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Application Information

Transdisciplinary Sustainability

Admission Requirements:

  • master’s degree in a relevant field; OR

  • 12 months in a master’s program and demonstrated capacity to pursue doctoral studies; OR

  • bachelor’s degree (honours) or equivalent and 5 years of relevant professional experience


  • completion of eligible English-language secondary school or degree program; OR

  • IELTS Score above 6.5 or TOEFL score above 80 or equivalent (note that these are minimums – higher scores may be required for an application to be competitive)

(see calendar regulations for more information, in particular Section 4.1.5 on English proficiency requirements)

Application Procedures and Timelines

Most students will enroll on a full-time basis starting in September. In exceptional circumstances (i.e. with rationale coming from a prospective supervisor, and with approval from the program committee), students may enroll on a part-time basis and/or start in January or May. The application deadline for a typical September start is February 15 of the same year. Notices to your named referees will not go out until you submit the application, so you may want to notify them informally ahead of time and/or submit the application 1-2 weeks early to make sure that the reference letters come in on time.

Interested students should contact a potential supervisor prior to finalizing their applications. Because the program is transdisciplinary and involves a wide variety of disciplines and faculty, the supervisor’s role is absolutely essential in helping to establish a student’s project, program of study, and committee. As well, the supervisor typically must provide a certain level of top-up funding, and applicants should be aware of whether or not their proposed supervisor can do so before proceeding with a full application (see more information at the bottom of the program description page). The potential supervisor should be clearly identified in the answer to Question 1 of the “Statement of Interest” on the application form. No applicant can be given a formal offer of admission until a faculty supervisor has been confirmed.

If a prospective supervisor agrees to supervise an applicant pending admission to the program, the applicant should request that the supervisor send a "letter of support" to the Graduate Officer directly (currently kvodden@grenfell.mun.ca), by the application deadline. The letter should specify how much top-up funding the supervisor will offer to support the student each year. Normally, the supervisor is expected to provide at least $7,000 per year over four years, with funding for at least the first three years available at the time of admission (and, if necessary, payments to external members of supervisory or examination committees, such as Indigenous Elders or professional artists). See the "Financial Support" section on the program description page for more information. Prospective supervisors should consult the "Checklist for Supporting Supervisors" section below. The letter of support does not count as one of the two reference letters required for all graduate program applications. Please note that the application database is not checked regularly for new applications, but it will be checked around the application deadline or when a supervisor "letter of support" is received.

If an interested applicant is not able to find a prospective supervisor to support their application, they are still welcome to apply (this is a change in policy from previous years). Chances of admission will be much lower without a supporting prospective supervisor, but the program aims to establish a continuous "pool" of applicants that can potentially be paired with project/supervision opportunities that arise. These general applications can be submitted at any time of year, but are more likely to receive consideration if they come in before the application deadline and aim for a September start. Decision notices may be delayed for these applications, because the program will wait to see if opportunities arise before formally rejecting general applications. A general application can stay in the "pool" for two application cycles (years) if the applicant requests reconsideration (or "roll over") after a rejection decision. Proposals (see below) are still required for general applications, but - to aid with matching applications to project/supervision opportunities that arise - applicants may want to specify additional research interests outside of that sample proposal as well as the range of potential supervisors they would be interested to work with.

Applications must include a proposal, uploaded to the application portal as an additional document. It should be no longer than 2 pages single-spaced (before references). This proposal does not replace the "Statement of Interest" section in the main application form, which must be completed as well.

The proposal should (using headings) clearly and explicitly explain the project's:

  • rationale and significance
  • research objectives or questions
  • possible methods (including data collection and data analysis)
  • fit with TRSU program goals (as per the program homepage)
    • broad interdisciplinarity
      • what (distant) disciplines will be involved?
      • how might these disciplines be integrated with one another?
      • who might represent these disciplines on the supervisory committee?
      • (note that the applicant does not need to have a background in all identified disciplines)
    • knowledge co-production
      • what external partners might be involved?
      • how might these partners contribute as part of the research team?
      • when in the research process might these partners be engaged?
    • sustainability
      • which pillars of sustainability might be involved? (e.g. environmental, economic, social)
      • how might these pillars be considered in the research project?

Students who do not plan to use a transdisciplinary approach in their research cannot be admitted to the program.

Tips for the Application Process

Because supervisor top-up funding is normally expected, the pre-application process of contacting a potential supervisor is very important. There are essentially two ways to do this. First, a student can apply for a specific open PhD position that has dedicated funding (see the postings at the bottom of this page). Second, a student can contact affiliated faculty members with research interests that overlap with their own (see the affiliated faculty page). The applicant may discover unadvertised positions or may be able co-create a position organically if the supervisor has extra funding available. An interested supervisor can also make the case for admitting a student without the usual amount of top-up funding (see the "Financial Support" section on the program description page).

Applying without an agreed prospective supervisor is possible and welcome (see above section), but is much less likely to be successful.

Checklist for Supporting Supervisors

If you are a faculty member who would like to supervise a specific student in the TRSU program, please complete the following actions to support the applicant (before they finalize their application):
  • review their draft application materials (e.g. CV, transcripts, application form)
  • meet with them (e.g. phone call or virtual meeting) to discuss proposal and potential program
  • work together to refine their initial proposal
    • ensure it follows guidelines under the "Application Procedures and Timelines" section above
  • write a letter of support and submit it to the TRSU Graduate Officer before the application deadline
    • state how much top-up funding you are providing
      • include the type of funding (i.e. stipend or RAship) and over how many years
      • if providing less than the required amount, include justification
    • state whether you have met with the student and reviewed their materials (especially the proposal)
    • if supporting a late application, or a non-September start, include justification
    • see the "Application Procedures and Timelines" section above for more information

Affiliated Faculty

For the full list, see the affiliated faculty page.

Open Postings for Funded PhD Student Positions

Current opportunities may be listed below.

*** PhD Opportunity in Newfoundland and Labrador Living Lab Project ***

Dr. Kelly Vodden is seeking applicants for a PhD position at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. The successful applicant will contribute to the Agricultural Climate Solutions-Living Labs (ACS-LL) NL project which addresses soil carbonsequestration and greenhouse gas emissions mitigation. The first component of this PhD research will involve understanding and supporting the LL transdisciplinary approach. The second component involves the characterization and analysis of the agricultural landscape to create a geospatial database that will support other ACS-LL activities. Collaboration with community and
research partners will be an essential aspect of the work.

Expected Activities:

  1. Analysis of the NL-LL transdisciplinary process to support innovation within the project
    • Conduct a literature review and analysis of the LL methodology the NL context
    • Review project documents to analyze and identify unique features of the LL
    • Conduct and analyze interviews and workshops with stakeholders to inform the process
  2. Detailed characterization of the NL agricultural landscape
    • Conduct a detailed survey and literature review of historical and current socioeconomic, climate, soil, and cropping systems information
    • Analyze digital maps of multiple soil and crop yield properties

Desired Qualifications:

The ideal applicant should have an interdisciplinary Masters relating Social Science to Agriculture, Geography, Environmental Science or a related discipline. A background in GIS applications is an advantage. Excellent research and communication skills are required.


Financial support for this position will be $24,000 per year over four years. This amount includes $11 000 baseline stipend from the School of Graduate Studies, $10 000 stipend from the supervisor, and $3 000 guaranteed work as a graduate assistant from the Grenfell Office of Graduate Studies.

The student will be based at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, which is located in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador.

To Apply:

Interested students should send a CV, transcript (official or unofficial), cover letter (e.g. demonstrating interest, fit, and ideas for the project), and any other relevant materials to Dr. Katanda (ykatanda@grenfell.mun.ca) and Dr. Doyle (emilyd@grenfell.mun.ca) by January 25th, 2023. The successful candidate will then be invited to apply to the PhD program in Transdisciplinary Sustainability by February 15, 2023. Please note that the subsequent application has additional requirements (e.g. reference letters). A start date of September 2023 is likely but a May 2023 state date may be possible.

We encourage applications from individuals who identify as part of marginalized or equity-deserving groups.

*** PhD Fellowship Project Opportunity ***

Historically, marine industries have been key economic drivers in coastal, remote, and rural regions. However, communities in such regions are often ill-equipped to achieve the full benefit of ocean-based economic opportunities emerging from innovative scientific technology and the demand for novel marine products due to factors such as la ack of capacity and capital to invest. Many of these communities are also challenged with the outmigration of youth or skilled workers, low participation rates in entrepreneurship opportunities, food or nutrient insecurity, and high incidences of chronic diseases. The lack of full and efficient utilization of marine biomass is also ecologically unsustainable.

In partnership with coastal rural and Mi’kmaw Communities across three regions on the Western portion of the Island of Newfoundland (Bay St. George, Bay of Islands, and the Great Northern Peninsula), the Marine Biomass Innovation Project (MBI) seek to collaborate and co-develop sustainable, innovative, marine-based entrepreneurship opportunities and technologies for local industries and community-based organizations. The MBI will work in partnership with community partners and enterprises to develop products that are sustainable, globally competitive, economically, and technically feasible with existing local infrastructure.

The MBI is a unique inter-disciplinary project that brings together Mi’kmaw and non-Indigenous communities, academic partners, enterprises, and stakeholders, and employs a collaborative research approach that integrates natural sciences with social sciences and “Western” or scientific knowledge systems with equal validation and inclusion of Mi’kmaw knowledge systems. Through Two-Eyed Seeing, a Mi’kmaw conceptual framework for research coined by Elder Albert Marshall, this research aims to recognize and validate Mi’kmaw knowledge systems alongside Western scientific investigation. The MBI Project recognizes that cultural sustainability and healthy populations are integral to resilient rural regions and that eco-innovation is key to the economic resilience of these communities.

The MBI project is composed of eight interrelated work package teams (WPTs). As WPT 6, this sub-project aims to develop an understanding of the end-use potential for the repurposed marine biomass, how communities and entrepreneurs may work together to innovate and develop sustainable markets for related products, and how repurposing marine biomass may contribute to regional and economic development.

The objectives of this work package are to:

  1. Determine the potential value of the proposed product innovations and processes developed in work packages 2-5 of the MBI project, the customer segments to whom this value would apply, and the barriers and enablers of their commercialization.
  2. Examine the alignment of these commercial opportunities and the community assets, identities, and cultural contexts of the regions and communities of focus.
  3. Explore how the commercialization of these potential products/processes boost existing economic capacities and support the launch of new entrepreneurial possibilities.

Research Opportunity: This work package is seeking a PhD researcher to contribute towards Objective 2 above. Objective 2 requires the student to closely examine the entrepreneurial ecosystem and in the communities of focus of the MBI project, and understand the perceptions of local community members and entrepreneurs regarding how they should build a stronger local economy. The student will thus complete the following objectives in a manner based on their research interests and experience:

  1. Working with other project researchers, conduct a structured and focused review of the literature on the development of sustainable coastal communities, in one or more of several fields of study:
    • Rural and/or Indigenous entrepreneurship
    • Rural and regional innovation systems
    • Marketing
  2. Design and implement the research design of the case study(ies) and complete all required ethics applications
  3. Travel to the selected regions and carry out data collection/field study, and engage with community groups
  4. Write and revise the project’s findings through professional reports, academic manuscripts, and conference papers.
  5. Co-advise Master’s students research within Objective 1 of the project
  6. Assist with overall project management and collaborate with partners on data analysis and dissemination of findings.

Students may use methods such as desktop research, interviews with industry experts, content analysis, key informant interviews, ethnography, and community engagement workshops. They will also collaborate with researchers in other related work packages across the project. This work will follow Memorial University’s policy on Research Impacting Indigenous Groups (RIIG) at all times, and students will work closely with community researchers to ensure that research outputs meet community expectations and engage community researchers as equal partners.

Duration: The overall project will last six years (2021-2027); the student's PhD program will last for four years, with a preferred start date is September 2023, but earlier start dates may be considered depending on the fit with the project goals and timeline, and community partner expectations. The intended fellowship value is $21 000 per year.

Requirements: The successful applicant will have completed all requirements for a master’s degree in any of a wide range of social science disciplines (e.g. fisheries or marine studies, business, and management, sociology, anthropology, geography) and fields of study (e.g. entrepreneurship, regional/rural studies, innovation management, marketing). Experience with mixed-methods research including interview-based qualitative research is required. While a background in fisheries research and/or working with fish harvester organizations will be an asset, applications from candidates with a strong background in social sciences approaches in other sectors and fields will be considered. Other assets include experience and/or knowledge of community-based resource management and ocean/coastal issues; excellent interpersonal skills, and the ability to work with a variety of individuals and groups; a high level of motivation and organization, and; experience preparing research ethics review applications.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. However, priority will be placed on applications from self-identifying Indigenous students and/or individuals from the study regions. Memorial University is strongly committed to employment equity and welcomes applications from all qualified candidates, including women, members of visible minorities, Indigenous persons, members of sexual minorities, and persons with disabilities. Should a student self-identify, they should be ready to elaborate on their connection to the Indigenous Community or communities they identify with.

How to apply: Interested applicants should submit a cover letter explaining their fit to this position, a current CV, a statement of relevant research interests and activities (2-page maximum), and contact information for three referees to Dr. Kelly Vodden (kvodden@grenfell.mun.ca) or Dr. William Newell (wnewell@grenfell.mun.ca), Grenfell Campus, Memorial University. Self-identifying Indigenous students should elaborate on their connection to an Indigenous community and the nature of that connection. Review of applications will begin on January 31, 2023, but the posting will stay open until the position is filled. The successful candidate will then be invited to apply to the PhD program in Transdisciplinary Sustainability by February 15, 2023. Please note that the subsequent application has additional requirements.

Graduate Studies

Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland
20 University Drive, Corner Brook, NL
A2H 5G4, Canada

Office: FC4021
Phone: (709)639-6585
Email: gradstudies@grenfell.mun.ca

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