Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers

Final 5 Storytellers with Chad Gaffield and Ursula Gobel

Congratulations to the 2014 Final Five!


A panel of expert communicators selected the Final Five postsecondary student winners from among the Top 25 presentations at the Storytellers Showcase on May 26.

Find out more about the Final Five

Follow SSHRC to keep track of the Final Five as they prepare to present their research stories to a VIP audience at SSHRC’s 2014 Impact Awards ceremony in Ottawa this fall.





Katarina Kuruc

Carleton University

Katarina Kuruc is a doctoral candidate at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication. She immigrated to Canada from the former Communist Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s, and her personal experience of living in a Communist state, together with her exposure to its limited fashion industry, informs her research. Katarina’s research studies the importance of fashion as a form of visual communication in otherwise restrictive social systems. Her other research interests include visual communication, material culture and semiotics. In addition to her graduate studies, Katarina is an avid traveller, photographer, fashion blogger and devoted Pinterest fan.

Alanna Mager

Ryerson University

Alanna Mager is a master's student in Ryerson University’s School of Professional Communication. A Torontonian with a background in English literature, print publishing and journalism, Alanna, as part of her graduate research, has shifted her focus from analog to digital. Her graduate research focuses on cross-platform, brand storytelling. Informed by narrative, transmedia and marketing discourses, her project aims to establish a new model for creating digital engaging content that communicates brand narrative across platforms. With this focus on storytelling, Alanna hopes to help organizations better promote their work through creative, shareable audio, visual and written content.

Daniel Manson

The University of British Columbia

Daniel is a doctoral candidate studying anthropology at The University of British Columbia. He is currently interested in the politics of migrant illegality, and the ongoing deportation of Roma migrants from France. Daniel’s dissertation examines how the practice of deportation—and the requisite labelling of some migrants as “illegal”—creates spatial and social boundaries by removing undesirable individuals. Daniel’s ethnographic research focuses on the everyday, lived experiences of Romanian Roma migrant youth living in a number of illegal settlements, and one state-sanctioned site, in Strasbourg, France.

Justin Mathews

Queen’s University

An undergraduate student studying political science at Queen’s University, Justin Mathews is news director for Queen's TV, the student-run, campus news station. Justin is also a research assistant for postdoctoral fellow Heather Bastedo, contributing to her ongoing study of the representative work of parliamentarians, both in their local ridings and on Parliament Hill. He was also a recent panelist on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin. Justin’s interests include Canadian politics, political communication, media and journalism, the role of social media in politics and youth participation.

Bernadette Perry

University of Victoria

Bernadette Perry is pursuing a master’s degree in the University of Victoria’s French studies program. Specializing in applied linguistics, she is currently studying the “gamification” of second-language acquisition. Her research consists of developing Explorez, a quest-based, French language learning tool. After incorporating this system into a first-year French course at the university, Bernadette will analyze the data collected on student engagement, participation and language acquisition to determine how effective the tool is as a teaching aid.

Kelly Pickerill

Dalhousie University

A master’s student at Dalhousie University, Kelly Pickerill studies international development. Her current research examines the participation of women in transactional sex practices in East Africa’s Lake Victoria fishing communities, as well as how these practices impact fisher livelihoods. Kelly is also looking at small-scale agriculture in East African communities. Currently a teaching and research assistant at Dalhousie, she has also worked abroad, both with a Ugandan-based agricultural non-governmental organization and a women’s social entrepreneurship program.

Vineeth Sekharan

York University

Vineeth Sekharan is an undergraduate psychology major at York University. Interested in helping empower young people who have been unfairly stereotyped, Vineeth became involved with the Assets Coming Together for Youth (ACT) project in 2013. His role at ACT involves documentation, youth mentorship and creative dissemination of research findings. Vineeth’s research interests include epidemiology, theories of power and persuasion (including the power of the situation), and the elimination of barriers to accessing vital services like health-care and education.

Alison Smith

Université de Montréal

Alison Smith is a doctoral candidate pursuing studies in political science at the Université de Montréal. Her main research interests are Canadian politics, urban governance and social protection. Alison holds an Master of arts degree from The University of British Columbia, and spent a year working on Parliament Hill through the non-partisan Parliamentary Internship Programme. Inspired by her experience volunteering at a shelter in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Alison has focused her doctoral work on a broad comparative study of local responses to homelessness in Canada, with the goal of contributing to a broader understanding of its causes and potential solutions. Alison is the Canadian and Quebec politics editor for Politikos, the Université de Montréal’s undergraduate student journal.

Marylynn Steckley

Western University

A doctoral candidate studying geography at Western University, Marylynn Steckley is interested in the ecological and sociological impacts of the idiom “you are what you eat.” Marylynn studies how the pursuit of greater social status through conspicuous consumption of luxury foods and delicacies can shape food systems in ways that reproduce poverty and facilitate ecological destruction. Despite this, she argues that food systems and eating practices can potentially also be emancipatory. Her current research investigates local responses in rural Haiti to encroachment by the global food market—specifically, how peasant resistance manifests in dietary choices and farming practices. Marylynn has also conducted field research in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Haiti.

Robin MacEwan

Carleton University

Originally from Quesnel, British Columbia, Carleton University’s Robin MacEwan is completing a master’s degree in social work. After graduating from The University of British Columbia-Okanagan (UBC-Okanagan) in 2009, Robin began working with vulnerable children and youth in the foster-care system. This experience inspired her research interest in social support networks for youth raised in foster care. Robin hopes to use the findings from her research to improve policies and support programs in place for these young people. In Robin's downtime, she enjoys snowboarding, reading fiction, travelling and all things culinary. She thanks her research supervisor, Adje Van de Sande, for his ongoing support of this project, and UBC-Okanagan professors Patricia Tomic and Ricardo Trumper for cultivating her ability to think critically about social problems.

Audrey-Kristel Barbeau

McGill University

Audrey-Kristel Barbeau has both a bachelor’s (UQAM) and a master’s (McGill) degree in music education. Her research focuses on the effects that playing a musical instrumental have on people’s health. Since the beginning of her doctoral studies, she has been studying how active participation in music affects the health of seniors (especially with respect to quality of life, anxiety, depression, respiratory function and blood pressure). She is also interested in how performing in a concert can impact the stress levels of amateur musicians aged 60 and over. Audrey-Kristel is currently working at McGill as a teaching assistant in the instrumental conducting course and frequently replaces the lead instructor in the basic conducting course. She is the founder and musical director of the Montreal New Horizons Band, a bilingual and intergenerational ensemble for adults who are learning to play an instrument.

Hazel Hollingdale

The University of British Columbia

Hazel Hollingdale is a doctoral candidate in sociology at The University of British Columbia. Focusing on risk-taking behaviour and masculinity within male-dominated organizations, her research explores organizational sociology, gender and the effects of organizational structures on social processes and inequality. Her PhD research tests the Lehman Sisters hypothesis, examining whether risk-taking in financial firms varies based on the sex composition of the workforce. Hazel’s earlier graduate research looked at the organizational response to occupational health and safety in high-risk, male-dominated fields.

Jessica Jacobson-Konefall

Queen’s University

A doctoral candidate in cultural studies at Queen’s University and visiting associate at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies, Jessica Jacobson-Konefall's research focuses on how First Nations new media art shapes and defies concepts of civic space and related notions of identity and community in Winnipeg, MB. Jessica is currently digitizing the archived holdings of a contemporary aboriginal art gallery to support the development of the educational, interactive website ArtCan.ca—part of the University of Toronto’s CACHET (Canadian Art Commons for History of Art Education and Training) initiative. As a researcher for Diana Brydon, Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Cultural Studies, Jessica is working with Brazilian scholars on contemporary, indigenous, audio-visual aesthetics in both North and South America.

Ryan Katz-Rosene

Carleton University

A doctoral candidate in political economy at Carleton University, Ryan Katz-Rosene studies the ecological political economies of Canada’s energy and transportation infrastructure. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in political studies and history at Trent University and his master’s degree in political economy at Carleton University. Ryan enjoys playing competitive ultimate frisbee and playing music during increasingly rare “moments of leisure.” He lives on a farm in Cantley, QC, with his wife and daughter (along with pigs, chickens, sheep and a dog).

Matthew Stork

McMaster University

Matthew Stork is pursuing his master’s degree at McMaster University. His research examines the role played by self-control in first-year university students in terms of their ability to succeed, both socially and academically. He intends to apply his research to develop and implement specialized training programs to enhance students’ learning, studying, social habits, and overall academic performance. A former strength and conditioning coach and sport medicine therapist at McMaster, Matthew has mentored numerous undergraduate students, helping them grow as students, athletes, coaches and therapists. He is also a teaching assistant and the co-ordinator for undergraduate volunteers in his lab.

Ashley Vesely

Western University

Ashley Vesely is a doctoral candidate studying clinical psychology at Western University. She completed her Master of Science at the University of Calgary in 2011, and moved to Ontario to continue working under the supervision of Western’s Donald Saklofske. In addition to her clinical work in youth and adult mental health, Ashley is involved in a range of research initiatives, including studies looking at theoretical constructs of emotional intelligence, stress, well-being and resilience. Her dissertation examines a group of pre-service student teachers, to identify potentially beneficial factors—like emotional intelligence—that might aid teacher well-being and classroom performance. A triathlete and member of a chamber choir, Ashley is active in promoting mental health awareness.

Genevieve von Petzinger

University of Victoria

A doctoral candidate in the University of Victoria’s department of anthropology, Genevieve von Petzinger studies European Ice Age rock art, with a particular focus on how the appearance and practice of geometric imagery could provide insights into the cognitive evolution of modern humans. Genevieve is also interested in the development of early graphic communication, and in the potential of using these abstract markings to track migration patterns and cultural exchange during this period. Her current project involves documenting geometric signs at under-studied sites in France, Spain and Portugal. Named a TED Senior Fellow in 2013, Genevieve has appeared on the Discovery Channel's Daily Planet, and her research has twice been featured in New Scientist. She will also be the subject of upcoming pieces on CBC's The National and Radio-Canada’s Les Années Lumière.

Bryce Westlake

Simon Fraser University

Bryce Westlake is a doctoral candidate studying criminology at Simon Fraser University. As the university’s International Cybercrime Research Centre’s research co-ordinator, he oversees projects tackling online child exploitation. His past research has examined the structure of child exploitation website networks (CEWN), finding key players and determining the best methods for identifying exploitative content. With his colleagues, Bryce is exploring the evolution of CEWN to better understand why they succeed or fail, and to track the tactics they use to avoid detection by law enforcement. Bryce plans to expand his future research to include the “dark web.”

Maria Zakharova

Simon Fraser University

A doctoral candidate in political science at Simon Fraser University, Maria Zakharova is particularly interested in party politics, voting behavior and comparative politics. Her main research focus is on party or candidate valence: those qualities or criteria unrelated to policy—such as leader charisma, perceived competence and party integrity—by which voters evaluate parties and candidates. Maria’s research looks at the sources for these subjective judgments, how they might be measured across countries and elections, and their potential impact on electoral outcomes and government formation. She is also interested in Canadian politics and in methodology in political science.

Annie McEwen

Carleton University

Annie McEwen is a doctoral candidate at Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration. Her research interests involve social policy, poverty and inequality, with a particular focus on child and family policy. In her dissertation, she is using data from the National Longitudinal Survey on Children and Youth to explore the effects income levels have on child development and well-being. Her aim is to inform evidence-based public policy to reduce childhood inequality. A former policy analyst with the federal public service, Annie holds a master’s in public policy and administration from the London School of Economics. She began her doctoral studies at the University of Oxford’s department of social policy and intervention.

Luseadra McKerracher

Simon Fraser University

Victoria, British Columbia’s Luseadra McKerracher is a doctoral candidate at Simon Fraser University, working in the university’s human evolutionary studies program. Luseadra’s research addresses how evolutionary ecological methods and theory are applied to contemporary public health issues. Her doctoral dissertation focuses on weaning among humans: unlike other apes, humans begin weaning their infants from breast milk well before those infants are capable of foraging for, processing or digesting adult foods without assistance. Luseadra investigates when and why we switched from an ape-like weaning strategy to the relatively early weaning strategy that characterizes all contemporary human populations. In addition to her doctoral research, Luseadra is also collaborating on a project studying diet during pregnancy among Fijian women.

Michael Muthukrishna

The University of British Columbia

A doctoral candidate at The University of British Columbia (UBC), Michael Muthukrishna studies the psychological and evolutionary processes underlying culture, including how culture is transmitted, maintained and modified. Michael’s research combines mathematical and computational modelling, as well as experimental psychology, to better understand the dynamic relationship between cultures and individuals. A Vanier scholar and Liu scholar originally from Brisbane, Australia, and technical director for UBC’s Database of Cultural History, Michael is interested in applying cultural evolution research to public policy. His work explores how cultures emerge over time from the interactions of individuals, who are, in turn, shaped by the emerging cultures they help constitute.

Myriam Nafte

McMaster University

Myriam Nafte is currently completing her PhD at McMaster University’s anthropology department. After receiving an MA in physical anthropology from McMaster in 1993, she worked in forensic anthropology, combining this with advanced studies in visual art, sculpture and anatomical drawing. For the past 20 years, Myriam has focused her art and research on the human body. She has developed a particular interest in how different cultures process human remains for display as art objects, relics and specimens. From early tribal customs through to medical and religious practices and contemporary art scenes, Myriam explores the notion of the body as material culture through its transition from cadaver to an object of power, identity, art and ideology.

James O'Callaghan

McGill University

James O’Callaghan is an award-winning composer and sound artist based in Montreal. His music intersects acoustic and electro-acoustic media, employing field recordings, computer-assisted transcription of environmental sounds, and unique performance conditions. In 2014, his Isomorphia—a composition for orchestra and electronics—was nominated for a Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year. The work was the result of a commission from the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, with which James was composer-in-residence in 2012-13. James’ music has been performed across North America and Europe, as well as in New Zealand and Japan, while his artistic research has been published and presented internationally. In 2014, James received a master’s in music in composition from McGill University, where he also taught a course in electro-acoustic composition.

Klara Abdi

The University of British Columbia

A PhD candidate in the department of language and literacy education at The University of British Columbia, Klara Abdi studies how transnational movement impacts the educational experiences, worldviews and multilingual socialization of Chinese-Canadian children and their families. Klara’s research was inspired by the experiences of her own children living in China for four years. Originally from Prague, Czech Republic, her love of languages led her to study six languages and become a French, Spanish and English as a second language teacher. Supported by a doctoral Canada Graduate Scholarship, Klara is interested in the language development and identity construction of multilingual children. She examined Canadian youth with Hispanic backgrounds learning Spanish as part of her SSHRC-funded master’s research. Klara has a passion for travel and wants her children to grow up with the broad perspective that comes from living abroad.