Faculty honours linguist, Holocaust historian and outstanding staff


A linguist whose work explores the changing nature of language and a Holocaust historian who has gone to extraordinary lengths to connect students and survivors have received the Faculty of Humanities' highest awards for research and teaching. 

Alex D'Arcy, a professor in the Department of Linguistics, was honoured with a Research Excellence Award on Sept. 21 for her international reputation and exemplary research in language change and variation, from the historic, ubiquitous word "like" to children's evolving speech patterns.

“The work going on in this faculty is truly transformative, changing lives, perspectives, and fields of study," D'Arcy says. "In a rich context like this, to be recognized by my peers is a tremendous honour. I am deeply touched, and am deeply grateful for the incredible colleagues and students who inspire me.” 

Charlotte Schallié, an associate professor in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, was recognized with a Teaching Excellence Award for her course Teaching the Holocaust, which Associate Dean Academic Lisa Surridge described as "exemplifying the highest standards in community-engaged learning."

The course brought together Victoria High School students, a local Holocaust survivor, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria to "unite the academy and the community as partners in innovative Holocaust education."

At the awards presentation Schallié shared a story of working with Holocaust survivor Agnes Hirschi, who was a child during the Hungarian roundup of Jews in 1941-45. They visited children aged eight to 12 at the United Nations International School in New York City. The audience of 120 students were engrossed by Hirschi's story and asked questions about how she survived and what it was like for her as a young girl during the Second World War. The students' reaction led to a revelation for Schallié.

"These young children intuitively practiced human rights in action: they understood that all human beings—foremost those who have been subjected to extreme humiliation and degradation, deserve to be respected and treated in full recognition of their humanity," Schallié says.

"This observation proved to be the most meaningful and transformative teaching lesson for myself. What I learned from Agnes and the children at the United Nations International School is that Holocaust education can be an effective and potentially powerful tool for human rights education."

Blair Taylor, who has worked in the Dean's Office for 10 years, was honoured with the faculty's Staff Excellence Award.

"Like Beyonce and Madonna, he is known by one name—Blair," Dean Chris Goto-Jones said at the awards night. 

Trained as an archivist and a self-described collector of degrees including ones in English and visual arts, Taylor is known as an artist outside of his role as assistant to the dean. Most recently, his art took him to Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna (RMUTL) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There, he participated in the RMUTL International Art Workshop 2018 and exhibited his latest multimedia work

When asked about the award, which he joked should be named the "endurance award," Taylor says he most appreciates the people with whom he works. 

"For me, the most rewarding thing from my job in the Humanities' Dean's Office is coming to work with such an excellent group of people."