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Emerging scholars awarded $430,000 for leading-edge humanities and social sciences

By Jeff Green

Three early-career researchers are receiving significant financial support from the federal government to advance their diverse studies.

Memorial is welcoming two new Banting Post-doctoral Fellowship recipients and a new Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship recipient for a total investment of $430,000.

All three are based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Banting recipients

Dr. Rachel Jekanowski joins the Department of English in August. She’s receiving a total of $140,000 over two years to further her research project Envisioning Offshore Oil: Oceans, Energy, Futures.

William Hébert joins the Department of Sociology in October. He is receiving a total of $140,000 over two years in support of his research, which focuses on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the Canadian criminal justice system.

Vanier scholar

Andreae Callanan, Department of English, is receiving $150,000 over three years for her research project Many Solitudes: Form, Idiom and Identity in the Poetry of Dionne Brand, Marilyn Dumont and Mary Dalton.

“This latest investment from the Government of Canada further enhances Memorial’s reputation and capacity for critical social sciences and humanities research,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“Through our Strategic Research Intensity Plan, Memorial is committed to growing our pool of highly qualified and emerging researchers who are undertaking important studies that will benefit our province and beyond. I offer sincere congratulations to these awardees and look forward to learning more about the outcomes of their research.”

‘Highest-quality research’

“These programs aim to recognize world-class doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars by supporting individuals who demonstrate both outstanding leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement,” 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 the most prestigious awards. It is wonderful that their hard work, determination and brilliance are being recognized. The funding 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.”

‘First choice’

Dr. Jekanowski is “absolutely thrilled,” to receive her fellowship. Originally from a small town in Massachusetts – where she grew up on a sheep farm – she says Memorial was her “first choice of universities to work at given its emphasis on interdisciplinary energy studies and oceans research, as well as its strong commitment to community-engaged scholarship.”

Dr. Rachel Jekanowski
Dr. Rachel Jekanowski
Photo: Submitted

“I’m looking forward to working with my post-doc supervisor, Fiona Polack, as well,” added Dr. Jekanowski, who completed her BA at Queen’s University and master’s and doctoral degrees at Concordia University.

“Being awarded this fellowship not only validates my work within the emerging interdisciplinary field of environmental humanities, it also offers me the incredible opportunity to remain in Canada, pursuing the research I’m passionate about.”

Dr. Jekanowski plans to continue her writing projects, develop her teaching skills and organize a conference and screenings around energy, culture and society, and to bring visiting researchers and creative practitioners to St. John’s.

“I’m interested in how communities whose lives, jobs and ecosystems are experiencing the fluctuating oil market, offshore oil developments and proposals for renewable energy projects like offshore wind farms,” she explained.

“I’d like to use this project to think through the roles that film and media — and humanities scholarship — can play to furthering climate justice, Indigenous sovereignty and transitions away from fossil fuels.”

Launching new research

Born in Montreal, Mr. Hébert completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Concordia University. He’s scheduled to defend his PhD in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Toronto in September.

William Hébert
William Hébert
Photo: Submitted

He says receiving his fellowship is “without a doubt” one of the highlights of his academic career and that he feels “incredibly fortunate” to join Memorial, where he’ll receive mentorship from Dr. Rose Ricciardelli whom he calls one of Canada’s leading authorities on the criminal justice system.

“It will allow me to launch a new ethnographic research project, present my results at major academic events and strengthen my professional network – both nationally and internationally,” he said.

“I will also get the time and space necessary to reflect on the most impactful channels of academic and public dissemination for my doctoral research. Moreover, Dr. Ricciardelli and I have already planned collaborations tied to some of her existing and developing research initiatives.”

While at Memorial, he’ll investigate existing and changing practices surrounding persons known or suspected to live with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Canadian criminal justice institutions.

“Mirroring the design I employed for my doctoral work, my Banting project combines multi-sited ethnographic methods with a community-based research design that emphasizes the participation of community partners in determining research objectives and the application of research outcomes.”

Academic credibility

Ms. Callanan says receiving her scholarship is “a great nod of confidence.”

Andreae Callanan
Andreae Callanan
Photo: Rich Blenkinsop

“I think sometimes people feel that humanities research doesn’t have the same real-world impact that some other areas of study do, but that’s simply untrue,” she said. “Our philosophies and our self-understanding influence every decision that we make, and those decisions have tangible implications.”

As a parent of four school-age children, Ms. Callanan is grateful for the financial support.

“I really don’t take this support for granted, not for a second,” said Ms. Callanan, who is a Memorial alumna, MA’18.

“It means that I can throw myself into my work without having to deal with the precarity that’s so often the marker of grad school. But larger than that, being a Vanier scholar lends me further academic credibility. It opens doors for me, both as a doctoral student and as a leader.”

Ms. Callanan’s broad area of interest is poetry and social responsibility.

“I find the spaces where art and politics intersect — spoiler: they’re everywhere!” she said. “Right now, my research focuses on the interplay of traditional English poetic form and ‘non-traditional’ idiomatic language — that is, language other than standard English — in the writing of Canadian women poets from diverse backgrounds. We’re at an incredibly exciting moment in Canadian literature. Our poets are often our cultural bellwethers; in a tumultuous world, we are wise to listen to them.”

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and the Banting Post-doctoral Fellowships are funded through the three federal research granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. These ongoing programs are both administered through CIHR.

The Banting program provides funding to top-tier post-doctoral researchers, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to Canada’s economic, social and research-based growth. Launched in 2008, the Vanier program aims to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning.

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