Alumni Spotlight Series: Josie Wittmer (MA ' 14, PHD '20)

Posted: Apr 05, 2022

For our April Alumni Spotlight Series, we spoke with Josie Wittmer (MA '14, PhD '20) and Coordinator of the Canada India Research Centre for Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Guelph. 


Tell us about yourself and your background?

Hello! I’m Josie – I am a feminist urban researcher and educator and am currently working in a few different roles. I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and instructor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s University and recently started working part-time as the Coordinator of the Canada India Research Centre for Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Guelph. My partner and I also own and operate a small coffee roastery in our community of Smiths Falls, ON! I first came to Guelph in 2012, where I completed my MA in the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics with a focus on informal waste workers’ environmental health in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with Dr. Kate Parizeau. After taking a year off academics to work and travel, I again returned to UofG to do a Ph.D. in the collaborative International Development Studies program with Geography, Environment and Geomatics. My Ph.D. dissertation research focused on waste labour, urban governance, and identity (e.g., gender, class, caste) in the context of urban India.


How did your time at U of G lead you to where you are now?

I really loved living in Guelph and being able to work on the U of G campus when I wasn’t in India or BC doing research. While I was a graduate student at Guelph, I was a department rep for the GSA, volunteered as a team lead for the Project Serve Reading Week Vancouver program (now, Catalyst Experiences), and was a grad student rep on the CIRCLE Steering Committee because of the empirical focus of my research being situated in India. Since my graduation from the PhD program in 2020, I have been working in a few different roles, including coordinating the first year and launch of the People's Archive of Rural Ontario (PARO). From there, I moved into the coordinator role with CIRCLE in early 2022.

Tell us about your work at Canada India Research Centre for Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE)?

As the Coordinator for CIRCLE, I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the centre as well as some of the big-picture planning and strategizing. Some of the exciting aspects of this job right now are managing and mentoring undergraduate and graduate student research assistants, planning and organizing events – we are currently planning an inaugural international conference for PhD students for Fall 2022, and collaborating and coordinating research clusters and meetings with different institutes and centres across the UofG. One of the big tasks at hand for us in the months ahead is developing a comprehensive research strategy for CIRCLE, which involves a consultative process to layout key areas for fostering South Asia and diaspora-related research and teaching at the UofG over the next 5 years. CIRCLE is a relatively young research centre, but we have a lot of ideas and plans for the next few years!


What opportunities are there at CIRCLE for alumni?

There are quite a few ways in which alumni can get involved with CIRCLE and stay connected with the UofG through our networks, activities, and events! 

1. Attend our events – CIRCLE has been hosting an uninterrupted series of webinars and a speaker series. You can also check out our catalogue of previous event recordings and transcripts on our website! 

2. You can write a short Encounter piece to reflect on your experiences in India/South Asia and/or with these communities in Canada or outside of South Asia on our website.  

3. Follow us on Social Media (@CIRCLE_guelph) and subscribe to our email list for a weekly update on news, events, opportunities, and outputs! Email us at  to be added to the list! You can also share news with us for our weekly email updates, if pertaining to research or opportunities related to South Asia, India, and/or their respective diaspora and we’d be happy to circulate to our list of over 1000 members (inside and outside of the UofG community)  

4. Join our network as an affiliate member 

5. Finally, CIRCLE is two years old! Its mandate is to enhance interdisciplinary research related to India, South Asia, and/ or the diasporas. You can support us by funding key activities such as: 

  • Student research in any field related to India, South Asia, and/ or the diasporas; 
  • Student travel to India or other South Asian countries; 
  • Seed funding for faculty to facilitate cutting edge research in India, South Asia, and/ or the diasporas; 
  • Co-sponsoring events, contests, etc. 

6. Have an idea? Share it with us at


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