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Funding for the future

PhD researchers secure $360,000 for complex societal studies

By Jeff Green

Tolulope Victoria Akerele admits she’s “overwhelmed” to receive a lucrative $80,000 fellowship for her research.

“I believe it is a privilege to be awarded any scholarship at all for post-graduate studies,” she told the Gazette during a recent conversation.

Ms. Akerele is among six doctoral students at Memorial receiving a total of $360,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for their studies.

“The funding tells me that the Canadian government recognizes the impact of immigration in Canada.” — Tolulope Victoria Akerele 

Recipients are based in the departments of Geography, English and Archaeology in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science; and School of Music.

Ms. Akerele’s research focuses on transit planning and social inclusion of immigrants and refugees in Atlantic Canada. She calls SSHRC’s funding significant.

PhD student Tolulope Victoria Akerele
PhD student Tolulope Victoria Akerele received $80,000 for her project, Transit Planning and Social Inclusion of Immigrants and Refugees in Atlantic Canadian Cities.
Photo: Submitted

“Some scholarships are more prestigious than others and this is the case with SSHRC – one of the finest Canadian scholarships and awards,” Ms. Akerele noted.

“I see the SSHRC doctoral award as a recognition of my past academic feats and acknowledging the value that my research project will bring to the domain of social sciences and humanities. Beyond this, the funding tells me that the Canadian government recognizes the impact of immigration in Canada and is committed to investing in research efforts to make it a fruitful venture.”

‘Inclusive’ research

Originally from Nigeria, Ms. Akerele moved to St. John’s in 2015 with her husband, who had just begun his PhD in the Department of Biochemistry.

Last September, she began her doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr. Yolande Pottie-Sherman in Geography.

“My research focuses on building inclusive cities and mobility systems for immigrants in Atlantic Canada,” Ms. Akerele explained.

“Central to immigrants’ social inclusion agenda is building inclusive cities and mobility systems where immigrants are involved in the planning process. My research will shed light on the existing transit policy frameworks in immigrant-focused policies in Atlantic Canada. I hope to develop recommendations on how mobility systems can better incorporate immigrants’ needs to make Atlantic Canadian cities inclusive.”

Vital funding

“For more than four decades, investments from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council have allowed our researchers, at all stages of their careers, to examine critical issues relevant to our society,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“SSHRC’s Doctoral Fellowships are particularly important for our young innovators, as they provide them the opportunity to continue their high-quality work and forge new collaborations. I congratulate our newest cohort of recipients and wish them well with their studies.”

The national funding was announced on Nov. 2 by Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. In total, the federal government is investing $26 million over the next four years to support 540 doctoral researchers across Canada through SSHRC’s Doctoral Fellowships competition.

‘Highest-quality research’

“We are grateful to SSHRC for providing this funding, which will help these young scholars continue to contribute the highest-quality research while at the same time engaging with and contributing to the community in very important ways,” said Dr. Aimée Surprenant, associate vice-president (academic) and dean, School of Graduate Studies. “We are so proud of our students who continue to win these awards recognizing their hard work, determination and brilliance.”

Below are Memorial award recipients of the SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships: Fall 2019 Competition, as announced on Nov. 2.

  • Tolulope V. Akerele Transit Planning and Social Inclusion of Immigrants and Refugees in Atlantic Canadian Cities, $80,000
  • Samantha Lehman Traumas, They Surround Us: Examining Women, Trauma, and Love in The Mists of Avalon and Le Morte Darthur, $60,000
  • Christopher J. Lively. Youth Interrogation Rights: Can Comprehension Be Enhanced Through The Multimedia Effect? $40,000
  • Meghann A. Livingston The Côte du Chapeau Rouge: Investigating the Historic French Cultural Landscape of Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula, 1504-1713, $80,000
  • Jordan W. Zalis WE THE NORTH: Hip Hop, Basketball and Building Community, $20,000
  • Darcie Valois, Anti-fat Attitudes and Body Image in Young Adults: The Moderating Role of Self-compassion, $80,000

Note: Darcie Valois is a PsyD student and is supervised by Dr. Jacqueline Carter-Major in Memorial’s Department of Psychology, but Ms. Valois is affiliated with another university in SSHRC’s Nov. 2 news release.


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