Global issues in focus at Faculty of Social Sciences Research Colloquium

Award-winning researchers from six departments and programs shed light on some of the world’s most pressing issues at the Faculty of Social Sciences Research Colloquium Wednesday, Dec. 9.

The annual Research Colloquium sees the recipients of the Faculty’s Distinguished Researcher and Untenured Researcher of the Year awards present public talks on their work, alongside select graduate student recipients of the Student Research Award.

An audience made up of members of both the Brock and wider communities heard the latest research on the following topics:

  • “Exploration of how policies have limited access to health care services for trans people in the USA” by Appiah Bonsu, MA in Critical Sociology, supervised by Trent Newmeyer
  • “Don Cherry’s final rant: Illuminating Canadian nationalism, racial xenophobia, and toxic masculinity through critical discourse analysis” by Jessica Falk, MA in Social Justice and Equity Studies, supervised by Margot Francis
  • “Reviewing the options for the agricultural sector to adapt to climate change: Case study of the Niagara region, ON” by Pulkit Garg, MS in Sustainability Science and Society, supervised by Liette Vasseur
  • “iPads and free data: Universal access for Ontario’s learners during the pandemic?” by Karen Louise Smith, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film and Untenured Researcher of the Year (2019)
  • “Regulating cyber elections” by Nicole Goodman, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Untenured Researcher of the Year (2018)
  • “Looking back to see the future” by Michael Pisaric, Professor and Chair, Department of Geography and Tourism Studies and Distinguished Researcher of the Year (2019)

In her opening remarks, Faculty of Graduate Studies Dean Suzanne Curtin commented on the diversity of research being completed by students within the Faculty of Social Sciences, pointing out there are currently 59 PhD students and 442 master’s students in the Faculty and that 100 Social Sciences graduate students convocated this year.

Michelle McGinn, Associate Vice-President, Research, congratulated the researchers and spoke of celebrating the “vibrancy, productivity and impact” of the Faculty, especially in a year fraught with challenges, and highlighted some of the accomplishments of individuals across the Faculty.

Faculty of Social Sciences Dean Ingrid Makus wrapped up the event by announcing the recipients of the 2020 awards for faculty researchers. Andrea Doucet of the Department of Sociology was named Distinguished Researcher for 2020 and Jessica Blythe of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) and Julia Baird of the ESRC and the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies were both named Early Career Researchers of the Year.

Appiah Bonsu, originally from Kyebi, Ghana, describes participating in the Research Colloquium as “an experience of transformation.”

“The question-and-answer segment drew my attention to areas that I have not thought about, and I learnt from my fellow graduate students and faculty members on their research areas,” says Bonsu.

Falk said it was great both to share her own research and to learn from others.

“It’s been a strange year, and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that research has been a little more lonely than usual, so I really enjoyed the collegiality of the event.”

Garg, who is nearing the end of his master’s degree, says he felt proud and honoured to represent Vasseur, his program, and his lab at the Research Colloquium.

My presentation marked the successful culmination of my graduate studies at Brock, and I couldn’t have asked for a better learning experience during this pandemic,” he said.

Dawn Zinga, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research in the Faculty of Social Sciences, described the student presenters as “truly remarkable” and “wonderful FOSS representatives.”

“It is always amazing to witness the depth and breadth of work our graduate students are doing in their research and it is one of the privileges I enjoy as Associate Dean,” Zinga said. “I was particularly impressed with how the graduate student presenters were so poised and eloquent about the research that they are conducting in the midst of the global pandemic.”

Pisaric agreed that the student presentations a particular highlight of the Research Colloquium.

“Each of the students presented socially relevant and exciting research and it was so rewarding to see their excitement and pride in their research,” Pisaric said. “They have bright futures ahead of them and will be difference-makers in society.”

In his presentation, Pisaric reviewed his extensive climate change research and talked about how lake sediment records and tree rings can act as a history books of climatic and environmental change. He also acknowledged the funding bodies, colleagues, students and loved ones who assist with and support his work — including family dog, Shiloh.

Karen Smith shared a paper that will be published in Studies in Social Justice and is related to the Equality Project, part of a larger SSHRC Partnership grant on which she is a collaborator.

“Given that most of the conferences I planned to attend in 2020 were cancelled, it was nice to have the opportunity to share my work with colleagues and to hear from others,” said Smith.

In her presentation, Goodman talked about her interdisciplinary research around issues related to poor or nonexistent regulation of online elections, focusing particularly on work completed with colleague Aleksander Essex from Western University that was published in a recent issue of the Election Law Journal.

“The highlight of the Colloquium was hearing about the exciting and important research being led by faculty and students,” said Goodman. “The depth and breadth of the research speaks to the quality of the students and faculty Brock attracts and supports.”

Makus was delighted by the scope of research, as well as the opportunity to share it with colleagues and members of the community.

“We have these amazing researchers who are award-winning, whose work is showcased globally and while people are able to enjoy these presentations at outside conferences, I think we don’t take enough time to share them internally,” Makus said. “I’ve learned an incredible amount from this year’s featured researchers.”

A recording of the event will be posted to the Faculty of Social Sciences web site in the new year.

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