Sara Howdle, PhD Candidate

Assistant Director

Sara Howdle is a PhD Candidate, Assistant Director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute, and a settler from Treaty-One territory, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sara’s current portfolio includes building infrastructure for Indigenous research at McMaster, supporting Indigenous students to access mentorship and research opportunities, and conducting research on incarceration, settler colonialism, and post-secondary education.

Sara is the lead of the McMaster University Prison Education Project which is offers Walls to Bridges university courses at Grand Valley Institution for Women and is expanding to the Vanier Centre for Women, Maplehurst Correctional, Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, and the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre. As a member of the Walls to Bridges National leadership team, Sara liaises with carceral institutions and universities to build new prison education programs across Canada. 

Prior to Sara’s 2021 arrival to McMaster, she coordinated Dr. Savage Bear’s Indigenous Women and Youth Resilience Project at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies. The position included bringing land-based learning to campus with a 300-level porcupine quilling course, grant writing, research, online course creation, teaching, student mentorship, and co-creating a post-secondary in prison program within Edmonton’s federal women’s prison and Buffalo Sage Wellness House. In fall 2020, Sara co-produced the Indigenous Canada visual podcast series, “Weekend at Levy’s” with Dr. Savage Bear, Dr. Paul Gareau, and Dan Levy. Sara is completing her doctorate in history from York University, Toronto. Her dissertation explores the relationship between incarceration, post-secondary program, settler colonialism, and prison reform in post-war Canada. 

Research Interests

Post-secondary programs in prisons, Canadian history, incarceration, Indigenous feminist theory, historical materialism, and settler colonialism.

Education and Training

2019 – Walls to Bridges Facilitator Training, Wilfred Laurier University, Department of Social Work. Walls to Bridges (W2B) classes are for-credit courses offered through universities and colleges taught within correctional settings. W2B classes involve equal numbers of incarcerated (“inside”) students and university/college-based (“outside”) students learning together as peers.

Present – York University, Toronto, Doctor of Philosophy, History. Supervised by Dr. Kathryn McPherson.

2011 – York University, Toronto, Master of Arts, History.

Major Research Paper: “Gender and Industrialization in Early Nineteenth-Century Lower Canada: Kahnawá:ke and the Historical Development of Indian Status.” Supervised by Professor William Wicken.

2008 – Albert-Ludwigs Universität, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.

DAAD research scholarship to study early twentieth-century German feminism.

2009 – University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Arts Honours, History and German.

Honours Thesis: “The Socio-economic Construction of Race in 1960’s West Germany and the Case of the Turkish Guest-Workers,” Supervised by Dr. Ravi Vaitheespara. Graduated with First-Class distinction.

Courses Taught

Sept 2020 – Instructor, 480 Indigenous Feminisms, Department of Women’s and  Gender Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB. This position included building a syllabus, developing assignments that strengthened research, positionality, and analytical skills. I also structured and facilitated weekly seminars around building intellectual confidence and public speaking skills. 

Sept 2019 – Co-Instructor, 280 Indigenous Resilience, The Faculty of Native Studies, Edmonton Institution for Women, Edmonton, AB. This was a Walls to Bridges course taught inside the Edmonton Institution for Women, Edmonton’s federal women’s prison. The class consisted of 15 inside and 15 outside students. With my co-instructor Jen Ward, we developed a syllabus and facilitated weekly night classes. I also did weekly office hours split between minimum and medium security.


July 2021-Present – Assistant Director, McMaster Indigenous Research Institute, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON. The institute highlights and supports Indigenous research, advocacy, and student mentorship. My flagship project as Assistant Director is the development of a three-tiered prison education project.

Sept-Dec 2020 – Co-Producer of Weekend at Levy’s. This live weekly YouTube segment featured hosts Tracy Bear, Paul Gareau, and Dan Levy moving through twelve weeks of Indigenous Canada MOOC content. My job included collecting and processing questions from learners, co-creating the segment blueprints for the hosts, coordinating guest speakers, and occasionally co-hosting the segment. Behind the scenes, I worked closely with communications and advancement to further the opportunity and launch a merchandise and donation fundraiser for The Faculty of Native Studies.

Aug 2019-Jan 2020 – Interim Director, Indigenous Women and Youth Resilience Project.

While the Director was on medical leave, I administered and lead our newly developed Walls to Bridges Program. This included liaising with multi-levels of leadership at both the university and prison as well as teaching the inaugural course NS280 Indigenous Resilience. As a co-instructor, I was responsible for co-facilitating the course as well as holding weekly office hours within medium and minimum security.

2017-Present – Coordinator, Indigenous Women and Youth Resilience Project and the  Walls to Bridges Program, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta. This faculty hire position is comprised of original research, data management, program development and administration. In collaboration with project director Dr. Tracy Bear, we conduct community engaged research to develop an Indigenous theory of resilience, contributing to the fields of resilience in the health sciences, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and youth. An extension of this position includes a Walls to Bridges Program between the Edmonton’s federal women’s prison and the University of Alberta. I also coordinate and lead a mentorship program for women transitioning to university from Buffalo Sage Wellness House.

2018-2019 – Grant Writer, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta. As a grant writer I provide supported faculty members and research administration coordinators. My position improved the Faculty’s academic publication and presentation record as well as its success in securing research funding, by providing high level academic research, writing, and editorial support for the preparation of faculty and grants proposals, academic publications, conference presentations, and other dissemination materials.

2013-17 – Teaching Assistant, Department of History, York University, Toronto, Ontario. Facilitate tutorial discussion, lecture, and teach advanced reading and writing skills for Professor Sean Kheraj’s Canadian History survey course, 2500.

2011-13, 16 – Teaching Assistant, History Program, York University, Toronto, Ontario.

Mediated tutorial discussion, graded assignments, and held office hours for Professor Molly Ladd-Taylor’s Growing up in North America, 1080.

2016-17 – Research Assistant, Mid-Century Metis Project, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta. Analysis of a collection of photographs taken in 1960s Metis community of Jackson Lake. Compile bibliography of postwar literature on women’s labour and write a historiographical paper on the body of literature.

2016-17 – Research Assistant, Asset Collection, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta. Co-acquisition and management of visual asset collection for to produce Indigenous Canada, a massive open online course(MOOC). The final section for the contract includes primary and secondary research to assist in creation of lectures and study materials for students.

Scroll to Top