Meet the recipients of the 2021 Congress Graduate Merit Awards - May 31

Meet the recipients of the 2021 Congress Graduate Merit Awards - May 31

Mardi, mai 25, 2021

Nominated by member scholarly associations of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the 2021 Congress Graduate Merit Awards recognize exceptional graduate students who will be presenting their work at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Throughout Congress, we are profiling 2021 award recipients. Read on to learn more about the outstanding research of our graduate community, and join the conversation on Twitter using #CGMAProfiles.

Mo Sharifi

PhD candidate in English, Western University 
Endorsed by the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE)

My name is Mo Sharifi, and I’m an Iranian Canadian creative writer, Ph.D. Candidate in English at Western University, college instructor, and social activist in London, Ontario. My PhD project titled “The Emergence of Grotesque Bodies in the Schizophrenic Fiction of William S. Burroughs, David Foster Wallace, and Bret Easton Ellis,” investigates the relationship between narrative, power, normativity, and marginalized minds and bodies in three American novels. 

Presentation at Congress 2021

I’m presenting on The ‘Unfortunate’ Race in the Academy at ACCUTE Professional Concerns Committee Panel: WHAT’S LEFT OF ENGLISH IN THE NEOLIBERAL ERA I, and I’ve also organized a panel in collaboration with CAAS, titled “Meeting with the Gaze: Convulsive Bodies in Twentieth Century American Fiction”

"My talk addresses a serious issue in academia: on the surface, BIPOC students are welcome to enter universities and colleges, but in reality, there are built-in barriers that put them at a disadvantage and hinder their success."

 

How would you describe the research you will be presenting at Congress 2021?

My talk addresses a serious issue in academia: on the surface, BIPOC students are welcome to enter universities and colleges, but in reality, there are built-in barriers that put them at a disadvantage and hinder their success. BIPOC students are consistently seen as less competent, and their experiences, perspectives, and cultures are discounted as not academic enough. Overcoming these barriers requires a sweeping cultural reformation on our campuses, and the first step in that direction is raising awareness about implicit biases that dominate our campuses and curriculum. It takes a conscious effort to identify subconscious biases, which means we need to reflect on and reconsider our policies and practices to make sure no one is left out.  

"[R]acialized students find themselves in a biased system that “tolerates” them at best. In order to achieve a truly inclusive environment for all, we have to pay attention to the relations –discursive, socio-economic, colonial, and cultural, to name a few– that made such injustices possible and relations that can redress the harms done."

 

How does the research you will be presenting connect with the Congress 2021 theme, “Northern Relations” and/or the conversations Congress 2021 is continuing under last year's Congress theme (cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic), “Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black Racism”?

My presentation directly connects with conversations about confronting colonialism and anti-Black racism. Our educational system is situated at the intersection of knowledge, power, and human lives (an intricate network of relations), and thus it directly affects a student’s success and status in the society. At the same time, academia is dominated by discursive constructs that naturalize and legitimize social and racial inequities. Thus, racialized students find themselves in a biased system that “tolerates” them at best. In order to achieve a truly inclusive environment for all, we have to pay attention to the relations –discursive, socio-economic, colonial, and cultural, to name a few– that made such injustices possible and relations that can redress the harms done.  

What is your favourite part of the Congress experience?

Congress provides a space where I can enjoy the diversity and multiplicity of voices in academia. My favorite part is meeting people from different disciplines and learning from their perspectives and experiences. Sometimes beautiful ideas and connections form in these encounters.

Share your hopes for Congress 2021.

I hope Congress 2021 becomes a safe space for discussing important issues such as Indigenization, equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization in academia. I’m hoping that these conversations lead to concrete actions and initiatives in the future. I also hope that Congress will be as enjoyable and engaging as it always is.

Karine Coen-Sanchez

Karine Coen-SanchezPhD candidateDepartment of Anthropology and SociologyUniversity of Ottawa
Endorsed by the Canadian Sociological Association (CSA)
PhD candidate and social activist with area of interest in race and racism

Presentation at Congress 2021

Blackness in Academia in the session Race and Ethnicity: BIPOC Students and Teachers - Shifting from Margins to Center

"By synchronously examining the effects of whiteness, in terms of feelings and thinking and space it occupies in the production and reproduction of knowledge within the University settings, we can dismantle the ingrained racist structures that are embedded in the educational systems."

 

Her research examines systematic racism embedded in educational institutions and how this manifest in the experiences of racialized students and workers. She is particularly interested in deconstructing the concept of race and exploring how the term “racialization” draws attention to how “racial” identities are constructed and contested within relations of power. Her research interests emerged from her own experiences as a Black student where she observed a profound disconnect between the make-up of the student body and what was being taught in her graduate program’s curriculum. Her work bridges scholarly and public spaces, most recently through her organizing of a series of panels involving; members of parliament, professors, policymakers, community activists and students. 

By synchronously examining the effects of whiteness, in terms of feelings and thinking and space it occupies in the production and reproduction of knowledge within the University settings, we can dismantle the ingrained racist structures that are embedded in the educational systems, that prevent accessibility to the Black and racialized student to fully progress academically. The barriers are as much invisible as visible, thematically contributing to the debacle of Black Scholars in academia. 

What is your favourite part of the Congress experience?

Having the space to share my lived experiences, research and knowledge to a broader audience

Share your hopes for Congress 2021.

I hope that by acknowledging systematic issues we can work collaboratively to administer change  

Kirsty Keys  

Doctoral student, School and Clinical Child Psychology program, University of Alberta  
Endorsed by the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) 

Primary research area

Indigenous parenting and social-emotional learning within education

Presentation at Congress 2021

Multi-paper presentation consisting of two papers I am presenting on: (1) Pre-service Teachers’ Relationship Skills and Beliefs about Social-Emotional Learning; (2) Pre-service Teachers’ Attitudes Towards Student Social-Emotional Learning and Student Peer Bullying: Do Years of Training Influence the Relationship? 

How would you describe the research you will be presenting at Congress 2021?

My colleagues and I have studied the ways in which pre-service teachers’ beliefs and attitudes about social-emotional learning is related to more practical aspects that are required for implementation of social-emotional learning, including pre-service teachers’ relationship skills and their attitudes towards student bullying. We are hopeful that our findings linking these concepts together will provide a path forward for post-secondary teacher education programs in better preparing pre-service teachers to provide social-emotional education to the benefits of students, teachers, and society as a whole. 

"I hope that, by better preparing pre-service teachers to help students build these skills, our children can be ready to be anti-racists and advocate for a better society, starting now."

 

How does the research you will be presenting connect with the Congress 2021 theme, “Northern Relations” and/or the conversations Congress 2021 is continuing under last year's Congress theme (cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic), “Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black Racism”?

Social-emotional learning provides our young students with the skills needed to be aware of and challenge their biases, potentially harmful social norms, and the ways they interact with individuals from different backgrounds than themselves. Building empathy, compassion, acceptance, and advocacy skills in our young students is critical to combating the racism, prejudice, and bias that exists in our society today. I hope that, by better preparing pre-service teachers to help students build these skills, our children can be ready to be anti-racists and advocate for a better society, starting now. 

Share your hopes for Congress 2021.

I hope to learn a lot about education, particularly as it pertains to students’ emotions! I think now, more than ever, our educational system has a huge role to play in ensuring students’ social and emotional wellbeing, and I am excited to hear about any research on how our system is or can be doing that. 

Michael McNeil

Michael McNeilMA student, Lakehead University 
Endorsed by the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada

Primary research area

Hungary’s contribution to Austro-Hungarian expansionism in the Balkans during the last years of the Habsburg Empire

Presentation at Congress 2021

The Accursed Mountains: The Albanian Highlands in the Colonial Gaze of Ferenc Nopcsa, 1903-1914

How would you describe the research you will be presenting at Congress 2021?

My research examines Hungarian Baron Ferenc Nopcsa’s description of Albanian spaces throughout his work and places them within the larger context of Hungarian politics during this period of high imperialism, not only shedding critical light on the Austro-Hungarian imperial project at the beginning of the twentieth century, but also providing insight into the colonial perception of nature and the environment. For Nopcsa, the Albanian landscapes - and in particular the northern Albanian highlands - served as a canvas for his colonial gaze; as a blank space on which he could project his own imperial fantasies. 

Share your hopes for Congress 2021.

My hopes for Congress 2021 is that I am able to meet new colleagues, catch up with old ones, and get a chance to see as many exciting and interesting presentations as I can!

Sigmund Jakob-Michael Stephan

PhD student, Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, University of Waterloo
Endorsed by the Canadian Association of University Teachers of German (CAUTG) 

Primary research area

For my dissertation project, I investigate the animal aesthetics of German-speaking early Romanticism. 

Presentation at Congress 2021

The Genealogy of Latvia’s Disrupted History: Garlieb Helwig Merkel and Young Latvian

How would you describe the research you will be presenting at Congress 2021?

My research project examines the 18th/19th-century idea exchange between German-speaking anti-colonial writers and the first generation of Latvian nationalist intellectuals, with a particular focus on the notion of disrupted history. Latvian nationalists employed the idea that emerged in anti-colonial Baltic-German writings that Baltic-German colonization disrupted Latvia’s history. Drawing on this idea, decolonization primarily meant for Latvian nationalists to continue the nation’s disrupted history. This understanding of decolonization allowed them to formulate a position that celebrates modernity and glorifies Latvian folklore at the same time: Latvian folklore reminds Latvians that they used to possess a flourishing culture that they are able to continue, thereby transforming Latvia into a modern nation-state.

How does the research you will be presenting connect with the Congress 2021 theme, “Northern Relations” and/or the conversations Congress 2021 is continuing under last year’s Congress theme (cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic), “Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black Racism”?

My research draws attention to the barely-discussed German colonialism in Latvia. By exposing the dialogue between anti-colonial German discourse and Latvian intellectuals, I shed light on the complexities involved in the history of colonial situations in Eastern Europe and beyond. Considering the current debates about the reemergence of nationalism on a global scale, I also contribute to an understanding of nationalism by showing how nationalism can intersect with decolonization. In general, my project promotes a post-colonial sensibility in German studies that will help both students and teachers to recognize and to challenge present colonial practices. 

Share your hopes for Congress 2021.

I am looking forward to getting in contact with many scholars working in the rich and diverse field of German studies. Especially, I am looking forward to listening to several thought-provoking papers and to engaging in several fruitful discussions about how German studies can contribute to decolonization. 

Phoebe Kang 

Phoebe KangDoctoral candidate, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Endorsed by the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education (CSSHE)

Phoebe Kang is currently studying in the Educational Leadership and Policy program and her collaborative program is in Comparative International Development and Education. Her research interests lie with internationalization in higher education, international students’ equity and policy analysis in higher education contexts.

Presentation at Congress 2021

Internationalization Strategies as Responses to the International Education Government Policies – A comparative analysis of Canada and UK

"Both countries view international students as ‘ideal immigrants’ or ‘potential workforce’ to the society while institutional strategies view international students as sources of revenues and diversity in the campus."

 

How would you describe the research you will be presenting at Congress 2021?

My research conducts a comparative analysis between Canada and the United Kingdom on the responses and disconnect between the national level of international education strategies and the institutional level of university internationalization strategies. One main common priority between Canada and the U.K in their national level of international education strategies is the importance of recruiting international students. This priority matches with the institutional level of priorities as well. Both countries view international students as ‘ideal immigrants’ or ‘potential workforce’ to the society while institutional strategies view international students as sources of revenues and diversity in the campus. 

Both Canadian and British higher education contexts are established based on the colonial histories. My research connects with the Congress 2021 theme “Northern Relations” as it is a comparative analysis between Canada and the U.K national international education strategies and their connection to the institutional university internationalization strategies. Higher education paradigms have shifted by engaging in more global partnerships and bringing in more international students to the campuses. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the continued effort for building and sustaining international and inter-institutional relations are more important than ever. 

Share your hopes for Congress 2021.

My hopes for Congress 2021 are building strong academic communities through this first time ever virtual format. With some limitations, the world can be closer in the virtual space. I am hopeful Congress 2021 will offer opportunities for the novice and emerging scholars to engage in the academic dialogues and to network within the community across Canada and beyond.   

These profiles have been condensed for length and clarity.