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  • RESEARCH: Grenfell theatre alumna lands Vanier scholarship

    Wednesday, September 8, 2021
    News Releases

    A graduate of Grenfell's BFA theatre program is continuing her innovative studies at Memorial this fall thanks to securing a prestigious award.

    Sharon King-Campbell, who graduated from Grenfell's theatre program in 2007, is one of three Memorial University recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, valued at $50,000 per year for three years. The scholarship aims to strengthen Canada's ability to attract and retain outstanding doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning.

    In total, the Government of Canada is investing $450,000 at Memorial.

    Multi-hyphenate artist Sharon King-Campbell can add "English PhD student at Memorial University" to her long list of descriptors, which already includes actor, writer, director, producer and storyteller.

    Her artistic career provides a solid background for her upcoming academic research. She was the founding artistic director of the World's End Theatre Company in Fogo Island-Change Islands and is the current artistic director of skc originals. She has international touring and storytelling experience and released a new book of poetry with Breakwater Books in March.

    For her PhD research, she is studying the impact of COVID-19 safety protocols on the performer-spectator relationship in live theatre. Receiving the Vanier scholarship is "game-changing on every level" for that work, she says.

    "The Vanier gives me the opportunity to really focus on my studies, to dig right in," said Ms. King-Campbell. "I have always had work contracts while in school to make ends meet."

    Jillian Kusch, who recently began a PhD in biology the Faculty of Science, also received a scholarship. They are originally from Treaty 6 territory in Saskatchewan.

    Mx. Kusch holds an undergraduate degree in environmental biology and a master's degree in biology, both from the University of Saskatchewan. Following their studies, they worked as a lab manager in the Lane Lab at the University of Saskatchewan and later as a zoologist for the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Center in Regina.

    Mx. Kusch planned to return to academia for a PhD following several years in industry. That led them to Memorial University and the Wildlife Evolutionary Ecology Lab, led by Dr. Eric Vander Wal.

    "I know for sure that I'll be working on caribou, a very iconic and important species for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador."

    Receiving the Vanier Scholarship means financial freedom for Mx. Kusch while they work on their PhD. They are grateful to the people who helped them complete their Vanier Scholarship application.

    "Eric provided ongoing and thoughtful feedback and I had colleagues who sent me their previous applications," said Mx. Kusch. "That helped so much. Especially since I'm a first-generation student and the expectations and processes of academia are new to me."

    Sam E. Morton, the third recipient, began a PhD in sociology following her BA in international development from the University of Guelph and an MA in sociology from Memorial.

    "My research seeks to problematize dominant assumptions about animals that are at play in international development," Ms. Morton explained. Western norms of animals and working with them often displace local and culturally specific approaches, she says, centering humans in development projects.

    "I will work with development workers in Southeast Asia and "beneficiaries" of development projects to better understand how development discourse and practice shapes human-animal relations," Ms. Morton said, "with an aim to bring forth animals as subjects and stakeholders in development."

    Ms. Morton was both ecstatic and relieved when she got word of the Vanier scholarship, she says.

    "Funding for graduate students is deeply unequal," she said, with low-income and many international students feeling the burden of the cost of continuing their post-secondary education most acutely.

    The scholarship means three years of both material and psychological benefits, she says.

    "Steady, adequate income means that I can put my time and energy into learning, collaborating, supporting my colleagues and advocating for what students need."

    Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), says the work of the Vanier scholars will help strengthen Memorial's reputation for cutting-edge research.

    "Securing Vanier scholarships is no easy feat, so well done to these deserving recipients," he said.

     "Through the support of the Government of Canada, these emerging scholars will have the opportunity to lead creative studies and make discoveries about our ever-changing world. I wish all three continued success in their research careers."

     Original story by Jeff Green, Terri Coles and Kelly Foss.

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