Note: We will be profiling each of the four winners and their best award tips in upcoming issues of TheGraduate@Carleton newsletter.
Four Carleton University graduate students have placed among the top 25 winners of SSHRC’s Research for a Better Life: Storytellers Challenge. The challenge tasked post-secondary students across Canada with demonstrating how social sciences and humanities research affects our lives, our world and our future prosperity.
The students were asked to produce a video, podcast, editorial or infographic promoting a great SSHRC-funded research project taking place at Carleton. The videos are available at this link.
Communications PhD candidate Katarina Kuruc used the opportunity to produce a video documenting her research project on fashion as communication in communist Czechoslovakia.
“Although some may think that fashion is a trivial matter, it is actually an important form of visual communication, especially during times when other forms of communication are restricted,” says Kuruc. “In communist Czechoslovakia, fashion was a form of self-expression in an otherwise restrictive society. It allowed individuals to break through state-imposed silence by providing a visual means to express resistance.”
Annie McEwen, a PhD candidate in the School of Public Policy and Administration, produced a video that pitched her research on childhood disadvantage and Canadian child policy.
“My project looks at how income affects a range of child developmental and well-being outcomes, with a particular focus on the role of public policy in improving the outcomes for disadvantaged children,” says McEwen. “I believe my research is important in that it will provide evidence to better guide the design of policy that aims to improve the well-being of Canadian children, which has important immediate effects as well as life-long consequences.”
Geography and Environmental Studies PhD candidate, Ryan Katz-Rosene, produced a video on high-speed rail development in Canada.
“The public is generally in favour of introducing high-speed trains in Canada’s busiest transport corridors, and many political leaders have claimed that the trains would help make Canada more sustainable by taking cars off the road,” says Katz-Rosene. “My research is important because it points out that the ability of high-speed rail to contribute to sustainable transportation really depends on the context in which the new technology is introduced. I look at what type of policies, regulations and public awareness campaigns would be required to make sure high-speed rail really is ‘green’.”
Robin MacEwan, who is pursuing her master of Social Work, created a video on her examination of social support networks of former foster youth, with a focus on youth who have spent time in group homes.
“Children raised in the foster care system are an extremely marginalized group, and they lack supports upon entering adulthood,” says MacEwan. “My research seeks to show that youth in care require further social and financial supports after they leave the foster care system.”
The students found the process of distilling their vast research projects into three-minute videos challenging.
“It was difficult to sum up my research in three minutes, but it was a great exercise that allowed me to reflect on the most fundamental aspects of my work,” says Kuruc.
MacEwen concurs, saying that “it’s tough to narrow down the scope of your research into a sound-byte while also making it visually appealing and easy to understand.”
But the students agree that the ability to communicate their research is an essential skill that is critical in the academic world and beyond.
“I chose to pursue a PhD and career in research with the explicit goal of having real-world impact,” says McEwen. “Effectively communicating my research is essential to achieving this goal.”
As part of their winnings, the students will each receive $3,000 and the opportunity to attend the 2014 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences from May 24 until May 30, 2014 at Brock University. They will also participate in The Storytellers Showcase, where they will compete to become one of the Final Five Storytellers. The Final Five will give a featured presentation to a VIP audience at SSHRC’s 2014 Impact Awards ceremony in Ottawa in the fall.
“It is an honour to be recognized by a national-level research council as I round off this stage in my academic career,” says Katz-Rosene. “The award is helpful in allowing me to create further connections and get more research exposure.”