Assistant Professor of Political Science and recently-minted Ph.D. Danielle McNabb was profiled in The Brock News for her contribution to the Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice (FPAC) program. Her expertise—which includes the role of civil society in the courts, government oversight of the police, and criminal justice policy—will also strengthen Political Science’s existing programs in Public Law, Public Policy and Administration, and Canadian Politics. Learn more about Dr. McNabb in The Brock News.
News and events
Fourth-year Political Science student Mark Chrabalowski holds the flag of Ghana at Brock International’s exchange pre-departure event on Saturday, Sept. 16. More than 30 students attended the event held to prepare them for their upcoming exchange experiences this winter. Chrabalowski has also completed exchanges in Japan and South Korea during his time at Brock. He is set to depart for Accra, Ghana, in January in his ongoing efforts to grow and learn about different cultures, philosophies and politics. “Every time I go on exchange, I gain so much new experience and perspective that it feels like I’ve lived a whole lifetime there,” he says. Exchange opportunities are available to all Brock students. Learn more.
Congratulations to current MA student, Rebecca Van Massenhoven who recently won the 2023 Gold Medal for the highly competitive and coveted “National Student and Thought Leadership Awards” offered by the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA) and the Institute of Public Administration in Canada (IPAC).
A joint initiative of CAPPA and IPAC, the National Student and Thought Leadership Awards in Public Administration are a set of two awards that recognize talent in Canadian public administration and policy programs at the regional and national levels. They highlight excellence in public administration and showcase the top talent emerging from Canadian programs each year.
Winning the awards involves a two-pronged process in which Rebecca had to present her research project to a national panel of judges. As the winner of the competition, Rebecca has been invited to participate in this year’s national IPAC conference, where she will be celebrated as this year’s champion.
Read about Rebecca in The Brock News.
For Mary Ellen Simon, Indigenous Peoples’ access to safe, affordable housing is an urgent need that goes far beyond economics.
“Having a place of rest is important,” says the Housing Programs Director at the Niagara Regional Native Centre. “People are still healing; they are just starting to be allowed to learn their own history.
“Our housing is a part of the Niagara ecosystem,” she says. “We can be at peace and rest and be able to sit with our elders, teachers and knowledge keepers, and we learn about things.”
Yet, in the face of this great need, Indigenous Peoples encounter many challenges as they seek housing for themselves and their families, says Simon.
To address the problem, Simon invited Brock Assistant Professors of Political Science Joanne Heritz and her colleague Liam Midzain-Gobin to attend a meeting of the Niagara Indigenous Community Advisory Board.
“They came to us and just listened,” Simon recalls. “They didn’t pre-plan what they wanted to do, or what their interests and ideas were; they didn’t come with a pre-formed agenda.”
After much discussion, the group decided research on housing challenges and potential solutions would be most helpful. To support this work, Midzain-Gobin and Heritz applied for, and received, a Brock University Indigenous Research Grant.
Midzain-Gobin, Heritz and their research assistant Sierra Kiers-Vander Veen partnered with Simon and other members of the Niagara Regional Native Centre on the project “Indigenous Affordable Housing in Niagara.”
“The impetus for this comes out of a recognition that Indigenous communities and Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately affected by the affordability crisis in housing,” says Midzain-Gobin, adding that “more work needs to be done to engage Indigenous communities” in wider Niagara Region housing and homeless initiatives.
He refers to the Niagara’s Housing and Homelessness Action Plan’s Five-Year Review, which found that in 2018, Indigenous Peoples accounted for 24.3 per cent of those without a home despite comprising only 2.8 per cent of Niagara Region’s population.
In the year since they received the grant, the group has formed the Indigenous Housing Advisory Circle (IHAC) consisting of representatives from the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, Ganawageh & Ohsto:Seri Urban Homes Inc., Niagara Region Métis Council, Niagara Chapter Native Women, and Niagara Regional Native Centre.
Through a number of sharing circles and meetings, the IHAC has gathered housing experiences from the Indigenous community and discussed subjects ranging from policy gaps in housing, to income levels, to building codes, regional land development policies and decision-making processes in the housing system, among other things.
This and other information were compiled into a report and presented to the IHAC last December.
The next step is for the group to create an Indigenous Vision for Housing in Niagara document, which will discuss how to build safe, affordable and culturally appropriate homes in Niagara from an Indigenous sovereignty perspective.
The document responds to two crises facing Indigenous Peoples in Niagara region: the lack of safe and affordable housing, and colonization, says Heritz.
She says the project will be based on storytelling and Indigenous philosophies and perspectives and will include a literature review and original research employing document and policy analysis, photovoice, interviews and sharing circles with the Indigenous community in the Niagara region.
Earlier this year, one initiative that sprang from IHAC discussions was an “Indigenous Housing Re-storying in Niagara” experiential education project offered in two Brock University Political Science courses.
Students developed policy briefs and recommendations on various local housing challenges after hearing from several Indigenous speakers. The project’s community event held in April involved student policy presentations and roundtable discussions with members of Indigenous communities and the regional government.
Heritz credits the Indigenous Research Grant with kick-starting an effective, relevant research process.
“This grant was really helpful in working with Indigenous representatives to determine how they want to move forward on this project,” says Heritz. “It planted the seed for amplifying their voice in securing housing on their terms.”
Faculty of Social Sciences graduates Annilea Purser (BA ’23) and Haley Myatt (MA ’23) received Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock medals during the University’s 113th Convocation on Monday, June 12 for their leadership and inspiring community contributions.
Purser, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Indigenous Studies, says the Brock community has shaped her as a leader and a citizen.
“I entered university feeling unsure about myself and what the future would hold for me, but very early on in my first year I learned just how much the Brock community cares about students and of the many opportunities that are available for students to make a difference,” she says. “At Brock, I’ve been able to realize that when you feel safe, welcomed and accepted within an academic institution, you feel comfortable starting conversations with people about your aspirations and how you can achieve them.”
For Purser, those aspirations included working with colleagues from Brock to reimagine her non-profit organization in 2020. She founded The BookWorm Initiative, which is meant to benefit vulnerable youth, as a high school student in 2017.
The Bookworm Initiative provided more than 7,000 books to unhoused youths between 2017 and 2022 and purchased schoolbooks for remote communities in Uganda whose learning was disrupted by the pandemic.
Purser says her time at Brock and in the local community — with the Brock Leaders Citizenship Society, international student mentoring, Brock’s Collegiate Leadership Competition Team, The Brock Press, Upcycle for Change and the Town of Grimsby — helped her build the support network she needed to reimagine her non-profit.
She also deepened her commitment to equity within education as a student, researcher and research assistant at Brock. Purser’s honours thesis, which examines First Nations self-determined education policy, was influenced by the educational experiences of Indigenous colleagues she met while serving as an inclusion facilitator at the Students Commission of Canada’s national youth conference.
Read about Haley Myatt here.
Dean Ingrid Makus says she is inspired by the community-minded spirit shown by both Myatt and Purser.
“Haley and Annilea used their time at Brock to challenge themselves, to build on their foundations and to expand their sphere of influence in a positive and meaningful way,” says Makus. “Their impact on the Brock community is the result of years of dedication, open-mindedness and courage, and we are delighted to see their remarkable achievements recognized with the Spirit of Brock medal.”
Ingrid Makus will begin her second term as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences on Saturday, July 1.
She became Dean in 2018 after serving terms as Interim Dean in Social Sciences from 2016 to 2018 and Acting Dean from 2013 to 2014, as well as a term as Associate Dean, Graduate Studies and Research with the Faculty from 2010 to 2013.
Makus, who holds a Master of Arts and PhD from the University of Toronto, has also taught in the Department of Political Science for nearly 30 years with research interests in gender and politics, identity politics and rights discourse.
Since 2018, Makus has led the development of the Faculty’s strategic plan and directed Dean’s Discretionary Funding to support student experiences and innovative research, including special grants for COVID-19 research in the early stages of the global pandemic. The Faculty has also successfully ushered in a BA in Critical Criminology, a BA in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice and a PhD in Sustainability, and launched strategic initiatives such as Women in Leadership and the Faculty’s research symposium series.
Makus says the achievements of the past five years reflect the dedication and adaptability of an exceptional community of scholars, students, teachers and staff.
“It has been a privilege to serve the Faculty of Social Sciences these past five years,” she says. “We are now well positioned for continued success as we move forward in addressing the challenges and opportunities outlined in our Faculty and University-wide strategic plans.”
Guided by community insight, Brock University students have been working to help address a range of urban housing challenges faced by Indigenous communities in Niagara.
Through the “Indigenous Housing Re-storying in Niagara” experiential education project in two Political Science courses — “Indigenous Politics in Canada” and “Issues in Local Government” — students heard from several Indigenous guest speakers and then developed policy briefs and recommendations on various local housing challenges.
The project culminated in a community event at the Niagara Regional Native Centre on April 11 that featured a traditional lunch, student policy presentations and roundtable discussions with members of Indigenous communities and the regional government.
The student project grew from discussions in the Indigenous Housing Advisory Circle (IHAC), which was formed via a Brock Indigenous Research Grant to bring together members of the Niagara Indigenous Community Advisory Board with Assistant Professors Joanne Heritz and Liam Midzain-Gobin to explore how Brock research might support Indigenous work around housing in the region.
When IHAC shared a need for policy analysis, Midzain-Gobin and Heritz saw an opportunity for experiential learning and the re-storying project was born.
“An important part of this process was getting students to try to understand and engage with the stories and experiences of our guest speakers as a form of knowledge, and then having them take what they learned and translate it into recommendations for future policy,” says Midzain-Gobin.
Third-year Political Science major Matthew Walker wrote about “Judicial System Barriers to Housing,” examining the links between incarceration and homelessness in Niagara and opportunities to break cycles of homelessness by addressing inequities. He sees the potential for great benefit in “an Indigenous-first approach to solving homelessness and injustice,” but says the whole community needs to engage with solutions.
“The biggest takeaway from this experience is that there is more work to be done,” says Walker. “The road to reconciliation is a long one, and we need all-hands on deck.”
Fourth-year Political Science and Sociology student Madison Motyka was inspired by a recent placement at Southridge Shelter to focus her policy brief on land allocation and inclusive housing policy development.
“In Niagara, Indigenous Peoples make up 2.8 per cent of the general population but almost 25 per cent of the homeless population,” she says. “I wanted to look at how we can ensure the Indigenous population is given their fair share of those builds and that the Indigenous community is consulted about how and where to build them to make sure the housing is inclusive of their culture and practices and makes people feel more at home.”
Niagara Regional Native Centre Housing Programs Director Mary Ellen Simon, who worked with Heritz, Midzain-Gobin and research assistant Sierra Kiers-Vander Veen to develop and co-ordinate the project from the beginning, says the many topics on which students completed analysis reflects an understanding that “housing and well-being includes more than just four walls and a roof.”
Heritz found the response among those who attended the event highly positive and encouraging.
“So much of the housing responsibilities in government rest with the region and there is flexibility within local government to include Indigenous Peoples in policy processes, so it was great to see that when the presentations finished, no one got up and left,” says Heritz.
Simon also observed ongoing discussion even after the day’s program had ended.
“There was definitely a lot of relationship-building and acknowledgement of Indigenous programming and Indigenous service providers and the key cultural component of what we do,” says Simon.
But, she adds, “the learning has just begun.”
“People can learn a little bit and that little bit can seem like such a lot, because the knowledge base is so low right now,” says Simon. “We need to continue to listen to Indigenous Peoples because they are the experts on what’s going on in our shelters, in our housing, in our interactions with landlords. They’re the ones who know and who will really be able to address what policies need to be changed to solve housing and homelessness issues.”
Following the presentations, the policy briefs were turned over to the members of the IHAC and their organizations:
- Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre
- Ganawageh & Ohsto:Seri Urban Homes Inc.
- Niagara Region Métis Council
- Niagara Chapter Native Women
- Niagara Regional Native Centre
The briefs will help support Indigenous-led conversations and, as Simon notes, keep the knowledge shared between Indigenous guests and Brock students in community hands.
The exchange also reflects how reciprocal partnerships can maximize community impact.
“It really is through projects like this that Brock research can have a concrete impact,” says Midzain-Gobin. “We need to make sure that a partnership is not just extractive on our end, that we build in reciprocity from the beginning and remember that in a true partnership, partners hold each other accountable.”
Before beginning her Citizens Politics course this winter, Jordan Isnor (BA ’22) had never thought about app development.
But taking on an experiential education placement with Bethesda, a local not-for-profit organization supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, changed all that.
As a result, the Political Science master’s student was recently recognized as Bethesda’s Volunteer of the Year for developing a safety app for the organization.
Margaret Lockhart, Bethesda’s Director of Administrative Services, says Isnor was “invaluable” during her time with the organization.
“Working with our administration team, Jordan was tasked with reviewing Bethesda’s Business Continuity Plan and Process to identify ways to potentially strengthen and consolidate it,” says Lockhart. “Taking a very innovative approach to the task, Jordan built an app to house this information in a format that our team could continue to utilize and grow. We are so appreciative of the time she dedicated to our organization and are pleased to name her Bethesda’s Volunteer of the Year.”
Isnor — who had doubts about her idea for an app at the start, especially within the time frame of a seven-week placement — began exploring the possibility on her own time.
She spoke with experts in Brock ITS and quickly found that she didn’t need a background in programming to develop a useful tool for Bethesda.
After working through the frustrations of building the app and making it visually appealing, she presented the finished product along with some modules on installation and usage that could be shared with Bethesda staff.
“The app is very similar to the Brock Safety app, which notifies Brock students and staff of emergencies and events on campus,” says Isnor. “The Bethesda Safety app included subsections that included COVID-19 protocols, emergency contact information, different types of emergencies and how app users will get notified in an emergency.”
Assistant Professor Joanne Heritz, who taught the fourth-year and master’s-level course in Winter Term, says she was pleased to see Isnor’s work valued by Bethesda.
Heritz also notes that the structure of the course meant the whole class could gain valuable insight into the work being done for social service organizations and constituency offices in the local community.
“Students reported back each week on what they were doing, so they were able to articulate in the class what they had done and also listen to what other students’ experiences were,” says Heritz. “All in all, it was very positive for the students to engage with these sponsors, who gave very generously of their time and in return had students working on various projects and bringing a different light into the workplaces and organizations.”
Isnor says the placement helped her understand the advantages of being creative at work.
“I think many of us are under the assumption once we enter the workforce that tasks are best completed through rigid approaches, such as report writing,” she says. “Through my placement, I realized I could be equally successful in taking a creative approach, like app-building compared to writing a standard report.”
“It pays to take risks and push your limits,” she says, encouraging her peers to find classes that offer internships where they can build skills, experience and networks.
Above all, Isnor is grateful for the award, which she describes as “humbling.”
“It means the world to me that it was meaningful to them, that I made an impact. I was just doing my job and trying to help out, so I am beyond grateful,” she says.
Months of preparation paid off for Brock Model United Nations (BMUN) recently when the student club competed in the annual National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference in New York City.
BMUN’s 44 delegates represented two countries, Luxembourg and the United States, in a simulated meeting of the UN held April 2 to 6 with thousands of other post-secondary students from around the world. During the four-day conference, delegates discussed global issues and negotiated resolutions related to 16 simulated UN committees, such as the Human Rights Council and Security Council.
While it was the first time many BMUN members had competed internationally, the group upheld its record of strong performances at the international event. Brock’s Luxembourg delegation placed among the top 10 per cent of schools at the conference, earning a Distinguished Delegation Award. The U.S. delegation earned an Honourable Mention Award for placing in the top 25 per cent of schools.
“Seeing our delegates flourish just as real diplomats would in their simulated committees was rewarding,” says Tara Shivafard, third-year Political Science student and Co-Secretary General of BMUN. “BMUN is full of future world leaders and thinkers, and I am delighted to see what our delegation will achieve in the future with their NMUN experience.”
BMUN members worked towards NMUN throughout the academic year, researching their assigned countries and developing the skills they’ll need to compete at the conference.
“NMUN is an incredible experience, as it allows our delegates to develop skills in so many areas,” says BMUN Co-Secretary General Lauren Araujo, a third-year Political Science and English student. “They begin preparation for the conference with thorough research and review of their country’s policy. At the conference, they engage in public speaking, debate, collaboration and writing skills.”
Araujo has taken part in NMUN since starting at Brock and says she learns something new from the experience every year.
The skills developed by BMUN members reflect those needed in real-world political environments, says Blayne Haggart, BMUN’s faculty advisor and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science.
“Through model UN, students learn about how politics works. And not just politics, but constructive politics,” he says. “They also learn about the world around them and how to work with people who have different views and objectives from their own.”
Developing intercultural fluency skills by working with students from around the world, who are often interested in similar fields, is one of the benefits of participating in NMUN, say Araujo and Shivafard.
Haggart credits BMUN’s leadership team and the dedication of its members for the group’s impressive record of success at NMUN. He says that Brock’s team is unusual among post-secondary model UN teams in being entirely organized and run by students.
“The whole team is absolutely remarkable. They prepare themselves so well for this, and then they get down there and shine,” he says. “I would put them against any students in the world. They’re capable, they’re engaged, they’re smart and they’re up for interesting challenges.”
BMUN was able to attend the conference this year through member fundraising as well funding from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Brock University Students’ Union.
Pascal Lupien was about to wrap up a three-year, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded project on Indigenous activists’ use of digital media in Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia when a wave of large-scale protests broke out in 2019.
The Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, along with a team of local and Indigenous research assistants, seized the opportunity to see how the uprisings, which rivalled in scale historic decolonization protests in the 1990s and early 2000s, might fit in with findings on how Indigenous groups were using new technologies, existing technologies and the structures and foundations of their civil society to assert land rights and political autonomy.
The last-minute extension of the research program helped inform Lupien’s latest book, Indigenous Civil Society in Latin America: Collective Action in the Digital Age, published by the University of North Carolina Press this week.
“In the 1990s and early 2000s, Indigenous civil society in these countries really managed to have a significant impact on policy and legislation, even some constitutional reform,” says Lupien. “In the years after that, there was a lot still going on, but instead of visible, disruptive types of protest movements, the organizations and leaders were involved in the policy process and putting pressure on the government by building on the experience and the concessions gained in the previous period.”
Lupien, who looked at participatory democracy in some of the same communities for his 2018 book, Citizens’ Power in Latin America: Theory and Practice, became curious about how the digital age was coming into play through the 2010s.
“Because so much of the attention to Indigenous social movements in Latin America focused on that late 20th-century and very early 21st-century period, we didn’t know a whole lot about the impact of digital technologies and particularly social media,” he says. “But a lot of the literature tells us that protest and collective action is increasingly moving online.”
However, the notion that social media could be an ideal site for resistance did not necessarily line up with what Lupien and his team observed in the communities they were engaged with.
As the broad general optimism around the potential of social media for marginalized groups began to fade, the researchers were already finding that governments and corporations could limit the effectiveness of what some had believed might be a field-levelling technology.
“We found that social media is not particularly helpful for Indigenous organizations, and that it can and is often used against them,” Lupien says. “Most of the Indigenous organizations don’t have the resources to hire the kinds of specialists that extractive industry companies or the government can, or spend a lot of money to circulate misinformation all day.”
In fact, as Lupien outlines in the book, the reliance of Indigenous civil societies on the complex and robust mechanisms already in place in their communities — rather than on an ever-shifting landscape of digital technologies — is likely beneficial.
“Indigenous civil society has so many complex, structured and very deliberate elements — social movement organizations that engage in protests, co-ops that sell products in order to raise revenue to fund engagement in politics, service-providing organizations offering services that the state fails to provide and other Indigenous participatory democracy governance mechanisms,” says Lupien. “In the book, I argue that the fact that Indigenous civil society doesn’t really have to rely on social media or new technologies is actually a strength. They can and do use it, but their success in advancing their goals doesn’t rely on it.”
To learn more about Lupien’s new book, visit the University of North Carolina Press website.