Students present findings at annual Graduate Student Research Conference
Multi-disciplinary event held in Edmonton from Oct. 13 to 15
Graduate and undergraduate students at Athabasca University (AU) had an opportunity to network and share research findings and insights at the 12th annual Graduate Student Research Conference.
More than 70 people attended the three-day conference, which featured 30 paper and poster presentations. AU’s signature student research event included participants from across AU, including all five faculty deans, and the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association.
This year’s conference theme, “driven to learn,” celebrated the dedication, resiliency, and commitment AU students have to lifelong learning in an ever-changing world.
“As professors, we are challenged by students, we learn from them, and they help us grow,” he said. “Our vibrant and dedicated students increase the productivity of professors and the institution.”
The theme reflects AU’s values and mission as an inclusive institution where all students feel they are in the right place at the right time in their lives to expand their skills but also create and share impactful knowledge when it is needed most.
“As professors, we are challenged by students, we learn from them, and they help us grow. Our vibrant and dedicated students increase the productivity of professors and the institution.”– Dr. Shawn Fraser, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies
Driver Series: 4 pillars of learning at AU
Spread throughout the conference, the Driver Series speakers touched on four pivotal drivers of learning at AU: research dissemination, access to awards and bursaries, finding happiness and balance within academics, and making change with innovative student research. Each speaker brought their unique perspectives on research, emphasizing how integral and important a vibrant research community is to AU.
Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research, kicked off the series with his self-titled “un-lecture,” “Driven to Discover: Research as Part of Lifelong Learning.”
“Research is something you do, but being a researcher is part of who you are … what you’re getting out of that arduous and intense investment is not the project, thesis, paper, or whatever,” he said.
“It is carrying the inclination of curiosity to discover, the capacity to explore the unknown with confidence, and the conviction that discovery is best done together throughout your life.”
“Research is something you do, but being a researcher is part of who you are.”– Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research
On Saturday, Heather Purchase, AU’s strategic initiatives and awards transition manager, presented virtually on graduate funding at AU—what funding types are available, where to find them, who to talk to, and what students can do to ensure they submit a competitive application.
AU President Dr. Alex Clark and Bailey Sousa, associate vice-president of quality, planning, and assessment, delivered a presentation called, “Driven for success? The (not so obvious) skills you need.”
Based on their internationally renowned work on career skills, How to be a Happy Academic, Clark and Sousa spoke about how to achieve success, effectiveness, and happiness in work and life.
“We have a passion for academic work – its challenges and complexities – and supporting all those doing it, including grad students,” said Clark.
“Working from your personal values and being very clear on what success means for you is the right foundation. Sharing in the workshop was a great experience: connecting in person with so many of our grad students and faculty at the event was a wonderful experience.”
“Working from your personal values and being very clear on what success means for you is the right foundation.”– AU President Dr. Alex Clark
Closing the conference, Skyler Todd, the graduate student speaker, presented “What are you having? The Lived Experiences of Gender Creative Parents.”
“I believe the insights gained from this research on gender-creative parenting stand to not only generate new conversations around how to best support children’s gender health, but are an invitation for us all to courageously question a world where the first thing people ask expectant parents is ‘what are you having?’,” said Todd.
“I believe the insights gained from this research on gender-creative parenting stand to not only generate new conversations around how to best support children’s gender health, but are an invitation for us all to courageously question a world where the first thing people ask expectant parents is ‘what are you having?”– Skyler Todd, Master of Counselling student and graduate student speaker
Congratulations to the abstract winners
The top three abstract winners were announced at the conference. They were chosen based on approach, methodology, research findings, and importance.
First place: Kelly DeCoste, Master of Nursing
In first place, congratulations to Master of Nursing student, Kelly DeCoste. Her abstract was called “Supporting Maternal Mental Health in Nova Scotia: The Experiences of Registered Nurse Lactation Consultants.”
“I hope [my research] helps change policy so we have equitable access to healthcare services, both for maternal mental health and infant feeding,” she said.
“Right now, my research focuses on Nova Scotia, but I would love to see this become a Canadian initiative.”
Second- and third- place winners
Master of Counselling student Danielle White Eagle Sanford won second place for her presentation, “Culture is Medicine: Examining a Métis Woman’s Healing Journey Through Cultural Reconnection.”
Master of Education in Open, Digital, and Distance Education student Hilary Schmidt won third place for her abstract, “Survivors of Complex Trauma as Adult Online Learners: A Case Study.”
Conference attendees also voted in real-time for the People’s Choice Award. Master of Education in Open, Digital, and Distance Education student Ivy Shawl-Song won the award for her presentation, “A Social Semiotic Analysis of Racialized Digital Images Representing Canada’s Residential School System (a study in progress).
Visit the Graduate Student Research Conference website for more details.