School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Bailey Gerrits

Ph.D candidate, Political Studies

Bailey Gerrits

Ph.D. candidate Bailey Gerrits

Winning Big: Bailey Gerrits receives prestigious Trudeau Scholarship

by Dalia Thamin, August 2015

Bailey Gerrits, a PhD student in Political Studies under the supervision of Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Margaret Little, is one of 16 recipients of the award across Canada this year. "It means a lot in that I think it's a booster in confidence around the research topic and my ability to sell it to them as something that matters to the world", says Gerrits.

The Trudeau scholarship is the most prestigious Canadian award of its type. Gerrits had to present her research to a panel of four in an in-person interview after she was short listed for the award. "It was a challenge, and I think a really positive challenge to try to communicate to an audience and saying this matters to you," adds Gerrits.

The goal of Gerrits's research is to understand how contemporary Canadian media report on domestic violence. Gerrits is also focusing on examining the factors that lead to the production of certain news patterns when it comes to covering domestic violence in Canada. These factors include examining Canadian news room culture as well as the language used in press releases issued by the police.

"I specifically want to consider the way in which violence against and violence perpetrated by non-white people in Canada is covered," adds Gerrits. She explains that so far there aren't many case studies done on non-white domestic violence in Canada. Gerrits adds that in some cases the literature "ignores race completely when it considers domestic violence, which is bizarre."

The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, the organization that gives out the annual scholarship, promotes outstanding research in humanities and human sciences. Its mandate includes supporting inter-disciplinary research that encourages dialogues between academics, government and various Canadian professions and organizations, especially in issues related to human rights, dignity and responsible citizenship.

Gerrits was a good fit for the Trudeau award. In addition to being an outstanding student academically, she also volunteers for several organizations which support survivors of gender based violence in Kingston. Gerrits is a board member of Kingston Interval House which is the main domestic violence centre in the region. She also volunteers with the Sexual Assault Centre in Kingston as a crisis line operator. Gerrits's experience working with survivors of domestic violence motivated her to focus her research on this issue. "I feel very implicated in this, I want a better future for everyone who I've seen around me who have experienced and continue to experience both the hurt and the survival," says Gerrits. "I'm trying to use the tools that I know how to use to access this topic," she adds.

As part of the Trudeau award, Gerrits will receive around 35 thousand dollars in living expenses. She will also receive an additional 20 thousand dollars annually for research purposes and travel allowance which includes attending a Trudeau summer institute. "It is really nice to shift my focus away from trying to do a research question that fits within my budget to doing the research question that interests me," says Gerrits.

However, the generous financial support is not the only thing that makes the Trudeau scholarship unique. "It provides you with an access to this community that is amazing, they are all awesome people who are inspiring," says Gerrits. The Trudeau foundation pairs the scholarship recipients with mentors and invites all the winners to a summer institute which Gerrits already attended, in addition to another upcoming conference next fall. "It's a great community of people who are really big on answering pressing questions for Canada," says Gerrits. "It's a really fascinating community, a lot of them are encouraging in a very sharpening way, you want to keep doing better because everyone is doing really cool stuff," she adds.

Gerrits encourages Queen's students who apply for the Trudeau award to contact Trudeau scholars who are close to their research area, for the initial written application stage. "I would contact more than one because a lot of them have different experiences," says Gerrits. She also advises students who are short listed and make it to the interview rounds to get in touch with the Trudeau scholars once again to help prepare for the interview. "A lot of people are very open to talking, I would love to talk to people," she adds. Gerrits also recommends students to apply again to the Trudeau award if they didn't get it the first year. "In my cohort a lot of them got it in our second time, I applied last year and I didn't even get an interview," says Gerrits.

As for her general main tip for time organization and applying for awards, it is to make a yearly schedule which includes all the awards and share it with supervisors. "I make a schedule for my supervisors each year…just so they know what's coming up so they can put it in their schedule when they need to write letters then I use reminders," says Gerrits. She is also a fan of making to do lists on paper. "I find to do lists are what get me through and also they are such mental satisfaction to check things off even if it's small things," she says.

Gerrits's schedule got even busier after receiving the award. She is currently trying to figure out how to balance her volunteering responsibilities as well as her academic research. Gerrits credits Kingston Interval House and the Sexual Assault Centre with helping her win the Trudeau award and plans to continue volunteering for the organizations. "It's been a very great experience and I feel very indebted to them because my involvement with them has not only shaped my research but made it possible to get this scholarship in a lot of ways…although I didn't get involved in the community to get the Trudeau," says Gerrits.

Gerrits, who is an Edmontonian is glad she came to Queen's and relocated to Kingston. "Kingston has been a very rewarding place to live in and I know had I moved to Ottawa or Toronto I don't think I would have the same opportunity to get as deeply as involved in anti-violence organizations," says Gerrits. "Looking back, it was really good decision for community involvement and Queen's was something I wanted to choose," she adds. Gerrits says she chose the political studies program at Queen's because of its focus on gender issues.

The last time a Queen's PhD student won a Trudeau award was in in 2013. It was also a political science PhD student, Sara Pavan.