A $2.4-million investment by the Government of Canada for three new Canada Research Chairs will accelerate Memorial’s international reputation for innovative multidisciplinary research benefiting Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond.
The appointments were announced on Nov. 13 and include Dr. John Schouten, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Social Enterprise, Faculty of Business Administration; Dr.Hai Nguyen, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Health Policy Evaluation and Health Care Sustainability, School of Pharmacy; and Dr. Nicholas Welch, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Change, Adaptation and Revitalization of Aboriginal Languages, Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“The work of our latest CRCs is extremely important to the people and communities of our province.”
Tier 1 chairs are seven-year awards for $200,000 each year with the possibility of one seven-year renewal; while tier 2 chairs are five-year awards for $100,000 each year with the possibility of one five-year renewal.
“Canada Research Chair appointments are among our country’s highest honours for research excellence,” said President Gary Kachanoski.
“Memorial is extremely grateful to the Government of Canada for its continued support of researchers conducting innovative multidisciplinary studies at our university whose work is enhancing our reputation as a leading post-secondary institution. I congratulate Drs. Schouten, Nguyen and Welch on their appointments and look forward to seeing the outcomes of their important work.”
With these three new appointments, Memorial is now home to a total of 20 CRCs, with several nominations pending.
“As Memorial intensifies our research activities across the disciplines, the Canada Research Chairs Program plays a critical role in helping our university attract and keep outstanding scholars and emerging scientists,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research) and former CRC in Offshore and Underwater Vehicles Design at Memorial.
“The work of our latest CRCs is extremely important to the people and communities of our province, addressing and promoting new thinking in social enterprise, improving health behaviours through effective health policies and the revitalization of our Indigenous languages.”
Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Social Enterprise
As the Faculty of Business Administration’s first CRC, Dr. Schouten’s research interest is in advancing social enterprise (SE) as a viable alternative to corporate business models.
“Compared to corporate business activity, which prioritizes financial returns for investors over all other concerns, SE prioritizes the well-being of people, communities and the ecosystems that support them,” he said during an interview with the Gazette.
“Social enterprise is a catalyst for healthier communities, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador, where many are struggling,” added Dr. Schouten, who joined Memorial from Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland.
“SEs often provide communities with services and employment opportunities that corporations will not.”
He says social enterprise provides models for local business that put communities first.
“Because of their people-over-profits orientation, SEs often provide communities with services and employment opportunities that corporations will not. With Newfoundland and Labrador as a laboratory for SE, the province could generate knowledge and solutions that would be applicable throughout the world.”
Dr. Schouten says his CRC appointment is not just about him or his career, but about providing resources that he hopes will help Memorial University become a leader in social enterprise education, research and outreach.
“The CRC, in my opinion, belongs to Memorial University and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I hope to align it with the best efforts in the province to build stronger, more resilient communities.”
Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Health Policy Evaluation and Health Care Sustainability
As an applied health economist, Dr. Nguyen’s research focuses on evaluating health policies and health-care interventions in terms of their effectiveness — whether a policy or an intervention is successful at achieving the desired outcomes — and of their cost effectiveness — whether the economic benefits of a policy or an intervention are worth what they cost.
“I will evaluate whether emerging public health policies involving the regulation of newly legalized substances or targeting risky health behaviours can induce positive behavioural changes, improve health outcomes and generate economic benefits,” he said.
Dr. Nguyen says that the health and economic impacts of legalized cannabis need careful study and that risky health behaviours, such as cigarette smoking and lack of exercise, are responsible for half of preventable chronic diseases and over one-third of health-care costs in this province and across Canada.
“My research will provide much needed and timely evidence on several important emerging health policies in Canada.”
“Health policies for preventing unhealthy behaviours and promoting healthy behaviours can play a critical role in improving population health and containing rising health care costs,” he explained.
“These policies, however, are often widely debated with regard to their costs and benefits; rigorous evidence on their impacts is key to their effective design and implementation. My research will provide much needed and timely evidence on several important emerging health policies in Canada to inform policymakers, health care providers and the public, both in Canada and internationally.”
He says his CRC will provide him with ample opportunities for conducting this important research, engaging in leadership and knowledge translation activities, and ultimately, will establish him as a leader in his area of research.
Dr. Nguyen is the inaugural CRC in the School of Pharmacy.
Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Change, Adaptation and Revitalization of Aboriginal Languages
Dr. Welch’s research focuses on the syntactic structure of the Indigenous languages of North America, particularly those of the Dene family of languages, as well as the implications for teaching and learning these languages. He also pursues the creation of IT tools for the teaching of endangered languages.
“Almost all Indigenous languages in North America are endangered,” said Dr. Welch, who was a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto before joining Memorial. “More and more kids are growing up monolingual in English. Language is a vital medium for the transmission of culture and when a language disappears, a millennia-old wealth of cultural knowledge goes with it.”
Dr. Welch says his CRC appointment provides him with a unique opportunity to make a large-scale contribution to language preservation efforts. He says he hopes to build a program for training students and community members in skills for language documentation and revitalization, similar to those at universities in Western Canada that are not yet available in the eastern part of the country.
“I intend to recruit interested Indigenous students for undergraduate and graduate work in linguistics.”
He also says he wants to build large online databases of Innu-aimun and Inuktitut, the Indigenous languages of Labrador, and to create a program to train community linguists and language teachers.
“I intend to recruit interested Indigenous students for undergraduate and graduate work in linguistics,” he said. “My hope is that when I retire, my successor will be a native speaker of Inuttitut or Innu-aimun.”
The Canada Research Chairs Program invests approximately $265 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds.