Concordia University

Concordians who make international headlines

President’s Media Outreach Awards honour the year’s top newsmakers
September 9, 2016
By Fiona Downey


It was a big year for media outreach at Concordia.

Among other notable accomplishments, the university’s resident experts published a whopping 128 opinion pieces in major news outlets — more than double the previous year’s total of 61. Subjects they tackled included everything from the history of religion classes in Quebec to the dangers of lead in water.

For the fourth year running, the President’s Media Outreach Awards served as an opportunity to recognize faculty and staff members who went beyond their teaching and research work to connect with journalists.

Awards were presented to individuals who invested significant time in media relations or whose work led to media coverage nationally and internationally between May 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016.

But the evening ceremony, held on Thursday, September 8, was also an occasion to celebrate the continual increase of Concordia’s presence in news coverage over these past four years.

“This past year, our research coverage increased by nine per cent over the previous year,” said Philippe Beauregard, the university’s chief communications officer. "Media activities can represent a significant time commitment. Our community's commitment is not only noticed, it is greatly appreciated."

This year’s winners in the seven award categories are:

An incubator with reach

In a departure from tradition, the award for Communications Ambassador of the Year went to a centre, the District 3 startup incubator, rather than an individual staff member. Winner of the Startup Canada Entrepreneur Support Award for Quebec just last month, District 3 also led the organization of Montreal’s largest collaborative Demo Day in June.

District 3 startups were prominently featured in media coverage, with three making La Presse’s list of 10 young tech companies to watch in Montreal. District 3 was also an important focus in June’s Spotlight on Innovation.

Graduate research in the spotlight

Again this past year, graduate students played an important role in showcasing Concordia’s dynamic research environment. The winner of the Graduate Research Communicator of the Year, Cristina Crivello produced research on a subject of particular interest to the Montreal community: the benefits of bilingualism.

Her work with the Centre for Research in Human Development demonstrated that bilingual children are better than monolinguals at a certain type of mental control, and that children with more practice switching between languages have greater cognitive skills. Coverage of Crivello’s work extended beyond our local market, with Reuters UK and Fox News also picking up the story.

Opinion leaders

The number of Concordians writing opinion pieces for publication in mainstream newspapers continues to grow. As mentioned previously, Concordia staff and faculty members shared their expertise through more than double the amount of op-eds than last year. An enormously valuable vehicle for sharing subject matter expertise with the general public, op-eds offer a rare opportunity to communicate directly with a wide readership on topics generating broad interest.

André Gagné was kept busy penning thought-provoking pieces about radicalization and extremism in response to successive terror attacks around the globe. The associate professor in the Department of Theology has witnessed the power of op-ed writing firsthand, having established himself as a subject matter expert in high demand. A range of media outlets follow the publication of his opinion pieces.

Expert communicators

During last year’s federal election campaign, the Media Relations team sent media a list of faculty members drawn from various departments who could provide perspective on a number of issues.

The experts on the list invested hundreds of hours in giving media interviews leading up to and after the election. In fact, election-related coverage accounted for more than half of the media coverage Concordia garnered between August and December 2015.

Not surprisingly, the two winners of the award for Expert Communicator of the Year, Mireille Paquet and Guy Lachapelle, were among those helping voters make sense of electoral issues. 

From left: Guy Lachapelle and Mireille Paquet. From left: Guy Lachapelle and Mireille Paquet.

Paquet, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, emerged as a star commentator in both French and English media outlets during the campaign. Paquet made herself available to discuss emerging issues and was especially active commenting on the leaders’ debates and the place given to women’s issues in the campaign. Paquet spent several mornings making the rounds and giving interviews to affiliates of the CTV News network from across the country.

Lachapelle, a veteran election campaign observer and commentator, was particularly active last year. Between the federal election, the resignation of the leader of the Parti Québécois, Pierre Karl Péladau, and the chaos that erupted following the New Democratic Party convention, Lachapelle made the rounds of newsrooms across the city. He was also actively sought out by national media looking for an informed view from Quebec.

En français, SVP

A new award was created this year to recognize the Communicator of the Year in francophone media. Isabelle Dostaler, professor in the Department of Management at the John Molson School of Business and an expert on the airline industry, made countless media appearances.

A hot topic in the media this past year was whether it was wise to provide federal funding for Bombardier as it struggled to launch its C Series jets. Dostaler once again demonstrated her ability to clarify complex issues, often responding to a media request for an interview only to turn around and face a line up of journalists eager for her point of view.

Dostaler also broke new ground by becoming the first Concordian to participate in Radio-Canada’s flagship talk show Tout le monde en parle, a Sunday-night ratings blockbuster.

Research that made waves

The award for Research Communicator of the Year (Canada) went to James Conklin, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences. The health of Canadian seniors is a compelling and timely topic to tackle. Conklin’s new project, "Deprescribing Guidelines for the Elderly" captured the attention of several Canadian media outlets.

The award for Research Communicator of the Year (International) went to Vincent Martin, a professor in the Department of Biology. In May of 2015, Martin, in collaboration with a colleague from Berkley, made a discovery that could lead to the synthetic manufacturing of painkillers and other drugs.

Beyond the scientific accomplishment itself, the legal and social implications of the discovery generated widespread interest. News travelled fast and wide with coverage appearing in more than 400 media outlets including The New York Times, The Guardian, and Popular Science.

Several dozen staff and faculty members who had been designated Newsmakers of the Week for their media work over the years attended the awards ceremony recognizing this year’s Media Outreach Award winners.

Find out more about Media Relations at Concordia.


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