English prof recognized for service to Brock, Niagara community

Natalee Caple considers service to the Brock and wider community an essential part of her teaching and research work.

With no shortage of contributions to recognize, the Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of English Language and Literature was selected as this year’s recipient of the Faculty of Humanities Distinguished Service Award.

“Service is a privilege, but it is also the responsibility of the privileged to perform service and to use their privilege thoughtfully and with generosity to support a present, and the makings of a future, that benefits diverse intersecting peoples,” Caple says.

Her passion for human rights and equity has led her to serve on the University’s President’s Advisory Committee on Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization (PACHRED) and its working groups on sexual violence prevention and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) issues.

Caple has also co-organized conferences and events promoting diversity, including Avant-Canada in 2014; Harriet’s Legacies, Race, Historical Memory and Future in Canada in 2015; and Queer Canada in 2017.

Most recently, she organized a livestreamed performance by international storyteller Ivan Coyote titled “Neither, Nor: How to Circumnavigate the Gender Binary in Seven Thousand Easy Steps,” which was originally planned as an in-person event before being moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1,000 people from around the world tuned in for the virtual event, which was supported by multiple Brock and community organizations, including the Office of Human Rights and Equity, the Women’s Safety Fund, Brock University Faculty Association, Social Justice Research Institute, Women and Gender Studies, the Department of English Literature and Languages, OUTniagara and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.

Caple’s work in decolonizing the academy and facilitating safety and supports for LGBTQ+ and two-spirit community members goes well beyond the walls at Brock.

“I see service as essential to the functioning of the University,” she says. “I believe it is necessary to perform service both inside and outside the academy to link what we do here to the lives of surrounding community members, and to responsibly perform research and pedagogy in our institution in ways that add to local, regional and global well-being.”

Caple has donated her time and skill as a researcher and writer to the Coalition to End Violence Against Women Niagara, helping the organization assess potential barriers to those seeking support for gender-based violence.

She is also involved in OUTniagara, an organization to celebrate, inform, support and collaborate with the region’s sexual- and gender-diverse community through events, funding and advocacy work.

Caple has provided her skills and expertise in creative writing to a number of literary projects and awards, including Hamilton’s gritLIT poetry award, the Saskatchewan Book Award and the Festival of Readers: St. Catharines.

“In a Faculty with so many dedicated members and such a high degree of commitment to service, Professor Caple can take great pride in receiving this award,” says Dean Carol Merriam. “Her work in service to colleagues and students, beyond the boundaries of department or Faculty, is very impressive indeed. Her commitment to issues of equity and diversity, and readiness to put the work in to achieving those goals, sets an example that we could all be proud to follow.”

Created in 2019, the Distinguished Service Award recognizes the service work taken on by faculty members that is often an undervalued aspect of faculty workload but an important part of university life.

“I meet all of my favourite colleagues at Brock doing service work, and I feel like I also get to see the best of people while working service,” says Caple. “To be recognized for my labour and offered this public appreciation at the Faculty level, by people I deeply respect, is extremely meaningful to me.”

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