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Excellence, potential, leadership

Trio of emerging researchers funded $450,000 in Vanier scholarships

By Terri Coles , Kelly Foss , and Jeff Green

Three doctoral students are continuing their innovative studies at Memorial this fall thanks to securing prestigious awards.

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, valued at $50,000 per year for three years, aims to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain outstanding doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning.

In total, the Government of Canada is investing $450,000 at Memorial.

Sharon King-Campbell

Sharon King-Campbell wears a black shirt.
Sharon King-Campbell
Photo: Ashley Harding Photography

Multi-hyphenate artist Sharon King-Campbell can add “English PhD student at Memorial University” to her long list of descriptors, which already includes actor, writer, director, producer and storyteller.

The bachelor of fine arts in theatre alumna’s artistic career provides a solid background for her upcoming academic research. She was the founding artistic director of the World’s End Theatre Company in Fogo Island-Change Islands and is the current artistic director of skc originals. She has international touring and storytelling experience and released a new book of poetry with Breakwater Books in March.

“The Vanier gives me the opportunity to really focus on my studies, to dig right in.” — Sharon King-Campbell

For her PhD research, she is studying the impact of COVID-19 safety protocols on the performer-spectator relationship in live theatre. Receiving the Vanier scholarship is “game-changing on every level” for that work, she says.

“The Vanier gives me the opportunity to really focus on my studies, to dig right in,” said Ms. King-Campbell. “I have always had work contracts while in school to make ends meet.”

Jillian Kusch

Jillian Kusch recently began a PhD in biology the Faculty of Science. They are originally from Treaty 6 territory in Saskatchewan.

Jillian Kusch wears a brown shirt and glasses and stands in front of a green tree.
Jillian Kusch
Photo: Katherine Federoff

Mx. Kusch holds an undergraduate degree in environmental biology and a master’s degree in biology, both from the University of Saskatchewan. Following their studies, they worked as a lab manager in the Lane Lab at the University of Saskatchewan and later as a zoologist for the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Center in Regina.

“I know for sure that I’ll be working on caribou, a very iconic and important species for N.L.” — Jillian Kusch

Mx. Kusch planned to return to academia for a PhD following several years in industry. That led them to Memorial University and the Wildlife Evolutionary Ecology Lab, led by Dr. Eric Vander Wal.

“I know for sure that I’ll be working on caribou, a very iconic and important species for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Receiving the Vanier Scholarship means financial freedom for Mx. Kusch while they work on their PhD. They are grateful to the people who helped them complete their Vanier Scholarship application.

“Eric provided ongoing and thoughtful feedback and I had colleagues who sent me their previous applications,” said Mx. Kusch. “That helped so much. Especially since I’m a first-generation student and the expectations and processes of academia are new to me.”

Sam E. Morton

Sam E. Morton wears a black top with yellow design, stands arms folded in front of a yellow wall.
Sam E. Morton
Photo: Heather Kennery

Sam E. Morton began a PhD in sociology following her BA in international development from the University of Guelph and an MA in sociology from Memorial.

“My research seeks to problematize dominant assumptions about animals that are at play in international development,” Ms. Morton explained. Western norms of animals and working with them often displace local and culturally specific approaches, she says, centering humans in development projects.

“I will work with development workers in Southeast Asia and “beneficiaries” of development projects to better understand how development discourse and practice shapes human-animal relations,” Ms. Morton said, “with an aim to bring forth animals as subjects and stakeholders in development.”

“Funding for graduate students is deeply unequal.” — Sam Morton

Ms. Morton was both ecstatic and relieved when she got word of the Vanier scholarship, she says.

“Funding for graduate students is deeply unequal,” she said, with low-income and many international students feeling the burden of the cost of continuing their post-secondary education most acutely.

The scholarship means three years of both material and psychological benefits, she says.

“Steady, adequate income means that I can put my time and energy into learning, collaborating, supporting my colleagues and advocating for what students need.”

‘Creative studies’

Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), says the work of the Vanier scholars will help strengthen Memorial’s reputation for cutting-edge research.

“Securing Vanier scholarships is no easy feat, so well done to these deserving recipients,” he said.

“Through the support of the Government of Canada, these emerging scholars will have the opportunity to lead creative studies and make discoveries about our ever-changing world. I wish all three continued success in their research careers.”


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