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Master of Arts in Social Practice and Innovation (MSPI)

The Master of Arts in Social Practice and Innovation (MSPI) is an interdisciplinary program at the intersections of legal studies, communication and digital media, and political science. Each of these disciplines provide different tools with which to identify, analyze, and initiate action on the complex challenges of our contemporary social world. Graduate students in the MSPI program will take courses across the three disciplines to conceptualize practices which address social problems and build collaborations with diverse communities. Addressing social problems through social innovation involving the creation, development, adoption, and integration of new and renewed concepts, systems, and practices are core elements of this approach.  

The MSPI program culminates in a Major Research Project (MRP) aimed at public and community engagement.  Through the MRP, MSPI graduates will be trained to formulate, develop and deploy effective and creative solutions to challenging and often systemic social and political issues in ways that can support social progress.

Through the MSPI program, you can address social problems such as:

  • Human rights violations
  • Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, xenophobia and ableism
  • Food insecurity
  • Media illiteracy and disinformation
  • Concentrated economic and political power
  • Healthcare and social service inaccessibility
  • Climate change and unsustainable energy regimes
  • Civic dis-engagement
  • The legacy of settler colonialism
  • Precarious labour and automation
  • Threats to democracy and a good life
  • Intersecting inequalities and oppressions
  • Unaffordable housing and homelessness
  • Conflict, violence and war
  • Social isolation of older people
  • Barriers to human and social development

And work toward community-based solutions such as:

  • Co-creating research with social movements
  • Regenerating community with arts and culture
  • Developing diverse public pedagogies and engagement practices
  • Incorporating indigenous perspectives and worldviews
  • Designing and implementing AI ethics
  • Imagining new technological policies and governance models
  • Supporting advocacy and protest cultures
  • Making social media for the social good

Components of the program

Core courses

  • MSPI 5010G Interdisciplinary Theory and Practice I (3 credits)
    Over the past decades, social science and humanities faculties, departments, journals, conferences and granting agencies, as well as governmental policy-making institutions and their respective stakeholders have emphasized the value of interdisciplinary research to social innovation and change. Interdisciplinary research blends two or more disciplines into a new or innovative approach. What interdisciplinary approaches are available to scholars and what theoretical and methodological challenges do they face when designing and undertaking interdisciplinary research? This is the first of a two term course, where students will examine  a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches to interdisciplinarity. The course serves as an introduction to complementary and competing approaches to interdisciplinary research. Case studies across the disciplines will serve to highlight the ways in which different approaches serve as frameworks for research projects.
  • MSPI 5020G Interdisciplinary Theory and Practice II (3 credits)

    This is the second of a two term course. Having been introduced to a wide variety of interdisciplinary approaches to research in the first term of the course, students will construct their own interdisciplinary  approach to a research question or problem arising from the points of contact between the three fields that anchor the program: Communication and Digital Media Studies, Legal Studies, and Political Science. Students will work together and independently to develop new intersections across these fields, working toward articulating informed, engaging, and creative social practices. By the end of the two terms, students will be prepared to undertake an interdisciplinary Major Research Project.

  • MSPI 5030G Foundations for Social Practice and Innovation (6 credits)

    This course provides students with the means to employ core concepts from the three disciplines that comprise the interdisciplinary program: communication, legal studies and politics.  The course will consist of three blocks corresponding to these disciplines.  The communication component examines foundational and current works in new media and communication studies. It focuses specifically on how current and emerging technologies may be designed and used by individual and collective actors for practices oriented to social innovation and transformation.   The legal studies component engages legal concepts such as: the rule of law; human rights; constitutionalism and the Crown; sources of law including the common law, the civil code and Indigenous law; distinctions between criminal, administrative/public and private law; and relationships between domestic and international law. The course explores these concepts in the contexts of theoretical perspectives such as legal pluralism and multi-juridicality, critical legal theories, and structures of sovereignty and jurisdiction. The politics component explores the realm of politics by focusing on the nature and role of the state, and different forms of understanding society and power. Historical transformations in the role of the state in the context of globalization and their impacts on democracy, the economy and on the relations between politics, policy-making and society will also be considered.

Electives: two of the following

  • MSPI 5040G Advocacy, Change and Social Practices (3 credits)

    *Note that elective courses will be offered on rotation, so not all will be offered in any given year

    This course asks how advocacy can be integrated into social action in order to prompt interpersonal, legal, political, and economic reform. Students will consider historical and contemporary examples of allyship and inter-community relationship-building enacted through discourse, community and grassroots organizing, lobbying, protests, and artistic works. They will learn key theories of solidarity and social change found in scholarly research and activist movements while investigating the impacts of collective action on law, policy, and personal and professional practice. Students will examine several specific areas of impact, such as Indigenous sovereignty, healthcare service provision, homelessness and poverty reduction, consumer protection, labour, and rights advancement of women and sexual minorities, Indigenous and other racialized and equity seeking groups. This course will afford students opportunities to explore 1) how to strategically mobilize against unequal access to power and resources, 2) how to support the empowerment of populations vulnerable to material deprivation and violence, and 3) how to create transformative and restorative alternatives to unjust conditions.

  • MSPI 5050G Communicating Law and Politics in Everyday Life (3 credits)

    *Note that elective courses will be offered on rotation, so not all will be offered in any given year

    In this course, students will develop critical and analytical skills in order to evaluate the nature of political and legal communication in everyday life.  As the digital age allows instantaneous and ongoing narrativizing and framing of events and phenomena  in real-time to both worldwide and highly specialized audiences, an in-depth understanding of narratives and frames, and how to create and interpret compelling legal and political narratives and frames, is becoming increasingly relevant.  Students will learn to employ analytical approaches through framing theory and narrative analysis.

  • MSPI 5060G Information, Power, and Democracy: Constraints, Freedoms, and Ethics (3 credits)

    *Note that elective courses will be offered on rotation, so not all will be offered in any given year

    The means to amass and analyze data and the technologies of informational identity have been developing for more than a century, bringing us to the present moment where the internet, social media platforms, networked devices and other means of dataveillance have become integral to how we as citizens are addressed, assessed and characterized by governments, political parties, corporations and individuals.  The centrality of information gathering practices to governance, election campaigns, social movement activism and marketing requires understanding of the existing and yet-to-be-determined legal, political and ethical tools to constrain misuse of information and other data while also facilitating and protecting the flow of information to address power imbalances.  This course probes how information technologies link with contemporary politics and governance, including settler-colonial governance, and engages topical and contentious ethical debates surrounding the historical transformation of democracy and consumer society in the digital age.

  • MSPI 5070G Special Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies (3 credits)

    *Note that elective courses will be offered on rotation, so not all will be offered in any given year

    Special topics will address recent conceptual and methodological advances or emerging issues and trends at the intersection of  the disciplines participating in the program.  Examples of possible special topics include: 1) existing graduate seminars such as Global Artificial Intelligence Ethics; and Whistleblowing and Digital Disobedience; and 2) cross-listed fourth year undergraduate seminars such as Communication Law and Policy; Indigenous Law and Politics; Art and Law; Law and Environment; Media, War & Conflict; or Global Communication.

  • MSPI 5080G Directed Studies (3 credits)

    *Note that elective courses will be offered on rotation, so not all will be offered in any given year

    Faculty permission may be given for supervised research projects, individual study or directed readings in a specialized area not covered in the regular course offerings. Students wishing to pursue a course of directed studies must formulate a proposal accurately describing the course activities, readings, and schedule, in collaboration with a qualified faculty member who is willing to serve as supervisor. This course may be only taken once.

Required Major Research Project

  • MSPI 5001G Major Research Project I (6 credits)

    This two-term course provides a framework for the development and implementation of the Major Research Project (MRP), which is the culminating requirement of the degree program. Students will develop the theoretical and methodological approach for their MRP proposal. In the MRP proposal, students will explain the social problem addressed by their research question, and their plan to engage with a community or public outside of the university. The outward-facing component of the MRP must include a plan for social practice and/or innovation that involves a practical collaboration with a specific community or public. The proposal will set out the form of the collaboration and a communication format, for example, digital media advocacy, a public education campaign, an event or an exhibition. Upon approval of the proposal, students will then work with their faculty supervisor on the implementation of the project, which will be concluded in MRP II.

  • MSPI 5002G Major Research Project II (6 credits)

    Students at the second phase of the Major Research Project (MRP) will carry out the community engagement project approved in MRP I. Students will concretely execute their plan for social practice and/or innovation that engages community collaboration, and will compose the project’s outcome in the communication format developed in the proposal (for instance, digital media advocacy, a public education campaign, an event or an exhibition). Students will write a summative report or academic article, as approved by their committee, that self-reflexively describes, explains and assesses the efficacy of the project’s social practice and/or innovation.

Prospective students must hold an undergraduate degree in Communication, Legal Studies, Political Science or a related field, with a minimum overall academic standing of a B (GPA: 3.0 on a 4.3 scale or 73 to 76 per cent). Prospective applicants will be asked to demonstrate engagement with social innovation in their applications (e.g., through previous academic work, volunteer work, or work experience).

Prospective students with undergraduate degrees from other fields who are able to demonstrate an impressive level of social engagement (e.g., Health Science) will also be considered, such as applicants whose professional work experience as managers or policy analysts demonstrates aptitude for social policy-oriented work.

Application deadline:  Applications will start to be reviewed by the Faculty on February 1. Applications will be reviewed and offers will be released until the program reaches capacity. Once program capacity is reached, applications will no longer be accepted. Applications will not be reviewed after May 1.  It is highly recommended that you start the application process well in advance of the deadline. Applicants are encouraged to complete their application and submit all required documents as soon as possible, to ensure the best chance of securing an offer.

Note: The university reserves the right to amend application deadlines and/or close applications without prior notice.

All applicants to graduate programs at Ontario Tech University must submit the required documents outlined in the checklist of required documents

Additional required supporting documents for MSPI applicants:

  1. A resume or curriculum vitae (CV) including the applicant's education, employment history, volunteer experience, publications if applicable, and other notable achievements;
  2. A sample of scholarly writing from an undergraduate course, or any other form of public communication (report, poster, video, performance, etc.) that was created for either an academic or other organizational audience;
  3. Two Letters of Recommendation: One recommendation from a faculty member from a previous degree-conferring program is preferable; alternatively, a letter from an employer/professional leader who can speak to the candidate’s analytical and communication skills will be accepted. The second recommendation may be from an academic or non-academic referee and should demonstrate the candidate’s commitment to community engagement.  The second recommendation should reflect the candidate’s commitment to addressing social issues and may reference academic, work, or volunteer experiences; and
  4. A two-page, double-spaced (approximately 500-word) statement of interest in the MSPI program and its Major Research Project (MRP) requirement.  The statement should demonstrate commitment to the social engagement goals of the program and should set out the potential focus of the candidate’s MRP.  The statement should address academic, work, volunteer, or other experience that would contribute to the candidate’s ability to successfully complete such a project. 
Required test scores for English language proficiency:

See English language proficiency for the minimum required test scores for this program.

Application fee: $110

For more information on the application process, visit the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) FAQ page.

Also visit, Master of Arts in Social Practice and Innovation.  

MSPI Grad Handbook

Graduate program funding

All students admitted to the MSPI program are guaranteed three semesters of support from Ontario Tech University over the four semesters of the program in the form of Teaching Assistantships or Research Assistantships.  These are 10 hour per week employment contracts amounting to approximately $4500 per term.  

Students can also apply for external funding, including via OSAP: 

Ontario Graduate Scholarships

Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)

For more information on graduate program funding, go to the SGPS website.

Further important information for graduate students:

Bordessa Hall is located at 55 Bond St. E. in Oshawa, Ontario (Downtown Ontario Tech University location). Charles Hall is located at 61 Charles St. in Oshawa, Ontario (Downtown Ontario Tech University location).

Faculty Sample major research project supervision areas Contact

Scott Aquanno, PhD

Political Science

  • ‘Green’ Finance 
  • Asset Capitalism and the restructuring of US  finance 
  • State power and democratic organization
  • Corporate governance and globalization

Bordessa Hall - Room 313

Rachel Ariss, PhD, JD

Legal Studies

  • Law, Social Justice and Change
  • Indigenous issues in law and policy

Bordessa Hall - Room 504 

Sasha Baglay, PhD

Legal Studies

  • Immigration and refugee law and policy
  • Human rights of migrants and non-citizens
  • Criminal law and process
  • Human trafficking

Bordessa Hall - Room 506 

Andrea Braithwaite, PhD 

Communication and Digital Media Studies

  • Video games and social justice
  • Representations of gender and sexuality in pop culture
  • Representations of crime and justice in pop culture
  • Virtual communities and community-building
  • Intersectional activism and digital media

Charles Hall - Room 305B 

Ruth Felder, PhD

Political Science

  • Work, precarious labour and labour organizing
  • Latin American politics and political economy
  • International development
  • Popular economy
  • State theory

Charles Hall - Room 306

Shanti Fernando, PhD

Political Science

  • Anti-racism  
  • Anti-poverty policy  
  • Migration-policy 
  • Adult education and community development

Bordessa Hall - Room 509 

Gary Genosko, PhD

Communication and Digital Media Studies

  • Community arts, culture and heritage
  • Whistleblowing, secrecy, snitching, and info-politics
  • Techno-politics
  • Media ecology
  • Post media cultures

Bordessa Hall - Room 310

Alyson King, PhD

Political Science

  • Right to housing
  • Homelessness
  • Higher education
  • University students
  • Academic integrity

Bordessa Hall - Room 307


Emilia King, PhD

Communication and Digital Media Studies

  • Creative industries entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Storytelling (development and production): television, film, online series, and podcasting
  • Design thinking and co-creation
  • Emerging screen careers 
  • Platform work
  • Media, representation, authenticity and inclusion
  • Media and cultural policy
  • The political economy of media 

 Bordessa Hall - Room 305

Zenia Kish, PhD

Communication and Digital Media Studies

  • Global digital media
  • Social media
  • Strategic communication
  • Critical finance studies
  • Philanthropy
  • Digital agriculture
  • Food media
  • International development
  • Racial capitalism
  • Political economy of digital media
  • Silicon Valley innovation

Bordessa Hall - Room 311

Sharon Lauricella, PhD

Communication and Digital Media Studies

  • Feminist digital identities
  • Educational technologies and pedagogy 
  • Mental health and new technologies

 Bordessa Hall - Room 308 

Timothy MacNeill, PhD

Political Science

  • Sustainability policy
  • Indigenous development
  • Community development
  • International development
  • Social movements
  • Equity policy

Bordessa Hall - Room 317

Thomas McMorrow, PhD

Legal Studies

  • Legal pluralism, legal education 
  • End of life decision making 
  • Health law and ethics 
  • Constitutional law 
  • Indigenous rights and reconciliation
  • Alternative dispute resolution

Bordessa Hall - Room 513

Tanner Mirrlees, PhD

Communication and Digital Media Studies

  • Political economy of technology and creative industries
  • Digital media, democracy and human rights
  • Communication and media policy and reform 
  • Technology and creative industry work, unions and labour politics 
  • Social justice movements, activism and the Internet
  • Countering right-wing extremism 
  • War and peace media

Bordessa Hall - Room 312 

Natalie Oman, PhD, Political Science; DJur

Legal Studies

  • International human rights advocacy
  • Environmental law & climate litigation
  • Transnational Indigenous law
  • Global governance & public international law
  • Indigenous rights & colonialism

 Bordessa Hall - Room 505

Isabel Pedersen, PhD

Communication and Digital Media Studies

  • Ethics, standards, and policy related to AI technologies 
  • Social and cultural implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Social implications of Extended Reality (XR) 
  • Digital Humanities methods
  • Creative and arts-based methods

 Bordessa Hall - Room 503

Jen Rinaldi, PhD

Legal Studies

  • Institutionalization 
  • Prison and police violence
  • Disability justice and advocacy
  • Mental health  
  • Feminist and queer theory
  • Creative and arts-based methods

 Bordessa Hall - Room 514

Andrea Slane, PhD, JD

Legal Studies

  • Access to information
  • Technology law, policy and literacy
  • Privacy
  • Social isolation and connection
  • Tech-facilitated wrongdoing
  • Police use of investigative technologies

 Bordessa Hall - Room 507

Peter Stoett, PhD

Political Science

  • Sustainability
  • Climate change adaptation policy development 
  • Global biodiversity protection efforts and assessments
  • Oppression, prosecution, and murder of environmental defenders 
  • International environmental crime prevention (illegal wildlife trade, toxic waste dumping)
  • Genocide studies: legal and extra-legal community-based efforts to prevent mass atrocities

Charles Hall - Room 345

Year 1:

Fall Semester: 

  • MSPI 5010G Interdisciplinary Theory and Practice I  (3 credits)
  • MSPI 5030G Foundations for Social Practice and Innovation (6 credits)

Winter Semester: 

  • MSPI 5020G Interdisciplinary Theory and Practice II  (3 credits)
  • Two of: 
  • MSPI 5040G Advocacy, Change and Social Practices (3 credits)
  • MSPI 5050G Communicating Law and Politics in Everyday Life (3 credits)
  • MSPI 5060G Information, Power, and Democracy: Constraints, Freedoms, and Ethics (3 credits)
  • MSPI 5070G Special Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies  (3 credits)
  • MSPI 5080G Directed Studies  (3 credits)
  • Approved cross-listed 4000U level courses


  • MSPI 5001G Major Research Project I (6 credits)

Year 2: 

Fall Semester

  • MSPI 5002G Major Research Project II (6 credits)
Teresa Goff

Teresa Goff teaches journalism and mass media at Durham College. Her research interests include Indigenization, urban issues, diversity, equity and inclusion and experiential learning. She is a freelance writer, radio producer and podcaster. Her research project for her master's is measuring the social impact of experiential learning projects.




Triona Greaves

Triona completed her undergraduate degree in Criminology at York University. Her research interests includes diversity equity & inclusion, housing & Canadian anti-poverty policies. As a masters student she intends to research different solutions to address the issue of Gentrification and the impact it has on individuals of lower socioeconomic status within Canadian cities.


Joseph Young

Joseph completed his undergraduate degree in Political Science at Ontario Tech University. His research interests include sustainability studies, green finance, state theory, and political economy. He is also a musician and writer with a passion for both fiction and non-fiction. He intends to research limitations and opportunities related to sustainable finance as a graduate student.