Research and graduate studies 2019-2020

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  • LATEST STORIES

    Mobilizing Knowledge

    Law professor finds success in Supreme Court of Canada

    In February, Dr. Ruby Dhand was part of a legal team intervening in a charter challenge. The Supreme Court of Canada has now recognized the voices and rights of people with mental health or addiction histories in a precedent-setting ruling.

    A remarkable year for TRU research

    The Annual Report on Research is an online collection that highlights the groundbreaking research projects that have taken place at TRU in 2019-2020.

    Children’s books send a message of hope and empathy

    Thompson Rivers University (TRU) English Professor George Johnson released his first children’s picture book "How Hope Became an Activist" in October through UK publisher Dixi Books.

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  • EDUCATION
    Preserving an endangered language
    EDUCATION

    Preserving an endangered language

    Dr. Gloria Ramirez has been awarded more than $300,000 over five years for research that aims to develop an intergenerational Secwepemctsín learning model. Ramirez, an expert in children’s biliteracy and bilingual development, leads an impressive team of scholars, including co-applicants Drs. Janice Dick-Billy, and Natalie Clark, and UBC’s Dr. Tania Willard. Key collaborators also include Garry Gottfriedson, and Elder Flora Sampson.

    Secwepemctsín is severely endangered with less than two per cent of Secwepemc people fluent speakers. “Those who are fluent are often of advanced age, and with few people learning the language, and with even fewer children raised in the language, each community in the Secwepemc Nation is facing language extinction,” Ramirez said.

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  • COMMUNITY
    Bird
    COMMUNITY

    Abundance of student research opportunities

    When TRU’s campuses shut down in mid-March much of the focus was on transitioning student learning online. But in the background, the research community was scrambling to devise new ways of operating — ways that appreciated social distancing, and ensured the safety of all involved.

    The diligence and speed with which research adapted has been remarkable, meaning that dozens of undergraduate and graduate students were able to continue to pursue their research and to contribute knowledge, despite the pandemic.

    Twelve students received NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards. Though access to study spaces was restricted, all of the research has adjusted to allow students to work safely in the lab under physical distancing protocols, or remotely. Three graduate students were awarded $17,500 each through the Canada Graduate Scholarship – Masters program, while another four graduate students were awarded $15,000 entrance awards through the BC Graduate Scholarship Fund. TRU’s flagship Undergraduate Research Experience Award Project scholarships were also heavily subscribed, with nearly two dozen students supported by the $6,000 scholarships, and enabled to conduct independent research throughout the summer.

    TRU continues to support student research throughout the pandemic, allowing our students to develop vital new skills, and training the next generation of critical thinkers.

    “This really speaks to the capacity at TRU and the dedication of faculty who support our undergraduate researchers,” said Sukh Heer Matonovich, Associate Director, Student Research and Public Engagement. “Students are engaging in meaningful inquiry whether they are at home or on campus, and with the guidance of their mentors, real transformational learning is taking place, and I think we really need to celebrate that.”

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  • SUSTAINABILITY
    wildfire
    SUSTAINABILITY

    TRU heads collaborative wildfire research

    A new provincially funded research chair means that TRU will help chart a new course in wildfire prediction and response in BC.

    The BC Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science is the result of a two-year effort between the Province of BC, the mayors of Kamloops, Kelowna and Prince George, and the Interior University Research Coalition, which includes TRU, UBC-Okanagan, and the University of Northern British Columbia.

    This position will be funded by a $5-million endowment from the province. Based in Kamloops, the chair will be in close proximity to Emergency Management BC and BC Wildfire Services, and the results of this research will have global impact.

    Interest in the position is high and a national search for candidates has begun. The goal is to fill this position this fall.

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  • HEALTH
    Rod McCormic
    HEALTH

    With the land as our teacher

    As an internationally renowned expert in Indigenous mental health and wellness, Dr. Rod McCormick is routinely sought after for his advice and insights.

    But when it comes to healing, he says, the answers don’t have to be complicated. Comfort can be found in the land around us.

    A year ago, McCormick, who is the director of TRU’s All My Relations Research Centre, and of Ombaashi, an international network of Indigenous health researchers and knowledge keepers, ran his first Healing from the Land course, which was taught on the land, in nature, in collaboration with local elders and knowledge keepers. While the course was unable to run this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he expects it will continue, and there has already been significant international interest in the course.

    “The course illustrates what All My Relations is about. It’s about reclaiming traditional knowledge, and one of those sources of healing for Indigenous people is the land,” he says.

    “I think our connection to nature is universal, and despite the fact that many people just see the natural world as resources that can be extracted and sold, I have not found a single person who doesn’t relate in some way to being out there in the sun or the wind, and in finding comfort there,” he says.

    Learning from the Land, then, is a reminder that sometimes the tools for recovery are right in front of us. According to McCormick, the Western worldview supposes that we are superior to nature and in control of it, but climate change and a global pandemic have proven this notion false.

    “We have dealt with these things for thousands of years, and I think Indigenous peoples need to look more toward our own knowledge, and non-Indigenous people could really benefit from Indigenous ways of knowing.”

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  • CULTURE
    Umbrella
    CULTURE

    What does it mean to travel ethically?

    Dr. Kellee Caton, a renowned expert in advancing critical tourism studies, has long investigated the complexities of tourism. She is now leading a partnership of researchers at 10 international universities to ensure this area of critical tourism study flourishes.

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  • COMMUNITY, CULTURE
    COMMUNITY, CULTURE

    Communicating with stakeholders when crisis events collide

    Dr. Michael Mehta is leading research to better understand old models of risk communication in order to create agile processes that better align with modern needs. According to Mehta, standard risk and crisis communication models apply...

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  • CULTURE
    CULTURE

    Understanding the social history of unbelief in Canada

    Why have so many Canadians fallen away from organized religion? Dr. Tina Block has been awarded an $85,000 SSHRC Insight Grant for her research that seeks to untangle the social history of unbelief in English Canada, from the 1950s to the 1980s. This expands Block’s earlier federally-funded research that found the decline of organized religion tended to be heavily gendered and class-based.

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  • CULTURE
    CULTURE

    Cultural maps help define BC’s opioid epidemic

    Supported by a SSHRC Insight Grant, Dr. Will Garrett-Petts is undertaking research that explores cultural mapping of the opioid crisis in BC’s small cities. He began using cultural maps in his research practice nearly 20 years ago, and has since found the process invaluable when it comes to collecting the stories of a community, and using those stories to better understand its people and places.

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  • CULTURE
    CULTURE

    Taking mental health law to court

    Dr. Ruby Dhand appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada in March as part of a legal team presenting a Charter challenge in mental health law — a challenge she described as equivalent to the “legal Superbowl.”

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  • CULTURE
    CULTURE

    Turning our sites on Trump’s America

    Dr. Jeffrey Meyers, a lecturer in TRU’s faculty of law, is regularly sought after for his expertise in U.S., Canadian and international political and legal current events, specifically as it relates to the Trump presidency, and looking ahead to November’s US election.

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  • COMMUNITY, CULTURE
    COMMUNITY, CULTURE

    TRU opens doors to Community Scholars

    Almost one year ago TRU joined the Community Scholars Program, providing access for regional non-profit organizations and registered charities to the latest research.

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  • CULTURE
    CULTURE

    Understanding Canada-China relations

    TRU’s expert in international relations and Asian politics, and director of the Canada and the Asia Pacific Policy Project, Dr. Robert Hanlon is often sought after by media to comment on international politics, specifically Canada’s relationship with China.

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  • CULTURE
    CULTURE

    Detailing the lived experiences of Holocaust survivors

    For the second time, philosophy professor Dr. Jeff McLaughlin has edited a book Holocaust survivor Vera Schiff, who, though now in her 90s, has spent much of her life sharing stories about the people she knew and about her own experiences living and being forced to work as a nurse in Theresienstadt.

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  • COMMUNITY, CULTURE
    COMMUNITY, CULTURE

    Reducing barriers for women fleeing violence

    For women looking to flee domestic violence, there are supports within the community, but those supports don’t always take into account the needs of women with companion animals.

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  • EDUCATION
    EDUCATION

    Social justice in Canadian High Schools

    Supported by a $62,920 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant, Dr. Manu Sharma will spend the next two years interviewing students, teachers and administrators at high schools in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal to unveil insights about schoolwide initiatives that embrace and promote social justice, and the influence of those initiatives on the student body.

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  • EDUCATION
    EDUCATION

    Nationwide project supports nurses entering healthcare in a pandemic

    Supported by the Canadian Nurses Foundation and the Canadian Nurses Association, Dr. Judy Duchscher, associate professor in the School of Nursing, has assembled a team of students, new graduates and expert nurses to create a web-based network where newly graduate nurses can go for support.

    Called Nursing The Future, the site gives registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, and licensed practical nurses a place where they can share information and connect socially as they navigate entering their profession during a challenging time in health care.

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  • HEALTH
    HEALTH

    Master of Nursing program celebrates milestone

    In fall 2019, Jessie Bauer became the first Master of Nursing student to successfully defend a thesis in the new program. Bauer’s research explores Syrian refugee women’s perspectives of their mental health and well-being during their resettlement period in Canada. Bauer hopes the findings from her study will inform culturally safe mental healthcare services and healthy public policy.

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  • HEALTH
    HEALTH

    Whether global or local, the voices of youth inform research

    Dr. Bonnie Fournier’s research takes her across the world, and can find her sitting across a wang-oo, or a central communal fireplace in northern Uganda, working with the Acholi people to find ways to revitalize the culture in an area devastated by civil war.

    Her work also keeps her in place, and keeps feet firmly planted in the region, working with local youth in rural areas to find out what they need to thrive.

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  • HEALTH
    HEALTH

    A step toward authentic reconciliation

    Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin has long been a leader in nursing research, and now her leadership has been nationally recognized, having been awarded one of six Indigenous Research Chairs in Nursing by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

    Bourque Bearskin’s research program will be supported by an investment of more than $1.52 million over the next five years. Her research program focuses on advancing Indigenous health through enacting and supporting policies and standards that are informed by the experiences of Indigenous peoples, and she works to empower nurses to advocate for access to traditional wellness practices.

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  • SUSTAINABILITY
    SUSTAINABILITY

    Bat research breaks new ground

    TRU researchers, led by Dr. Naowarat (Ann) Cheeptham, are working alongside researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada, McMaster University, UBC and UBC-O on a groundbreaking project...

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  • SUSTAINABILITY
    SUSTAINABILITY

    Improving connections in rural Canada

    Dr. Waleed Ejaz will spend the next five years trying to reduce Canada’s digital divide. Supported by a $177,500 NSERC Discovery Grant, Ejaz’s research focuses on managing digital resources for unlimited connectivity to a growing number of devices by integrating surface and aerial networks.

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  • SUSTAINABILITY
    SUSTAINABILITY

    Climate change in our oceans

    Invertebrates such as mussels, crabs, oysters and barnacles are the most abundant marine animals on the BC coast. They support much of the marine food web. However, populations of these creatures rise and fall dramatically year to year, and the cause of these population fluctuations are not well understood.

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  • SUSTAINABILITY
    SUSTAINABILITY

    Snake migration may inform conservation

    Wildlife biologist Dr. Karl Larsen was awarded the Northcote and Brink Professorship, which he will hold for up to three years.

    The professorship honours the contributions of Dr. Tom Northcote and Dr. Bert Brink to ecology in BC. Larsen is most well-known for research that explores the Western rattlesnake...

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Graduate Studies

Partnerships crucial to research success

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Dr. Will Garrett-Petts

Thompson Rivers University recognizes research as a priority area, essential for the maintenance of program quality and currency, student training, institutional reputation, civic engagement and community impact, and the delivery of outstanding graduate programs. In this time of COVID-19 the significance and relevance of our university’s research enterprise has never been more important to the long-term health of our programming and to the challenges experienced by the communities we serve. The Office of Research and Graduate Studies is working with municipal, provincial, and federal governments, funding agencies, business and industry partners, community partners, university partners, the Research Universities Council of BC, and our own university faculties to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic by creating supports and opportunities designed to maintain current research activities and ensure enhanced future research activities, especially in the areas of student research training and high impact experiential learning.

An emphasis on our internal policies and on developing external research partnerships has become increasingly crucial to achieving these ends. The University has initiated policies and Letters of Understanding providing for extensions of internal grants, extensions of Tri-Agency grants, flexibility with tenure clocks and sabbaticals, promotion of government programs (e.g., CERB, enhanced student work opportunities), the continuation of student research funding, and the implementation of new granting opportunities (e.g., The Interior Research Universities Coalition Health Research Rapid Response Fund, established in partnership with BC’s Ministry of Health). Research partnerships are being actively pursued with other government ministries and agencies, and with the City of Kamloops. The Province’s recent allocation of a $5 million endowed Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management, and Fire Science is indicative of TRU’s enhanced research profile and our commitment to community collaboration. TRU aspires toward a civically engaged approach to research and research training, seeking maximum impact on quality of life, culture, environmental sustainability, public health, and economic prosperity for our local and regional communities.

As an open access research university, TRU boasts a comprehensive set of assets, including trades training, Open Learning, TRU World, career and vocational laddering opportunities, and outstanding faculty in all the traditional academic areas. Research, broadly defined, is central to our mission, ensuring local and regional relevance, a commitment to community engagement, a continued leadership role in scholarship with impact nationally and internationally—while, at the same time, positioning the successful alignment of research growth within TRU’s foundational goal of supporting student success.

TRU’s newly-developed Vision Statement commits to supporting all members of the University in knowledge seeking, knowledge creation, and creative inquiry, setting our ten-year goal “to be recognized as national leaders in community engaged research and scholarship.” Through our actions and by active engagement with faculty, students, and community partners, we will earn recognition as the most committed and innovative university in Canada for research and scholarship based on community partnerships, for involving graduate students in community-engaged research, and for undergraduate research training.

This annual report is offered as a reflection on and a celebration of the last 12 months—on how the research efforts and accomplishments of our faculty, students, and community research partners are continuing to make a difference locally, regionally, nationally and globally.

AVP Will Garrett-Petts Signature

Associate Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Will Garrett-Petts.

Contact Us

For more information about research at TRU visit tru.ca/research or contact us.