Jennifer Watts: Filled with Gratitude for Six Years as ISANS CEO

Jennifer Watts speaking at our 2022 Annual General Meeting

After serving as ISANS’ Director of Settlement and Integration for just over a year and half and as CEO for six, Jennifer Watts is retiring. As our CEO, Jennifer has brought an assured leadership that carried ISANS through COVID, waves of refugees and newcomers, and an ever-growing staff body. As her time at ISANS draws to a close, we asked her what she is most grateful for throughout her career at ISANS.

Here are just some of the things she tells us she is grateful for:

  • “Seeing the children in our preschool programs and early childhood education centres start their journey to citizenship with all the energy and exuberance all children should have – as they play and learn together.

  • ISANS community gardens where people from many different cultures and generations can grow food for their families while developing friendships and sharing the joy of successful harvests.

  • Working with local refugee communities who are rebuilding their lives here as well as working hard to bring family members to Canada. For me this is one of the most impactful and inspiring things we do is to help reunite families separated by heartbreaking situations and support our new neighbours as they settle in our communities.

  • Connecting with Mi’kmaw Elders and leaders through our Courageous Conversations series and the Artist in Residence program. These efforts have opened up important conversations and experiences for our staff and the immigrants we work with as we understand better our collective responsibility as Treaty People.

  • Seeing how ISANS staff has responded with innovative programming and service delivery that support immigrants and our local employers through targeted bridging programs for trades, the youth employability program, the women’s entrepreneurship program, and our wonderfully diverse language programs that engage learners at all stages of their learning journey.

  • ISANS’ commitment to positive messaging that proudly shares the reality of immigrants’ significant contributions to our communities, especially during times of challenge such as the pandemic, critical labour market needs, and economic pressures and uncertainty.  We are a stronger, more resilient community in responding to these challenges thanks to immigrants’ skills, experience, courage, and new ideas they bring.

  • Hearing the excitement in a staff person’s voice when they speak about a breakthrough moment for an immigrant who aced an interview, wrote a full sentence, made a phone call, got their professional credentials recognized, and all the sense of pride and joy that staff person feels as they help immigrants build a future here.

  • ISANS equity, diversity, and inclusion training and programs that support communities, organizations and employers across the province in increasing their cultural competence and becoming more welcoming communities.
  • The commitment of our staff and settlement agencies across Canada in responding to significant humanitarian crises that included support for Afghan and Ukrainian nationals. In these circumstances, rapid and innovative responses were required and the significant increase in arrivals of refugees in our province was embraced by our communities.

  • Our wonderful volunteers who help people learn English, register their kids in a sports program, figure out the Canadian workplace, and just spend time being a friend to someone who is in a new place and culture.

  • Our partners in the non-profit sector who each and every day are working for positive change across Nova Scotia. We know that alone we can’t bring about the systemic change that is needed in our province to address the affordable housing crisis, food insecurity, lack of access to health care and recreation programs, racism, and poverty, so it is through our work together that we can have an impact. We are part of a diverse and wonderful sector that leads with courage and compassion.

  • The amazing individuals who have served on the ISANS Board of Directors, volunteering their expertise and time to help guide the strategic direction of ISANS and who have so generously provided me with such wise advice over the years.”

She concluded by saying: “There is a lot to be grateful for, and I am very honoured to have had this experience.  I look forward to seeing all of the amazing contributions that ISANS will continue to make as it lives its vision of a community where all can belong and grow.”

Nabiha Atallah, who worked with Jennifer for her entire career at ISANS, had this to say about Jennifer:

“Jennifer has been a wonderful CEO, in the true tradition of all her predecessors. She stepped into the role of CEO after about one and a half years here and calmly took on some huge challenges. She has been able to combine a strategic approach with genuine caring for clients and staff. She has a solid understanding of our frontline work, day to day, and balances that with the big picture. Working with her has been an honour and a pleasure.”

Please join us in wishing Jennifer a restful and happy retirement! As grateful as she is for her time with ISANS, we are even more grateful for her leadership and for helping us get significantly closer to our vision of a community where all can belong and grow.

Jennifer Watts and others at an ISANS Open House.

Leave a Comment