Awards celebrate community engagement

Science, Social Sciences

- Joy Poliquin

(L-R) Drs. Walsh, Cullen, Benoit and Kuehne.

A sociologist, a chemical oceanographer and an anthropologist are the 2017 recipients of the Provost’s Engaged Scholar Award.

The award celebrates tenured faculty members who’ve made significant contributions to the world around us by blending outstanding scholarship, inspired teaching and community engagement.

At a March ceremony, Cecilia Benoit (Sociology/Centre for Addictions Research BC), Jay Cullen (Earth and Ocean Sciences) and Andrea Walsh (Anthropology) were conferred the five-year title of University of Victoria Community-Engaged Scholar. They also each received a one-time award of $10,000 to support their research, teaching and community engagement.

“Cecilia, Jay and Andrea are exemplary in their collaborative approach to scholarship,” says Vice-President Academic and Provost Valerie Kuehne. “They’re community builders and their scholarship is evidence of the positive and vital societal change that comes from combining research, teaching and community partnerships.”

Impact on public policy

Cecilia Benoit is a nationally recognized scholar whose research has illuminated the need for equitable health care for marginalized groups.

Benoit’s long roster of research interests includes midwifery and maternity care, health inequities of Aboriginal women in Vancouver’s downtown east side, young people and health stigmas linked to obesity and asthma, street-involved youth in transition to adulthood, pregnant women and their families dealing with poverty and substance use, and sex workers of different genders.

Benoit has pioneered a community- based participatory approach to study how stigma affects these groups, using sound ethical protocols to ensure confidentiality and anonymity. Her research has had a significant impact on public policy and programs.

They're community builders and their scholarship is evidence of the positive and vital societal change that comes from combining research, teaching and community partnerships.

Demystifying science

Chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen has built a world-class marine geochemistry laboratory at UVic and collaborates widely within Canada and internationally.

In response to public concerns about contamination from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Cullen created and leads a marine radioactivity monitoring network that engages scientists in Canada, the US, health experts, NGOs and citizen scientists to monitor and report on detectable radioactivity in seawater and seafood along the coast.

Cullen routinely and adeptly uses print media, social media, public engagements, community meetings and TV and radio appearances to demystify the science on radiation risk and on other issues related to anthropogenic contaminants, geoengineering and climate change.

Respectful relationships

Anthropologist Andrea Walsh’s commitment to community engagement is evident in all aspects of her scholarship.

As a visual anthropologist who specializes in 20th-century and contemporary Aboriginal art and visual culture in Canada, she considers the way colonialism has shaped relationships between Indigenous peoples and institutions.

Walsh is the guiding force behind a movement to repatriate artwork created by Indigenous children in residential schools to the artists and their families, and to honour the experiences of these children through exhibitions in culturally appropriate and respectful ways—all in the name of education and reconciliation.

For her work, Walsh was named an honorary witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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Keywords: sociology, earth and ocean sciences, anthropology, award, research

People: Cecilia Benoit, Jay Cullen, Andrea Walsh


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