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Agnes artist-in-residence brings in the community

During her residency, Tau Lewis has spent time with pre-teen girls to help them explore their identity. 

[Tau Lewis artist-in-residence Agnes Etherington Art Centre Queen's]
Tau Lewis, the Agnes' 2018 Stonecroft Foundation Artist-in-Residence, is working out of Ontario Hall this summer. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is welcoming a Jamaican-Canadian artist to campus this summer.

Tau Lewis is the Agnes’s 2018 Stonecroft Foundation Artist-in-Residence. During her thirteen-week stay, which started in June and ends in September, Ms. Lewis is teaming up with Kingston-based Roots and Wings, a grassroots community group that works towards making space for racialized girls in Kingston.

Through Roots and Wings activities, girls are encouraged to explore their diverse identities and are provided with learning opportunities about social justice issues in a fun, engaging, and age-appropriate way. They are encouraged to teach and share their unique skills with each other, as well as the larger community through action on social justice issues.

“Getting to be a part of the Roots and Wings program was a great privilege for me,” Ms. Lewis says. “I always feel blessed to encounter children's artworks and the process by which they create them, because you'll rarely encounter a more honest kind of storytelling. I feel honoured to work with such a talented and diverse group of young women, and happy that I'm able to contribute to something that was crucial to me as a kid, and I think in some ways helped me to arrive to where I am now.”

The link between Ms. Lewis and Roots and Wings has a Queen’s connection – Ms. Lewis visited Queen’s in 2017 and was introduced to Yasmine Djerbal, a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies. Ms. Djerbal, along with various other community members including Lulama Kotze and Michelle LaMarche, co-founded Roots and Wings, and this collaboration was formed from their discussions.

Ms. Djerbal says the collaboration was a wonderful experience for the girls.

  • [tau lewis queen's university agnes etherington art centre artist-in-residence workshop]
    A group of local pre-teen girls were invited to participate in a workshop with Tau Lewis, the 2018 Stonecroft Foundation Artist-in-Residence at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Tim Forbes)
  • [tau lewis queen's university agnes etherington art centre artist-in-residence workshop]
    The workshop was offered in partnership with Roots and Wings, a grassroots community group that works towards making space for racialized girls in Kingston. (Photo by Tim Forbes)
  • [tau lewis queen's university agnes etherington art centre artist-in-residence workshop]
    On the wall behind Ms. Lewis, a sign says, "Earth without art is just Eh". (Photo by Tim Forbes)

“They were able to see and meet an artist that looked like them, that they could look up to, and maybe even aspire to become one day,” she says. “Our goal is to have our girls grow strong roots into our community, and create lifelong connections to people and organizations from which they will learn about social justice, identity, and culture, and collaborating with Ms. Lewis really exemplified the work we want to do!”

The exhibition Tau Lewis: New Work will be on view at the Agnes from August 25 through to December 2. Several programs are scheduled for fall including an artist talk; two star-studded panel discussions on Art and Black Canada; and an open workshop where Ms. Lewis will introduce her practice, drawing connections between her material choices and the thematic concerns of her work.

The Stonecroft Artist-in Residence program is generously supported by the Stonecroft Foundation for the Arts, the Queen’s University Department of Gender Studies through Katherine McKittrick, the Queen’s Arts Fund–Visiting Artist in Residence, and the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Visual Art) Program.

For more information on Ms. Lewis and her work, visit http://www.taulewis.com.

Indigenous scholars visit Queen’s for year-long fellowship

The Faculty of Arts and Science has announced the recipients of its pre-doctoral fellowships for Indigenous graduate students.

This brand new opportunity, announced in February, was designed to recognize outstanding scholarship among four Canadian Indigenous PhD candidates. The initiative will provide each fellow with an annual stipend of $34,000 and up to $3,000 for research and conference travel. In addition, each fellow will be appointed and compensated separately as a Term Adjunct to teach a half-course (three unit) university course.

Following a positive response and many worthwhile applications, the Faculty decided to expand the initiative to include a fifth scholar.

“The widespread enthusiasm for the Indigenous pre-doctoral fellowships, coupled with the intensity of the response and the high quality of the applicants, was such that we decided to award five fellowships,” says Lynda Jessup, Associate Dean (Graduate Studies) within the Faculty of Arts and Science.

During their year at Queen’s, these five scholars will each teach a course within the Faculty of Arts and Science, engage with local Indigenous peoples and communities, broaden their networks, and complete their doctoral work to receive their degree from their home institution.

The recipients are coming to Queen’s from different universities the west coast to Ottawa, and represent five distinct Indigenous cultures. Keri Cheechoo, from Long Lake #58 First Nation, says she is “incredibly honoured” to have been selected as one of the recipients.

“Wachiye (that means ‘hello’). The many positive Indigenous initiatives being undertaken at Queen’s have much to offer in terms of building community and promoting reconciliation efforts, and I am pleased to be a part of that revitalization and growth,” says Ms. Cheechoo. “I remain grateful that the “rafters have been extended”, to quote the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation task force report, to welcome my Indigenous knowledge, my capabilities as a Cree scholar, and the ancestral teachings I bring with me. Meegwetch (thank you).”

The five scholars include:


[Scott Berthelette]
Scott Berthelette (Supplied Photo)

Scott Berthelette
Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Queen’s Department of History
PhD Candidate, University of Saskatchewan

Scott Berthelette’s doctoral research examines how French-Canadian voyageurs and coureurs de bois were instrumental intermediaries between the French State and Indigenous Peoples in the Hudson Bay Watershed.

Mr. Berthelette is Métis. 


[Keri Cheechoo]
Keri Cheechoo (Supplied Photo)

Keri Cheechoo
Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Queen’s Department of English Language and Literature
PhD Candidate, University of Ottawa

Keri Cheechoo's research questions what Indigenous women's stories reveal about public and customary practices, as well as the policies and practices of forced sterilization, and she uses an arts-based methodology in the form of poetic inquiry, along with an Indigenous conversational methodology.

Ms. Cheechoo is Cree.


[Jennifer Meness]
Jennifer Meness (Supplied Photo)

Jennifer Meness
Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Queen's Cultural Studies Program
PhD candidate in the joint Communication and Culture program through York and Ryerson Universities.

Using Anishinaabe conceptual frameworks and methodologies, Jennifer Meness' research gathers stories of experiences with Gaa-dibenjikewaach and seeks to further understand these types of relationships through the social lens of powwow participation.

Ms. Meness is Algonquin.


[Evelyn Poitras]
Evelyn Poitras (Supplied Photo)

Evelyn Poitras
Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Queen’s Department of Gender Studies
PhD Candidate, Trent University

Evelyn Poitras's research is on Nikawiy (mother) to Nitanis (daughter) narratives on the Nehiyaw Iskwew role in governance, leadership, and Treaty enforcement with particular focus on Treaty Four and Treaty Six.

Ms. Poitras is Nehiyaw Iskwew (Cree and Saulteaux).


[Adrianne Xavier]
Adrianne Xavier (Supplied Photo)

Adrianne Lickers Xavier
Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Global Development Studies
PhD Candidate, Royal Roads University

Adrianne Lickers Xavier's research is an autoethnographic account examining the implementation of a food security initiative, "Our Sustenance," at Six Nations.

Ms. Lickers Xavier is Onondaga.


For more information on this new program, visit the Faculty of Arts and Science’s website.

Anti-bullying expert Wendy Craig promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada

Queen's University psychology professor recognized for groundbreaking youth research.

Wendy Craig, Queen's anti-bullying expert on the playground with school children.

On June 29, Queen’s University’s Head of Psychology, Wendy Craig, was appointed an Officer to the Order of Canada by Governor General Julie Payette. Dr. Craig’s appointment was in recognition of her seminal research on bullying and its impact on youth, as well as her groundbreaking efforts to link basic research, public policy, and community action together to solve the issue.

“I am very humbled to be named to the Order of Canada,” says Dr. Craig, who is seen as one of the world’s preeminent experts on bullying prevention and the promotion of healthy relationships. “I see it really as a recognition of a network of researchers, national organizations, grad students, and others who have continued to put science into practice to address bullying and promote healthy relationships.”

Dr. Craig, alongside her mentor Debra Pepler of York University, were the first scholars worldwide to capture the naturalistic interactions of bullying, demonstrating that bullying is a relationship problem arising from complex interpersonal dynamics. They documented from longitudinal research that children do not ‘grow out’ of bullying problems, but that they instead develop into patterns of behavior that transform into academic problems, sexual harassment, dating aggression, or criminal activity.

The quality and breadth of her research is evident in her extensive published work, which has also secured her and her collaborators 70 peer-reviewed grants (as principal/co-investigator) totaling over $32 million.

“Congratulations to Dr. Craig on this tremendous national honour,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University. “Her trailblazing work continues to make a positive difference in communities across Canada, and exemplifies the combined power of science, practice, and collaboration.”

In 2006, Dr. Craig and Dr. Pepler co-founded the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet), a network that includes 130 leading scientists and 62 national youth-serving organizations who are working collectively to stop bullying in Canada.

“Along with all of our PREVNet partners, Dr. Pepler and I have sought to affect government and educational policy with evidence-based research and programs,” says Dr. Craig. “Ultimately, we want to promote mental and physical health, healthy relationships, and strengthen our society – so that children and youth can live in an environment in which they can rise to their utmost potential.”

According to Dr. Craig, national surveys have shown that bullying rates have decreased up to 50 per cent since PREVNet was first established. Most recently, the network was awarded a $550,000 contract with the Public Health Agency of Canada to evaluate how best to educate teachers and teachers-in-training about teen dating violence and healthy relationships.

Dr. Craig is one of 105 new appointments to the Order of Canada – one of the country’s highest civilian honours, created to recognize achievement, dedication to the community, and service to the nation.

Other Order of Canada recipients with Queen’s connections include:

Beverley McLachlin (LLD’11), Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Canada

Suzanne Fortier (Former Vice-Principal (Academic)), Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University
Sheila Fraser (LLD’05), Former Auditor General of Canada and Corporate Director

Alan Latourelle (MBA’94), CEO, Parks Canada (Retired)
Barry Wellar (Artsci’64, Artsci’65), President, Wellar Consulting 

Bullying prevention research network secures funding to tackle teen dating violence

PREVNet to train teachers how to identify dating violence and promote healthy relationships.

Wendy Craig, Head of Psychology, Queen’s University.

Leading national violence prevention network PREVNet has been awarded a $550,000, two and a half year contract with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to evaluate how best to educate teachers and teachers-in-training about teen dating violence and healthy relationships.

PREVNet, or the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network, was co-founded by Wendy Craig, Head of Psychology at Queen’s University and Debra Pepler, York University, and includes 130 leading scientists and 62 national youth-serving organizations who are working collectively to stop bullying in Canada.

“Students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and community agencies have a shared responsibility to promote positive relationships, prevent dating violence, and create healthy school climates,” says Dr. Craig. “With this new funding we will be co-creating resources with educators to help them prepare for these challenging situations so that they are equipped to help students navigate complicated interpersonal issues.”

From March 2018 to March 2020, PHAC funding will support four PREVNet projects designed to build educators’ capacity to address dating violence while on the job, as well as in specific cultural settings in provinces across the country. In a 2015 Canadian study, 51 per cent of victims aged 15 to 19 years, and 46 per cent of victims aged 20 to 24 years, were victimized by a current dating partner. These age groups were also more often victimized by former dating partners.

“As part of our first two projects, teachers will be receiving training to enhance their understanding, capacity, competence, and skills to address dating violence and promote healthy relationships,” says Dr. Craig. “Through these activities we will also be focused on identifying factors that will lead to successful integration of these strategies into their teaching practices.

Projects three and four will expand upon the training content developed, implemented, and honed in the first two projects, so it can be applied nationally and across cultural contexts.

“Project three will aim to co-create recommendations for culturally-appropriate training programs for educators in Indigenous communities, particularly in the Canadian North,” says Dr. Craig. “From there, the fourth project will involve creating free, evidence-based resources to assist educators, and to disseminate them through a national social media campaign.”

All four projects will cover critical subject areas, including: risk factors for gender-based violence in adolescent relationships; mental health; communication; conflict resolution; personal and interpersonal boundaries; victim blaming attitudes; the role of media and social norms; dominance, power, and privilege; the role of peers and of media; and more.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Craig and her co-director Dr. Pepler, PREVNet has implemented innovative and effective initiatives designed to make our communities and schools safe, happy, and healthy spaces for our children to grow and flourish,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research), Queen’s University. “On behalf of Queen’s I want to congratulate her and her team on securing new funding from the PHAC that will help the network continue this truly invaluable work.”

The new funding was announced by Canada’s Minister of Health today.

“The Government of Canada is proud to support innovative capacity-building projects for professionals working with youth,” says The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, Government of Canada. “Equipping educators so that they can help youth develop the skills they need to have healthy relationships is one way that we can address and prevent gender-based violence, and foster positive mental health among young Canadians.”

Learn more about PREVNet and its programs on their website.

Five new Queen’s National Scholars announced

QNS program is designed to enrich teaching and research at the university while also supporting faculty renewal and diversity and inclusion efforts.

Designed to enrich teaching and research at the university, the Queen’s National Scholars (QNS) program has been bringing outstanding, early-career academics to Queen’s since 1985.

This year, five new faculty members will arrive on campus as Queen’s National Scholars, in fields of study from precision molecular medicine to African American gender history to computational neuroeconomics.

“The QNS program is an important initiative supporting our faculty renewal efforts, with a particular focus on newly-developing fields of knowledge,” says Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), who co-chairs the QNS advisory committee. “The program is also an excellent opportunity to reinforce the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through its recruitment efforts.”

The 2018 QNS are:

Carolyn Prouse – Queen’s National Scholar in Urban Economic Geography
Faculty of Arts and Science

Dr. Prouse’s research focuses on critical urban post-colonial geographies in South America; her work inhabits an exciting space that combines critical economic geography methodologies to explore issues around economic uncertainty, feminism, and racism. Dr. Prouse has a well-established teaching portfolio and is capable of developing and delivering new and interesting topics to students. She was awarded her PhD in 2017 from the University of British Columbia and, most recently, held a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Toronto.

[Chantelle Capicciotti]Chantelle Capicciotti – Queen’s National Scholar in Precision Molecular Medicine
Faculty of Arts and Science, Faculty of Health Sciences

Dr. Capicciotti’s research focuses on identification and chemo-enzymatic synthesis of molecules (glycoconjugates: protein- and lipid-bound carbohydrates) that are crucial to a vast array of cellular recognition processes impacting human health and disease. The methodologies she has already developed, and those she plans to advance at Queen’s, are highly pertinent to the fields of disease biomarker discovery and modern biologic pharmaceutical design, both of which are primary goals of personalized medicine. She arrives at Queen’s from the University of Georgia.

Ashwini VasanthakumarAshwini Vasanthakumar – Queen’s National Scholar in Legal and Political Philosophy
Faculty of Law

Dr. Vasanthakumar’s research bridges law, philosophy, and politics. It is both theoretical and planted in the real world of lived experience and policy compromise. Her research focuses on migrants and migrant communities, exploring broader contexts of community membership, citizenship, allegiance, and transitional justice from the perspective of postcolonial states and migrant and other marginalized communities. Her most recent project seeks to understand the rights and duties of diaspora communities: in relation to each other, to compatriots remaining in their countries of origin, to victims and perpetrators of atrocities, and to their adopted countries. She arrives at Queen’s from King’s College London in England.

Laila HaidaraliLaila Haidarali – Queen’s National Scholar in African American Gender History
Faculty of Arts and Science

Dr. Haidarali’s research is broadly concerned with race, gender, and representation in the study of African American women in 20th-century U.S. history. She engages the feminist politics of beauty to examine how mass-media representations and women’s self-styling efforts reflected one strand of civil rights activism that developed throughout the interwar decades. Dr. Haidarali’s work focuses on the rise of a beauty ideal that was defined by women’s brown complexions; she queries how and why an ideal of brown-skin beauty accrued heightened cultural currency during the era of African America’s mass modernization. She arrives from the University of Essex in England.

[Anita Tusche]Anita Tusche – Queen’s National Scholar in Computational Neuroeconomics
Faculty of Arts and Science

Dr. Tusche’s area of research interest is computational neuroscience with a focus on social cognition and decision-making. Her work seeks to disentangle computations that are generic to decision‐making, specialized for social cognition, and their interaction. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a neurally‐informed cognitive model of social decision‐making that enables targeted, process‐specific modulations to foster prosocial, healthy, and sustainable behaviours. Her research uses a highly-interdisciplinary approach that utilizes insights and methodological tools of psychology, behavioral economics, neuroscience (with a focus on functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI), and computational modeling (machine learning techniques, drift diffusion modeling). Dr. Tusche arrives at Queen’s from the California Institute of Technology.

The program provides $100,000 annually for five years for each QNS and is intended to attract outstanding early and mid-career researchers to Queen’s.

Principal Daniel Woolf has identified faculty renewal as a high priority for reinvestment by the university in support of the academic mission. The five-year renewal plan will see 200 new faculty hired, which nearly doubles the hiring pace of the past six years and will result in approximately 10 net new hires per year.

Faculty renewal supports Queen’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by giving the university the opportunity to proactively seek representation from equity-seeking groups such as women, people with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and racialized individuals. Faculty renewal also facilitates the building of Queen’s current areas of research strength, as well as developing newly-identified emerging research priorities.  The program directly supports the objectives outlined in the Academic Plan, the Strategic Research Plan, and various other institutional planning documents.

More information about the Queen’s National Scholar program is available online.

New research takes flight

Queen’s University researcher helps uncover how nocturnal insects navigate.

[Preparing a bogong moth for recording from brain]
A Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa) is prepped to enter a computerized flight simulator specifically designed for the moths. (Supplied photo)

Queen’s University researcher Barrie Frost and his research collaborators have uncovered the first reliable evidence that some nocturnal insects use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate during migration.

Each spring, millions of nocturnal Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) hatch across breeding grounds throughout southeastern Australia before flying over 1,000 kilometres through the dark night to reach a limited number of high altitude caves in the Australian Alps. After a few months of summer dormancy in those cool mountain caves, the moths fly right back to the breeding grounds where they were born.

“When we began this study, we were convinced that the Bogong moth would exclusively use celestial cues in the sky, such as the stars and the moon, for navigation during migration,” says Dr. Frost, Director of the Visual and Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Queen’s. “This, it turned out, is not the case. We were very surprised when we discovered that these moths could sense the Earth’s magnetic field just like migratory birds.”

For this project, Dr. Frost created an upgraded, computerized flight simulator specifically designed for moths. He used Google Earth to create an accurate moving image of the ground the moths are flying over. When the moth is flying in the simulator, the ground is programmed to always move backward, no matter what direction they choose, which encourages them to keep flying.

Magnetics set-up for simulator
Bogong moths are safely suspended in the simulator after a small sensor, called a stalk, is  glued to their back. The stalk is then wired to a computer which tracks the moths direction of travel. (Supplied Photo)

To safely suspend the moth in the simulator, the researchers glued a small sensor, called a stalk, to their back, wired the stalk to a computer and then suspended them in the flight simulator using wires. Computers tracked their direction of travel.

Using this simulator, they found the moths’ flight direction turned predictably when dominant visual landmarks and a natural Earth-strength magnetic field were turned together. When those two cues were turned in conflicting ways, the moths became disoriented within minutes. The findings led the researchers to conclude that Bogong moths rely on a magnetic sense.

“This is essentially the same strategy we use when hiking in wilderness terrain: we determine our direction with a compass and then look for some distant landmark in roughly the same direction—for instance a mountaintop or a distant tree—and then head for this as we walk,” says Dr. Frost. “When this landmark is no longer reliable, we again check our direction with the compass and choose a new landmark to orient towards.”

The researchers say they would now like to dissect, in more detail, which visual and magnetic cues the moths use and how they are integrated in the brain. Due to the moths’ relatively simple nervous system, they also hope to learn how the insects detect magnetic information, something that has yet to be achieved in any animal.

The research appeared as the lead article in Current Biology and a photo of the Bogong moth appeared on the cover. The Gazette originally reported on Dr. Frost designing the simulator in 2015.

Maintaining Mohawk identity

Queen’s University and Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na are partnering to deliver a certificate in Mohawk Language and Culture.

[Queen's University Mohawk certificate Callie Hill Nathan Brinklow]
Callie Hill, Director of Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na Language and Culture Centre, looks on as Nathan Brinklow, Lecturer in the Mohawk Language and Culture certificate program, speaks at the launch event. (Photo by Katherine Kopiak)

Language forms a critical part of identity. Canada’s Indigenous languages form not only part of the country’s cultural mosaic but also carry history and meaning for millions of people from coast to coast to coast.

Yet, of the 60 unique Indigenous languages recognized by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in Canada, all but one (Inuktitut) are considered critically endangered. A 2009 report from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that dozens of Indigenous languages in Canada were ‘near death’, and that Canada had the fifth highest number of endangered languages in the world.

In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the government and the higher education sector to increase their support for Indigenous language revitalization. The intent was to ensure the languages would be passed onto the next generation, and that credentialed programs would be created to educate others in these languages.

On National Indigenous Peoples Day 2018, Queen’s University announced a partnership with Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na which would see the two organizations work together to deliver a certificate program in Mohawk Language and Culture in the community of Tyendinaga.

“To move forward in a good way, it is imperative that we forge strong alliances – such as this partnership – to ensure that we as an institution are responding appropriately to the recommendations of the TRC and to the needs of local Indigenous communities,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “This certificate is distinctive in the way it provides training in both Mohawk language and culture directly to members of the Tyendinaga community, and I am proud that Queen’s is a part of this important initiative.”

Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na is based in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and is dedicated to the revitalization of the Mohawk language, culture, and worldviews.

“We have been delivering Mohawk language and culture courses in the Tyendinaga community since 2004,” says Callie Hill, Director of Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na Language and Culture. “What is new and unique about this certificate is our partnership with Queen’s University and fact that students who complete the certificate will be able to apply their credits towards a degree at Queen’s. These university credits are definitely an added bonus for our students.”

The courses will be delivered by Queen’s University’s Faculty of Arts and Science, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. This certificate will provide students knowledge of the Mohawk language while embedding the students in culturally rich learning experiences. Courses will introduce students to the many traditions, histories, and worldviews of the Mohawk people.

The certificate is intended to be completed over two years. Completing the course will involve both in-person instruction along with homework and some online learning.

Thanyehténhas (Nathan Brinklow) is Turtle Clan from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, and will be one of the certificate’s instructors. Mr. Brinklow also teaches Mohawk language courses at Queen’s, but he grew up without speaking or understanding Mohawk.

“I did sing hymns with my grandmother, which sparked my interest in the language leading to me learning Mohawk as an adult,” he says. “In my experience, language and culture are inseparable. Mohawk is a vivid language that allows the speaker to see how previous generations encountered and interacted with the world.”

This launch follows the creation of an on-campus Indigenous Languages and Cultures certificate program, focused on Mohawk, Anishinaabemowin, and Inuktitut languages and cultures.

For more information on this new program, visit queensu.ca/artsci/mohawk

Stories worth telling

Galen Watts (Cultural Studies) secures one of five top spots in the 2018 SSHRC Storytellers contest.

It’s a lot easier to listen to a good story than it is to tell one. This storytelling process becomes even more complex when you mix it with research. That is why the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada created the SSHRC Storytellers contest, posing a challenge to postsecondary students across Canada to tell their social sciences and humanities research stories.

This year, Queen’s had two students in the Top 25 of the competition. Agnieszka Chalas, a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education specializing in art education, submitted a video entitled, “Painting a Portrait of Evaluation in Art Museums.” Galen Watts, a doctoral candidate in cultural studies specializing in contemporary spirituality, submitted a video entitled, “The Spirit of Millennials: Community and Citizenship in Canadian Life.” Members of the Top 25 each received a cash prize of $3,000.

Galen Watts presenting at Congress 2018. Photo credit: Michael Bell.
Galen Watts presenting at Congress 2018. Photo credit: Michael Bell.

Mr. Watts went on to place in the Top 5 of the SSHRC Storytellers contest after presenting at the 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Regina, and will further showcase his work at the 2018 SSHRC Impact Awards ceremony in Ottawa in fall 2018. The Gazette recently spoke with him to discuss his research and his passion for public outreach.

Tell us a bit about your research.

I am doing a PhD in Cultural Studies, which is very interdisciplinary. I work in religious studies, as well as cultural studies and sociology. Specifically, I’m looking at “spiritual, but not religious” millennials in Canada. The kind of research question I’m interested in is, “what does the rising number of ‘spiritual, but not religious,’ millennials mean for the future of Canadian society?”

Obviously, that’s a really broad question! Since religion has often been a source of community, I try to narrow down my thinking to, what does this mean for community? Does spirituality without religion encourage community? Does it encourage volunteering? Does it encourage positive attitudes towards redistribution?” In many ways, you could say I’m interested in the relationship between spirituality and social justice.

How did you get interested in this topic? What made you pursue a PhD in this field?

I left school for two years during my undergraduate degree, and during those two years I travelled and worked abroad. Over that period, I became really interested in questions of social justice, inequality and equity, as well as questions about how people find meaning. When I came back to school, I completed my degree in philosophy and drama. Graduate work examining questions about spirituality became a perfect means to explore these two issues of social justice and meaning.

What prompted you to apply to the Storytellers contest in particular, and how did you go about creating your video?

To be honest, it was a really spontaneous decision! My fiancée, Chantel Martin (Artsci’14, Ed’15), sent me a link about the contest and I decided to enter. So, I wrote the script, she helped with the visual aspects, and we spent an afternoon recording. The video is an ongoing slideshow, and it was a great collaboration.

What does it mean to you now that you have placed in the Top 5?

Galen Watts with fellow finalists and judges. Photo Credit: Alex Myers.
Galen Watts (third from right) with fellow finalists and judges. Photo Credit: Alex Myers.

I am very happy to get the opportunity to present in Ottawa in the fall. It will be great for my professional career, but it will also be really good to have the chance to tell the top researchers in Canada about what I’m doing and also be inspired by what they’re doing. That’s one opportunity I’m really looking forward to.

In terms of the Congress, it was a very illuminating experience. It was definitely an honour to be there with the other finalists, and it was wonderful to get to meet all of them and see all of the research projects that are going on across Canada. The diversity of research that was presented amazed me. I was really struck by my fellow finalists. The passion and dedication that they brought to their scholarship was very inspiring for me.

One aspect that was particularly nice about the whole experience was that, although we knew we were competing with one another, there was incredible collegiality among all of us. We had a Research Communications Workshop the day before, and we actually had to present what we had prepared to each other and then have everyone give their feedback. It was really clear that everyone wanted each other to do as well as they could.

You do a lot of other media outreach. Why do you think outreach about research is important?

When I came back to school during my undergraduate degree, I realized how important knowledge is for living a flourishing life. Not just for individuals, but for society in general. I think that knowledge is incredibly important, and something that we should value.

However, I am also very aware of the fact that most academic knowledge ends up completely untouched or unread by the vast majority of the population, and I think that is a huge waste. I have committed myself to being able to not just do innovative research, but also make it accessible to everyday people. I think this is an important commitment that any scholar should take up.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to be starting as a visiting student in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge this winter. While I’m there, I will be analyzing all of the data that I’ve collected so that, when I come back from Cambridge, I can start writing my dissertation. In the meantime, I’m carrying out fieldwork and engaging with public media outlets as much as possible.

For more information on the SSHRC Storytellers, please visit their website. Watch Mr. Watts' video below.


Supporting Indigenous academics and Indigenous research

New funding and updated policies will support Indigenous graduate students, and students conducting research with Indigenous communities.

[Alex Veinot Queen's Chemistry]
Alex Veinot is a PhD candidate in Chemistry, and a member of Glooscap First Nation located in Nova Scotia. (University Communications)

One in four Canadians holds a bachelor’s degree or higher according to Statistics Canada. Yet for Indigenous people in Canada, the number is just one in ten - making it more of a challenge for Indigenous learners wishing to obtain a graduate education.

To help support Indigenous students seeking their masters or doctorate, the School of Graduate Studies has earmarked additional funding, and introduced a new admissions policy for Indigenous applicants in keeping with the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) task force’s report.

“These actions are a step toward increasing access to graduate studies,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean (Graduate Studies). “They align with increasing inclusivity in our graduate community and promoting opportunities for research and scholarship that actively engages Indigenous communities.”

Among the changes, the value of entrance scholarships for Indigenous students has been increased from $10,000 to $15,000. Ten such awards are adjudicated each year.

Additionally, an Indigenous Student Admission policy was approved this year to encourage applications from Indigenous candidates and support access to graduate studies.

The regulation applies to all graduate programs in the School of Graduate Studies, and it means that the evaluation of applications from Indigenous candidates will consider academic, cultural, personal, and professional background, along with other factors indicative of capacity for graduate study.

To be considered under this regulation, applicants must self-identify as Indigenous upon application for admission defined as First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples.

“Financial supports such as the Robert Sutherland Fellowship, which I received in my first year of doctoral studies, and other awards with allocations designated for Indigenous students are invaluable for promoting the advancement and development of Aboriginal communities throughout Canada,” says Alex Veinot, a PhD candidate in chemistry. “While Queen’s University has made significant improvements in supporting its Indigenous students both culturally and financially, there are still issues that need further attention in order to greatly improve the experience of Indigenous students at Queen’s.

The School of Graduate Studies has also set aside funding resources to support graduate students conducting research that requires travel to Indigenous communities. Masters and doctoral students engaged in Indigenous-related research can apply for Graduate Dean’s Travel Grant for Indigenous Field Research to help offset the costs.

These awards are similar to the Dean’s Travel Awards for Doctoral Field Research, but address a particular need linked with conducting responsible and respectful research with Indigenous communities. These awards are not restricted to PhD students.

It is expected the first applications for these travel awards will be submitted in the coming academic year in response to a call for applications from the SGS.

To further raise awareness about the distinctive requirements of research collaborations with Indigenous communities, the School of Graduate Studies has partnered with the Aboriginal Council of Queen’s University (ACQU) to organize a series of workshops.

The first workshop was held in October 2017 alongside the Indigenous Research Symposium and attracted nearly 90 student, faculty, and community participants. A second workshop will be held in November 2018 and will focus on issues of ownership and control in research.

“We are working with the ACQU and Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre to enhance our outreach, and to facilitate research with and by Indigenous communities,” says Marta Straznicky, Associate Dean (School of Graduate Studies). “It is important we build these relationships in a manner that respects Indigenous knowledge, research methodologies, and cultural protocols.”

“Respecting different ways of knowing and facilitating uptake and mobilization of the scholarly work requires that consideration be given to how the work is presented,” she adds. “The revised regulations on thesis structure affords flexibility in how the research is presented for alignment with the nature of the research conducted.”

For more information on support for Indigenous graduate students at Queen’s, visit queensu.ca/sgs/aboriginal-students

Focus on humanities and social sciences

Queen’s University researchers receive more than $3 million in funding to advance understanding of people and societies.

  • Professor Li-Jun-Ji at SSHRC announcement
    Li-Jun Ji talks about the importance of the funding she is receiving from SSHRC and how it will affect her work exploring the relationship between culture, adversity and resilience, during Friday's announcement.
  • Professor Sam McKegney at SSHRC announcement
    Sam McKegney (English Literature) explains his research into Indigenous peoples’ relationships with hockey in Canada and how newly-announced funding from SSHRC will support the project.
  • Principal Daniel Woolf at SSHRC announcement
    Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf provides a brief description of the research being done by each of the SSHRC funding recipients who took part in Friday's announcement.
  • Vice-Principal (Research John Fisher at SSHRC announcement
    Vice-Principal (Research) John Fisher talks about the importance of the SSHRC funding for university researchers, during Friday's announcement.
  • Queen's researchers attend the event announcing new SSHRC funding
    Queen's researchers who are receiving funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) attend Friday's event held at Richardson Hall.

A total of 24 Queen’s University researchers are recipients of more than $3 million in combined funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The Insight and Partnership Grants programs are designed to support their work in a range of disciplines that build knowledge and understanding about people, societies, and the world.

Successful Primary Applicants
Insight and Partnership Grants

Gauvin Bailey (Art History) - $97,035
Julian Barling (Business) - $209,046
Robert Clark (Economics) - $88,050
Jeffrey Collins (History) - $64,087
Patricia Collins (Geography and Planning) - $236,327
Rosanne Currarino (History) - $60,246
Tina Dacin (Business) - $198,625
Stanka Fitneva (Psychology) - $66,891
David Gordon (Geography and Planning) - $92,649
David Haglund (Political Studies) - $27,918
Tom Hollenstein (Psychology) - $179,706
Olena Ivus (Business) - $75,593
Li-Jun Ji (Psychology) - $172,150
Margaret Little (Political Studies/Gender Studies) - $200,159
W. George Lovell (Geography and Planning) - $65,310
Tara MacDonald (Psychology) - $95,800
Scott MacKenzie (Film and Media) - $197,978
Bertrand Malsch (Business) - $151,375
John McGarry (Political Studies) - $115,401
Sam McKegney (English Literature) - $305,060
Anton Ovhinnikov (Business) - $81,504
Jordan Poppenk (Psychology) - $84,537
Ana Siljak (History) - $65,648
Nancy van Deusen (History) - $110,656

The funding for Queen’s is part of $158 million invested in more than 800 research projects across Canada recently announced by Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, Mark Gerretsen, is helping highlight the portion awarded to Queen’s researchers.  

“Social sciences and humanities research contributes to the well-being of all Canadians. It helps us better understand the world we live in, and how we can strengthen our social institutions. I am very proud that the federal government has invested in so many worthy projects undertaken by Queen’s researchers,” says Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands.

Highlights of the funding include Sam McKegney’s research into Indigenous peoples’ relationships with hockey in Canada and Li-Jun Ji’s work exploring the relationship between culture, adversity and resilience.

“Hockey is a vehicle through which non-Indigenous Canadians manufacture senses of belonging in the Northern landscape. Yet hockey is experienced by Indigenous players, coaches, and fans in ways that exceed the confines of the Canadian nation state and are expressive of Indigenous sovereignty,” says Dr. McKegney (English Literature) who received a $305,060 Insight Grant. “The research team, made up predominantly of Indigenous scholars, is grateful to SSHRC for funding that will allow us to collaborate with Indigenous individuals and communities throughout Turtle Island who are invested in decolonizing the game.”

Dr. Ji (Psychology) received a $172,150 Insight Grant to investigate how people from different cultures confront and cope with adversity and how they derive meaning from negative life experiences.

“Providing graduate students with good-quality training in cross-cultural research can be costly, as it naturally involves traveling, translating materials, meeting with collaborators and research participants from other cultures. The support of SSHRC makes all of this possible,” says Dr. Ji. “I have been continuously supported by SSHRC grants and without that support I wouldn’t be able to be as productive in my research and wouldn’t have been able to produce a group of excellent PhD students who have benefitted from my SSHRC grants and begun their own career successfully.”

In addition to the funding garnered for primary applicants from Queen’s, importantly, a number of Queen’s researchers will also act as co-applicants and collaborators on SSHRC Insight and Partnership grants held at other institutions. For example, Dylan Robinson (Language, Literatures and Cultures) and Karine Bertrand and Susan Lord (Film and Media) are co-applicants on a Partnership grant of $2.5 million out of York University, which will examine new theoretical questions, and the methodological challenges, that attend the changing nature and political realities of visual media archives.

“SSHRC funding provides the opportunity to develop our talent at Queen’s and connect those researchers with Canadian and international partners,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “The projects focus on societal challenges and understanding human behaviour, and, ultimately, will provide better insight into the world around us.”

For more information visit the SSHRC website.


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