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‘Value of rural life’

Researcher focuses on writing, public engagement during Fogo retreat

Research |

By Jeff Green

A researcher at Grenfell Campus says she has a renewed appreciation of the value—and challenges—of rural living after completing a month-long research retreat recently.

Dr. Maura Hanrahan, associate professor and program chair of the humanities program, is one of the inaugural recipients of the Fogo Island Research Fellowships.

Invaluable experience

During her time on the historic island in May, she completing several writing projects while also taking part in community events. She says the experience was invaluable.

“For some reason, I love small islands. I’ve spent a lot of time on Island of Ponds, Labrador, where Black Tickle is located, so I was very interested in having another small island experience,” said Dr. Hanrahan, an award-winning author, researcher and Memorial alumna.

“I think getting away like this is vital to internally process your research and focus on your writing. It’s been a long time since I lived in rural Newfoundland, so I learned a lot about the issues and challenges today’s rural people are facing. And I was certainly reminded of the value of rural life and communities.”

Unique collaboration

Created through a unique partnership between Memorial and the Shorefast Foundation, founded by honorary degree recipient Dr. Zita Cobb, select faculty members are awarded the opportunity to travel to historic Fogo Island.

Fellows take up residence in a home owned by the foundation. There, they complete the writing of a significant manuscript, which disseminates the results of a major research project or complete work on a major work of artistic creation.

In addition to Dr. Hanrahan, the other inaugural fellows are Drs. Mark Stoddart, Department of Sociology; Natalie Slawinski, Faculty of Business Administration; and Ursula Kelly, Faculty of Education.

Dr. Maura Hanrahan spent time on historic Fogo Island during a retreat last month.
Dr. Maura Hanrahan spent time on historic Fogo Island during a retreat last month.
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Hanrahan says the fellowship allowed her to carve out time to focus on writing.

“I wrote a technical report on an RBC/Harris Centre-funded study on drinking water crises in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and I rewrote an article on the food history of the Great Northern Peninsula which will be published in an academic journal,” she said in an interview with the Gazette.

“It was timely to write about these things on Fogo Island because there is a history of drinking water insecurity there. No one drinks the water in Fogo, for instance; last year’s boil water advisory has ended, but the water is coloured and unappealing. Meanwhile, I sometimes saw empty food shelves in grocery stores when the boat was delayed or not coming at all.”

Public readings

In addition to writing, Dr. Hanrahan says the fellowship was a catalyst for public engagement. While on Fogo Island, she read select passages from her upcoming book Unchained Man: The Arctic Life and Times of Robert Abram Bartlett at a couple of public events.

Dr. Hanrahan says she feels the fellowships are important, as it helps Memorial maintain its connection to rural parts of the province.

“It was Memorial Extension that helped develop the Fogo Process on the island when it was threatened by resettlement,” she noted. “My landlord on the island, Don Best, was involved in the process so talking to Don was essentially talking to history.”

More about Memorial’s Fogo Island Fellowships is available online.

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