How a PhD thesis became a tool for empowerment
Twice a year, Concordia’s School of Graduate Studies chooses a master's or PhD student to receive the Stand-Out Graduate Research Award.
The $1,000 prize is given to someone who has contributed to the advancement of their chosen field, and also proven they can communicate their findings effectively to the general public.
Its creation was inspired by a competition called the Three Minute Thesis (3MT), in which PhD and Master’s students are given 180 seconds on stage to effectively explain their dissertations to non-experts.
“We wanted to expand the different ways Concordia helps graduate students disseminate their work outside of their own discipline,” says film studies professor Luca Caminati, associate dean of Recruitment and Awards for the School of Graduate Studies.
“While contributing to the advancement of knowledge in their domain is valuable, it is also crucial for researchers to be able to communicate their work to a wider audience.”
Student Ioana Radu from the PhD Humanities Program is the latest recipient for the award. Her thesis looks at the processes of decolonization in Indigenous communities. It also explores the role of culture in healing for Aboriginal Canadians.
“On one hand it’s about dealing with the past, the historical trauma of colonization,” says Radu. “On the other it’s about contemporary aspects central to the concept of healing, and a look at how Indigenous communities are working together to implement culture-based services to tend to their own mental health and well-being.”
Radu undertook her research project in close collaboration with various community partners and members. With it, she aimed to open up local conversations about healing and the types of services that can be built to respond to specific community needs, and to give the issue a public presence.
“Ioana was chosen because of the strength of her scientific contribution to her own field — First Nations Studies — and secondly because she was able to communicate the work through a website and videos,” Caminati says. “Her work was exemplary of what the Stand-Out Graduate Research Award is about.”
Radu’s project and resulting website, Healing in Chisasibi, contains more than 27 hours of footage, 720 minutes of interviews and five interactive films. It’s the culmination of more than six years spent living and working within the Cree Nation of Chisasibi, Eeyou Istchee.
She built the website, an integral component of her thesis, specifically so that the Chisasibi community could use it for advocacy purposes.
“Anybody interested in Indigenous issues can now start to understand what decolonization actually means in terms of health and social services,” she says.
Find out more about Concordia’s School of Graduate Studies.