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SPOTLIGHT: IDS Grads Changing the World

Tara Gilroy (BA IDS 1999),

Right to Play International (Toronto)

T Gilroy

The transformative power of play should not be underestimated when it comes to International Development.  Tara Gilroy tells us why:

When Tara Gilroy left high school, she didn’t know what she wanted to study in university. But, when she found out about international development studies, Gilroy says a “light bulb went off.” 

“I thought maybe that’s the thing for me.” 

From Oakville, Ontario, Gilroy says she toured other East Coast universities, but ultimately picked Dalhousie University. 

I definitely lean on all the pieces that I learned about in IDS...It helps me think programmatically. How to plan, how to develop, how to implement, how to evaluate.

“When I laid eyes on the Dal campus, I was smitten,” says Gilroy. “I could see myself sitting on the quad and entering those old buildings.” 

“It felt easy and comfortable and not intimidating at all.” 

Gilroy began her studies in International Development in 1996. For Gilroy, Dalhousie offered an element of fun, liveliness, curiosity, inclusivity and openness. 

“I loved Dal,” says Gilroy. “I had a really good experience.” 

Gilroy says the program offered a multi-disciplinary approach to learning; exposing her to many subjects, like political science, history, language and economics. 

“Flexibility and freedom in my course selection allowed me to pursue the things that I found interesting,” says Gilroy. “At the same time, it pushed me to do things that I might not have necessarily considered.” 

Go overseas, get practical experience and be open to what others can teach you

Gilroy’s biggest takeaway from her studies: a global perspective. She says the program allowed her to study different countries, their stories and situations and, in turn, come to understand global systems, structures and strategies. 

“It was the exposure to these bigger ideas,” says Gilroy. “The realities and issues that people were confronting and had confronted across history.” 

In 1999, Gilroy received a Bachelor of Arts in International Development Studies from Dalhousie University. She graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Education. 

“It was just very rich and diverse experience,” says Gilroy. “That was just right for me.” “I wouldn’t change my undergraduate studies.” 

For the last five years, Gilroy has worked for Right to Play International. The NGO is based in 20 countries around the world, including Ghana, Lebanon and Thailand. 

Gilroy says Right to Play International uses “the transformative power of play” to help children learn life skills and school curriculum in marginalized communities. 

“I absolutely love my job,” says Gilroy. “I really believe that play is an extremely powerful and necessary part of a child’s life.”

Since 2014, Gilroy has held the position of manager, training and capacity building, and works in the global program development team in Toronto. 

Gilroy oversees training and determines how to best build capacities for partners, staff and volunteers in communities across the globe. Gilroy helps train and support program staff members, who then train local teachers or volunteers of Right to Play International’s methodologies to use in their own communities. 

In addition, Gilroy says she and her team develop training materials and games used in classrooms and community programs. 

For Gilroy, it is “very rewarding to be a part of the chain that brings play to children and it’s changing the way they see learning.” 

I absolutely love my job...I really believe that play is an extremely powerful and necessary part of a child’s life.

Gilroy says there is “an easy connection” between her undergraduate degree and her current position at Right to Play International. Gilroy says she leans on her International Development Studies degree when confronted with programming decisions, looking to understand context and background, how systems function and the main issues affecting a community.

“I definitely lean on all the pieces that I learned about in IDS,” says Gilroy. “It helps me think programmatically. How to plan, how to develop, how to implement, how to evaluate.”

Gilroy’s advice to students: go overseas, get practical experience and be open to what others can teach you.

“Follow your passion,” she says.

Follow your passion!