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Short stories

Humanities graduate students national storytelling finalists

Student Life

By Janet Harron

If a picture is worth a thousand words, two graduate students in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences are communicating on a grand scale.

Elizabeth Dicks and Pier-Ann Milliard stand next to each other while leaning on a rail in building with large windows behind them.
From left are Elizabeth Dicks and Pier-Ann Milliard.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Heather Dicks, sociology, and Pier-Ann Milliard, archaeology, are among the 25 finalists for this year’s prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers Challenge.

The five final winners will be unveiled at this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences on May 29 at York University.

Both students received $3,000 from SSHRC to recognize their achievements as finalists.

The SSHRC Storytellers Challenge asks post-secondary students to show Canadians, in up to three minutes or 300 words, how social sciences and humanities research is affecting our lives, our world and our future for the better.

Pier-Ann Milliard

Ms. Milliard, whose project Puzzling in the Anthropocene: Contributions from Archaeology was also longlisted in 2022, points out a connection between the contest and the philosophy of the archaeology department’s Palaeoecology, Environmental Archaeology and Timescales (PEAT) laboratory, where she does much of her work.

“The approach in our lab is very much oriented toward public outreach,” she said. “My supervisors, Dr. Forbes and Dr. Ledger, are committed to this, as well. We even have our own YouTube channel and Twitter account.”

Her video highlights the need to protect against biodiversity loss and the urgency for the archaeology community to gather information from decaying organic material before these records are lost to climate change.

It’s a critical issue particularly for Newfoundland and Labrador, as there are thousands of archaeological sites along the province’s coast line that are vulnerable to destruction by climate change.

Heather Dicks

PhD candidate Heather Dicks created a video examining immigrant remittances, based on a SSHRC-funded project she is working on with Memorial’s Dr. Liam Swiss and McMaster University’s Dr. Lisa Kaida.

“It was incredibly challenging,” she said of the project. “It’s a tough balancing act to communicate the main thing you want people to take away without selling your research short by showing how much went into it.”

The additional challenge is exploring niche areas of research.

Ms. Dicks’ work is on remittances, which is the money immigrants send from their host communities back to their home communities.

Remittances are widely considered a new source of international development finance. The government’s current focus is on addressing the transactional costs of sending this money.

In her research, Ms. Dicks discovered the importance of the individual remitter rather than on the remittance itself. She suggests migration policies have to be considered over and above transaction costs in order to truly make a difference in global development.

“I don’t want my research to sit on a shelf. I want to see policy change and have people walk away with a compelling idea of how to make steps in a positive direction.”

Check out SSHRC’s Facebook and Twitter on May 29 to find out if Ms. Dicks and Ms. Milliard make the top five!

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