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Royal Society of Canada honours 5 'dynamic academics'

Three Concordia professors inducted to the College, joining 2 newly appointed fellows
September 16, 2014
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By J. Latimer

From left to right: Steven High, Erin Manning, Michel Magnan, Geneviève Cadieux and Vince Martin.
From left to right: Steven High, Erin Manning, Michel Magnan, Geneviève Cadieux and Vince Martin.


There’s a new way for academics to pool their collective knowledge and creativity for the betterment of society. On September 16, the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) announced its inaugural cohort of members in the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. This first grouping includes three Concordia academics: Erin Manning, Vincent Martin and Steven High.

The College is opening with 91 members appointed for its first year and Concordia was awarded the maximum allowable number of new inductees for an institution of its size category. According to the RSC, the College’s mission is to address issues of particular concern to new scholars, artists and scientists, for the advancement of understanding and the benefit of society.

“We created the College to reflect a demographic shift in Canadian academia,” notes Russel MacDonald, an officer of the RSC. “It’s younger, more diverse and more interdisciplinary. We want to capture that dynamism across the country.”

“National recognition from a prestigious body like the Royal Society of Canada is extremely gratifying,” says Graham Carr, vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies. “The diversity of this year’s recipients — from the arts, humanities, business and natural sciences — is a further demonstration of the important contributions that Concordia faculty make to the betterment of Canadian society.”

The RSC was established under an Act of Parliament in 1882 to gather together a body of academics who’ve sustained a long and robust career of peer-recognized excellence. Their primary objective is to promote learning and research. Currently, there are 2,073 fellows, appointed to seven-year terms. Twelve of those fellows are from Concordia.

Meet the three new members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists and two RSC fellows, who were announced last week. All five will attend the presentation ceremony at the annual general meeting, this year held in Quebec City in November.
 

Canada Research Chair in Public History (Tier 2) Steven High: “Oral history is a process of re-humanization.” Canada Research Chair in Public History (Tier 2) Steven High: “Oral history is a process of re-humanization.” | Photo by Concordia University

RSC College Member Steven High – Professor and Canada Research Chair in Public History (Tier 2), Department of History

Steven High established the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia in 2006. It facilitated the major collaborative research project, Montreal Life Stories, investigating the life stories of survivors of mass violence.

“But it isn’t enough to just collect people’s stories,” insists High, who has authored numerous award-winning publications exploring economic, social and cultural displacement in 20th century North American and the Caribbean. “You have to bring those stories into the public realm and connect people. Our project did that. We built it into the process, through partnerships with the National Film Board and theatre companies and animators.”

High is honoured to become a RSC College member, representing Concordia with his colleagues. “I’m extremely proud to be at Concordia, because of its long history of engagement with the wider community,” he says. “The appointment is wonderful validation in terms of the wider work we’re doing with our Centre. Our Centre is unique because most of our 150 affiliates work on community-based projects and we have an ethic of ‘learning with’ and sharing authority. Oral history brings things down to the individual and humanizes. It’s easy to hate people you don’t know. Oral history is a process of re-humanization.”

The College is particularly interesting to High as a rejuvenating force for the RSC. “It’s pivoting toward mid-stream scholars at the peak of their careers,” notes High. “That will have a transformative effect, bringing new energy to the academy.”

Concordia Research Chair in Relational Art and Philosophy Erin Manning: “All of my art work in the last 10 years has been what I consider to be choreographed objects.” Concordia Research Chair in Relational Art and Philosophy Erin Manning: “All of my art work in the last 10 years has been what I consider to be choreographed objects.” Photo by Concordia University

RSC College Member Erin Manning – Associate Professor in Studio Arts and Film Studies and Concordia Research Chair of Relational Art and Philosophy

Author, artist and philosopher Erin Manning is a celebrated interdisciplinary academic who explores movement, painting, fabric and sculpture. Her practice features large-scale participatory installations that investigate perception and sensation.

“All of my art work in the last ten years has been what I consider to be choreographed objects,” says Manning, director of SenseLab, a laboratory that explores the intersections between art practice and philosophy with an explicit focus on research-creation. “My work constantly moves back and forth between art and philosophy — rethinking what it means to have a body, a moving body and developing a language to talk about it.”

Becoming a RSC College member is exciting to Manning because it affords another opportunity to discuss pedagogy. “I’m worried about the undermining of knowledge for the sake of knowledge,” says Manning. “I would like the world’s universities to regain the confidence that they’re not just part of the corporate landscape. We have to admit that capitalism changes far too quickly for you to be able to learn or teach for it. We need to be confident that learning to think for ourselves will enable us to situate ourselves in the working world.”

Manning’s collaborative work with autistic people also fuels her interest in expanding modes of learning. “If we create a robust way of understanding the range of modes of learning, then the university can become a much stronger place.”

20140731-Vincent-Martin-290 Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Microbial Genomics and Engineering Vince Martin: “We’re now at the stage where we understand biology and can start making things.” | Photo by Concordia University

RSC College Member Vince Martin – Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Microbial Genomics and Engineering, Department of Biology

Vince Martin, a classically trained microbiologist, is a Canadian leader and innovator in microbial genomics and synthetic biology. He co-directs Canada’s only Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology, which focuses on the potential of biological sciences to develop sustainable processes for producing value-added products from Canada’s renewable resources.

“If you look at research in biology for hundreds of years, we’ve been focused on what biology does and how it works,” notes Martin. “We’re now at the stage where we understand biology and can start making things. We’re flipping the process. This is significant to Canadians because we can develop processes for replacing things like petro-chemicals and non-renewable fuels.”

He also works on developing more affordable medication — drugs for malaria, for example, and painkillers. They’re often difficult to obtain, hard to mass produce and prohibitively expensive.

“Now we can engineer microorganisms that make the molecules needed to create some pharmaceuticals,” said Martin. “We can actually develop, engineer and modify microorganisms to make something that’s difficult to get from plants and make it on a scale and cost that serves people everywhere.”

While clearly proud of the work accomplished at the Centre, Martin looks forward to making any contribution he can as a member of the College. “It’s a huge honour, of course, and I’m in excellent company.”

Last week, the RSC also honoured two Concordia professors, appointing them as fellows.

Fine Arts professor Geneviève Cadieux: “Canada has always been very supportive of my work.” | Photo by David Romero Fine Arts professor Geneviève Cadieux: “Canada has always been very supportive of my work.” | Photo by David Romero

RSC Fellow Geneviève Cadieux – Associate Professor, Department of Studio Arts

With a dynamic and distinguished career as an artist, Geneviève Cadieux is no stranger to prestigious awards. Yet, she’s particularly delighted to be selected by the RSC.

“Canada has always been tremendously supportive of my work,” says Cadieux, who received a Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2011. “In 1990, I was chosen to represent Canada in the Venice Biennale. It was the first year that a pavilion was given exclusively to a female artist. That really pushed the work of women artists forward. So I’m part of the first generation of women who became recognized as real artists. We weren’t the exceptions anymore.”

Cadieux has been an influential figure in Canadian photographic art since the 1980s, when she made a name for herself with large-scale, photo-based art that focuses on the mutual implication of the human body and landscape. Along with countless invitations to exhibit around the world, she was invited to do a project at the Tate Gallery in 1995. Cadieux’s work was included in the landmark photo show Passages de l’image, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris in 1990, and their Elle exhibit in 2010.

“Because my father owned a repertory cinema, my practice is highly influenced by filmmaking,” she says. “Also, I studied painting in Ottawa, where the American collection at The National Gallery is exceptional. The size and scope of Donald Judd’s work, for example, was an enormous influence.”

Accounting professor Michel Magnan: “My work reaches audiences beyond academic researchers.” | Photo by Christian Fleury Accounting professor Michel Magnan: “My work reaches audiences beyond academic researchers.” | Photo by Christian Fleury

RSC Fellow Michel Magnan – Professor and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair in Corporate Governance at the John Molson School of Business.

“My work crosses borders,” notes Michel Magnan, who became a Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA) in 1998 and is the only professor on Canada’s Accounting Standards Board. “It’s accounting based, but it reaches audiences beyond academic researchers. Sometimes there’s this notion of professors being in the Ivory Tower, but there’s more to me than academics.”

Twenty years ago, Magnan was among the first to do research on executive compensation in Canada, using domestic data on domestic companies.

“If you use Canadian data and analyze what’s going on in terms of governance and executive compensation, you gain a better understanding of the practices of Canadian companies,” he says. “This helps investors, analysts and regulators.” His current work also looks at environmental and social disclosure by corporations, while yet another aspect of his practice analyzes financial statements. 

“Becoming a fellow in the RSC is very satisfying because sometimes accounting is mistakenly thought of as too practical to be worthy of academic research,” says Magnan, who has well over one hundred articles published, written in both French and English. “This honour is recognition that accounting-related work within business school is of substance.”

Magnan strives to dispel the myth that only American executives are getting overpaid: “It’s important to continue to look at Canadian companies and not get too distracted by what’s happening with American C.E.O.s.”
 



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