Announcing the 2022 Humanities award winners

The Humanities staff and faculty awards recognize those who make outstanding contributions to the Faculty’s mission and community.

Recipients of these awards have distinguished themselves by advancing the Faculty’s mission to enrich human dignity, provoke critical inquiry, engage myriad voices and inspire innovative expression.

It is with great pleasure that we honour and celebrate Katie Stockdale (Philosophy), Rebecca Gagan (English), waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy (Gender Studies), Sada Niang (French and Francophone Studies), Zhongping Chen (History), Lytton McDonnell (Humanities) and Matt Pollard (Germanic and Slavic Studies) for enriching our community, each in their own way.


Early Career Excellence in Research: Katie Stockdale (Philosophy)

Katie Stockdale portrait

The Early Career Excellence in Research Award recognizes and encourages research excellence among early career scholars in the Faculty of Humanities.

A scholar of feminist philosophy, moral psychology and political philosophy, Katie Stockdale illuminates the relationships between social injustice and human emotions. By exploring the impact of different forms of oppression (such as colonialism, racism and sexism) on the emotional lives of those living under oppression, she asks how emotions should be understood within the context of systems of privilege and oppression. Less than five years since earning her PhD, Stockdale has shared her scholarship on CBC’s The Sunday Magazine and through public writings on platforms such as The Conversation Canada. Her 2021 monograph, Hope Under Oppression (Oxford U. Press), has been described as “a tour de force synthesis of philosophical reflection, political theory, and feminist critique.” Stockdale’s nominator describes her as an “energetic, engaged, public-spirited and superb researcher.” Indeed, her nomination package is filled with descriptors like “world-class,” “impressive,” “first-rate,” “path-breaking,” “innovative” and “influential” — adjectives that help to illustrate why she has earned the 2022 Early Career Excellence in Research award.


Engaged Scholar: Rebecca Gagan (English)

Rebecca Gagan portrait

The Engaged Scholar award honours scholars who have best exemplified the Faculty of Humanities’ commitment to social engagement by using their knowledge, research and teaching to effect social change over the last three years.

Rebecca Gagan is a literary scholar who has engaged the campus community in a timely and important conversation about struggle, resilience, and compassion through the UVic Bounce project, which she founded in 2014. Through 8 videos, and 38 episodes on the podcast series Waving, Not Drowning, faculty and alumni share profoundly human stories of loss, relationship difficulties, mental health, grief, academic struggles, transitions and much more. By emphasizing our shared experience of struggle and adversity, these personal stories offer support and compassion as they challenge harmful and unrealistic narratives about success and academic achievement. Gagan’s visionary project has been credited with deepening connections within the UVic community, de-stigmatizing conversations about mental health, and opening spaces for honest dialogue where a focus on the lived experience of our diverse campus community takes centre stage. Her nominator notes that “Dr. Gagan is not our stereotypical picture of a leader, since she does not center the community around herself, but brings people together so that they can better understand how to support each other.” For this and more, Rebecca Gagan has earned the 2022 Engaged Scholar award.


Həuistəŋ: waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy (Gender Studies)

waaseyaa'sin Christine Sy portrait

Pronounced “who-ee-stun,” Həuistəŋ is a lək̓ʷəŋən word meaning “to honour or bring forward.” The Həuistəŋ Award honours members of the Faculty who have made the most significant contribution to further the UVic Indigenous Plan by increasing educational opportunities and success for Indigenous students or advancing education, research, outreach or engagement initiatives with an Indigenous focus.

waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy is an assistant professor in Gender Studies where she researches and teaches in the area of Indigenous gender studies. Her research strives to theoretically and methodologically elucidate the idea of Indigenous womxn’s economic sovereignty as derived from the inherited and ancestral relationships with the natural world and places of their territories. She is presently editing an anthology on Indigenous womxn’s relationship with lands (Wolsak & Wynn), has a book proposal that explores Anishinaabeg relationships with the sugar bush through a decolonial historical and critical gender lens in review (UBC press), and is engaged in community-based sugar bush research that supports Anishinaabeg womxn in this work. Sy has been prolific in her publication of peer-reviewed scholarly works as well as poetry, creative non-fiction and community-based writings, all of which engage with Indigenous feminisms and Indigenous knowledges. As an instructor, she has provided innumerable guest lectures in the Faculty and designed and/or taught courses such as Indigenous Womxn in Canada, Indigenous Feminisms, Indigenizing Cinema: Decolonizing the Screen and Indigeneity, Gender, Land. Sy’s teaching, research and writing has made major contributions to student learning and praxis on these critical topics, earning her the 2022 Həuistəŋ award.


Internationalization: Sada Niang (French and Francophone Studies)

Sada Niang portrait

The Internationalization Award is given to a member of the Humanities community who has most tangibly contributed to the advancement of the UVic International Plan by increasing student global mobility, enhancing international student experience, advancing international and intercultural curricula, or making a vital impact through the internationalization of their research.

Sada Niang is an internationally recognized expert in African and Caribbean francophone literatures and African francophone cinemas who also holds an appointment as Distinguished Professor and Fellow of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Institute of Advanced Studies in Delhi, India. His 2014 book, Nationalist African Cinema: Legacy and Transformation, is widely recognized for upending negative Western portrayals of African cinema from the 1960s and 70s by showing how newly independent African nations grappled with dominant narratives about their imagined communities in complex, original ways through internationally minded cinema. Niang has been invited to share his research across the globe in Canada, the US, Brazil, France, India and West Africa, and contributed to culturally significant events such as Fescapo, the longest-running celebration of African cinema in Burkina Faso. He has received consistent praise from colleagues for his demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching and supervision of graduate students—many of whom have come from nations like Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Nigeria and elsewhere specifically to work with him. As one of his nominators writes, “Dr. Niang has made an immense impact on students in developing their understanding of discrimination due to colonization and racism” and “their sense of social justice and intercultural comprehension.” As an exemplary scholar, teacher and graduate supervisor with international reach and impact, Dr. Niang has earned the 2022 Internationalization Award.


Research Excellence: Zhongping Chen (History)

Zhongping Chen portrait

The Research Excellence Award acknowledges those who have made a substantial contribution to their field(s) of expertise over the last five years, making a profound and unmistakable impact through their research.

Zhongping Chen’s research has been described as “prolific, visionary and impactful” and “astonishing in its breadth and depth.” Combining digital technologies, transnational perspectives and interdisciplinary approaches, Chen’s work ranges from the 1400s to the present day, spans from mainland China to coastal BC, and reaches across subjects as diverse as trade, migration, racism and the environment. His current SSHRC project, Human-Environment Interactions in the Yangzi Delta and Rural China’s Transition during the Little Ice Age, 1400-1900, for example, is a five-year investigation into environment change in the Yangzi Delta that offers a new approach to understanding human-environmental interactions by building the first-ever digitized comprehensive and interactive database of Chinese environmental history. Through this project and others, including his award-winning Canadian Chinese Artifacts Project, and his remarkable Victoria’s Chinatown: A Gateway to the Past and Present of Chinese Canadians website, Zhongping’s research continues to make important contributions to a vast array of scholarship that is once globally minded and locally impactful, earning him the 2022 Research Excellence award.


Staff Excellence: Lytton McDonnell (Humanities)

Lytton McDonnell portrait

The Staff Excellence Award recognizes those who have demonstrated excellence in the performance of their administrative, support or service duties, displaying a commitment above and beyond the requirements of their position.

In his role as the Faculty of Humanities’ Research Coordinator, Lytton McDonnell’s commitment to and support for researchers and their grant applications has been described as “impossible to overstate.” The consensus among faculty is that he has proven himself essential to research success in the Humanities, rising to a place of trust and respect at an astonishing pace. One of his nominators shares their incredulity at watching him “apply expert knowledge in methods of historical research to experimental frameworks, to archeological concerns, to literary theory. The range is vast, yet in each and every case, Lytton helps applicants hone their argument, frame their hypothesis, mobilize their knowledge and justify their budget.” Since McDonnell joined the Faculty, grant revenues and applications success rates have risen consistently, far outpacing the national average for the past several years. Another nominator notes that “this correlation is not accidental. It reflects the care and expertise that Lytton brings to his work every day. His presence has been transformative for research culture in Humanities, breathing new life and new excitement into the very difficult work of grant writing.” Perhaps just as significantly, McDonnell is described by his supervisor as “not only outstanding at grant-crafting, but also kind, patient and encouraging. He is complimentary when a grant is awarded and compassionate, supportive and forward looking when it is not.” For his demonstrated excellence in the performance of his duties above and beyond the requirement of his position, McDonnell has earned the 2022 Staff Excellence Award.


Teaching Excellence: Matt Pollard (Germanic and Slavic Studies)

Matt Pollard portrait

The Teaching Excellence Award recognizes faculty members who have gone over and above their required duties to motivate and support students on their quest for knowledge and growth.

Since joining the Faculty of Humanities in 1997, Matt Pollard has consistently proven himself to be an innovative, dynamic and responsive teacher. Over the years he has incorporated a broad and ever-changing variety of media into his teaching — from film and music to graphic design and participatory exercises in visual arts — to foster creativity in the classroom and engage students with varying strengths and learning styles. This has required continued effort by Pollard to enhance his own considerable creative gifts with updated knowledge of emerging digital techniques and technologies by attending workshops, seminars and courses along the way. And, from these efforts, it is his students who have invariably benefited the most. The awards committee found it no coincidence that one of his students, Sara Wald, received the ‘Excellence in Humanistic Creative Expression’ prize at last year’s Humanities Week Un-Essay Competition, for example. They also saw his ongoing commitment to inclusivity, anti-racism and self-reflection as “a timely call for all instructors to challenge implicit biases and assumptions in the university setting.” For his tireless work to motivate and support students of all stripes on their quest for knowledge and growth, Pollard has earned the 2022 Teaching Excellence award.