It’s go time for Concordia’s 10 public scholars
Last fall, Concordia inaugurated its Public Scholars Program for PhD students. The media outreach initiative was created by the School of Graduate Studies in partnership with the Montreal Gazette to bridge the gap between academic research and the general public.
From January onwards, 10 highly qualified doctoral candidates from across the university’s four faculties trained and prepared to assume their role for one year, starting in May 2017.
Their mission? To promote their research in new and compelling ways, often to audiences outside academia.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the students use the options offered to them to shape what a public scholar can and should be,” says Paula Wood-Adams, dean of Graduate Studies and initiator of the project.
“I'm excited to see how they each take advantage of this opportunity in their own way.”
‘Communication is key’
In order to acquire the necessary tools and techniques, the scholars participated in more than 20 hours of training with professionals from Concordia and beyond. They attended workshops on media relations, government relations, etiquette and op-ed writing, to name a few.
Leanne Keddie, a chartered professional accountant (CPA) and PhD candidate in business administration, investigates sustainability practices in relation to executive compensation packages.
She found the training invaluable.
“Communication is key to effectively sharing one’s research,” Keddie says. “The op-ed workshop was particularly helpful, as it allowed me to understand how to break down my research into plain language. You are attempting to reach a mass audience, so you have to make sure you are easily understood.”
The scholars also visited the Gazette newsroom, where they picked up an insider’s perspective on what makes a good news story.
Their mandate includes publishing at least one op-ed in a newspaper or publication linked to higher education. They are eager to get the word out — in fact, three of the public scholars have already met that first milestone: Erin O’Loughlin with “13 Reasons Why and suicide prevention” in the Montreal Gazette, Nadia Naffi with “Le pro hijab de Nike : catalyseur d’exclusion des musulmanes au Canada” in La Presse, and Alexander McClelland in The Torontoist with “Activists disrupt the Health Minister’s speech on the overdose crisis”.
‘It’s a tremendous occasion to grow our networks’
To reach an even wider audience, the scholars also plan to maintain an active online presence. As well as nurturing their personal Twitter feeds, they will take turns providing content for a dedicated weekly blog.
Interested parties can visit Concordia’s Public Scholars web page to follow the blog, as well as the students’ events, accomplishments and other activities throughout the year.
Lucas Hof, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering, is currently working with his team on novel advanced manufacturing processes for a model-size “Industry 4.0 smart factory.” He believes that being a public scholar will open doors both in academia and in industry.
“For someone who is currently working with two novel technologies, any visibility is welcome,” Hof says.
“One of the biggest takeaways for me is that it’s a tremendous occasion to grow our networks and build relationships with those who can connect us with the right people.”
Follow the progress of Concordia’s public scholars at concordia.ca/publicscholars.