Skip to main content

Aida orgocka

Aida Orgocka
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Alumna
GRID Minor, 2002
PhD in Human and Community Development, 2003

Current Position
Project Manager, Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER)
Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada

What is the focus of your current work and/or subject of your current research?

I am the Manager of the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project, an initiative of Canadian and Kenyan universities and one Kenyan non-governmental organization to bring university education to refugees and local communities in Dadaab, Kenya. The primary focus of the project is to build/strengthen teaching capacities in the camps through onsite and online university certificate, diploma and degree programs. This is a five year project that started its implementation in 2013 and is funded by Global Affairs Canada. More than 100 students of whom 25% women have graduated with a certificate or diploma in teacher education and many of them start their degree studies this year. All programs are free to refugee and local students who enroll in programs offered by universities in the BHER Consortium: Kenyatta University, Moi University, University of British Columbia and York University.     
In addition, I engage in the evaluation of various development projects and initiatives that focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment with a particular emphasis on gender budgeting, violence against women and women in politics. I have reviewed countries’ compliance to CEDAW and implementation of commitments resulting from the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action. Other recent research has focused on aid, partnerships and civil society.

How has your GRID minor helped you in your career?

I am an alumna of the GRID certificate. The courses I took gave me the theoretical grounding that allowed me to approach critically the gender work I had engaged in in Albania prior to studying at UIUC in 1995. The learnings provided the necessary lens to understand the achievement and challenges associated with applying gender equality both in policy making and implementation. The program brought together peers with a wealth of international experience from whom I learnt a great deal. My interest to work internationally developed partly through the experience of learning and camaraderie that the program offered.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for current GRID Students?

What you learn in the GRID courses should be a stepping stone to work in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Strive to link to practice what you learn even as you study. Cherish your classmates and the experience they bring – it will make you proud to recollect in the future that you knew each other when you were making sense of it all.  

How can we learn more about your work through social media? (include website or social media if applicable)

BHER project website:
This video describes how the BHER project came into being
This video gives an update on the BHER project

This recent posting on World University News describes our current work and challenges