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NU Researchers earn grants

A trio of researchers at Nipissing University have earned $193,758 in grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for work to enhance teacher education, improve water quality for indigenous communities, and help understand the keys to sexual aggression.

  • Dr. Glenda L. Black, associate professor, Schulich School of Education, earned $57,697 for her project, Exploring the Effects of a Canadian International Teaching Practicum at Home and Abroad
  • Dr. Carly Dokis, assistant professor, Anthropology, earned $70,219 for her project, Contested Waters: Exploring the Lived Experience of Water Quality Risks in an Anishinaabe Community in Northern Ontario
  • ​Dr. Justin Carré, assistant professor, Psychology, earned $65,842 for his project, Situational, psychological, and hormonal processes underlying sexual aggression

“Thank you to the SSHRC for this investment in Nipissing University and our researchers, “ said Dr. Harley d’Entremont, Nipissing University’s provost and vice-president, academic and research.  “This funding helps our faculty achieve leading edge research that makes important contributions to improve the lives of all Canadians.”

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) is the federal research-funding agency that promotes and supports postsecondary-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences. By focusing on developing Talent, generating Insights and forging Connections across campuses and communities, SSHRC strategically supports world-leading initiatives that reflect a commitment to ensuring a better future for Canada and the world.


Dr. Glenda Black

The proposed study will investigate the complex interactions between an international teacher education practicum from Canada, a Kenyan community, and the Canadian non-governmental organization (NGO), Me to We/Free the Children (Me2We/FTC), that facilitates the trip. To date, no studies have explored the social, cultural, and educational interactions between these groups. We plan to do this by employing a critical ethnography methodology to explore the effects of these development initiatives in Canada and abroad.

Although universities and NGOs are filling a niche in international development interventions worldwide it is important that we examine their long-term effects in order to explore best practices. Through participation in this project all stakeholders will better understand how their initiatives are connected to broader social, cultural, and educational concerns. From a Canadian perspective, it will help inform our educational practices at home and abroad, and further our understanding of the footprint of outsider education on indigenous cultures. The proposed study will offer new insights and recommendations on how Canadian international teaching practicum partners can interact to empower developing indigenous communities and improve their own professional practice and partnerships.

The proposed study is organized into 3 phases. Phase 1 will describe the main stakeholders. In collaboration with researchers from Moi University, Kenya, interviews will be conducted with the Kenyan community, the Canadian international teaching practicum group, and Me2We/FTC. Qualitative data will include videotaped observations and interactions with participants, voice recordings, photographs, and field observations. Further, a content analysis will be conducted on the Me2We/FTC website, publications, and initiatives. Phase 2 will explore power relationships among the three groups. For example, we will elucidate how decisions are made. Whose knowledge is privileged? Whose vision of education and progress is promoted? These questions will be explored using a critical ethnography methodology through which “cultural, political and economic issues can be interpreted and represented” (Cook, 2008). In Phase 3, we will make recommendations for the practice of international teaching initiatives, advocate for indigenous peoples’ self determination and education, and identify the role of NGOs in educational initiatives, as well as develop procedures for the evaluation of NGOs.

Roger Bernardes, adjunct professor at the Schulich School of Education, is co-investigator on this grant.

Dr. Carly Dokis

Indigenous communities in Canada are disproportionately affected by poor or insecure water systems (Eggerton 2008). According to the 2011 AANDC National Assessment, 39 percent of drinking water systems in First Nations communities are considered to be “high risk” (AANDC 2011). Significantly, state assessments of water quality risks are driven by technocratic measurements of the overall systems of risk, rather than by the actual quality of the drinking water (Shum 2012), with little consideration of local or Traditional knowledge, relationships with water, or perceptions of water quality. Furthermore, the   lived experiences of inhabiting waterscapes designated by the state as being at risk have been underexplored in the ethnographic literature. This research aims to probe how risk designations surrounding water quality are constructed by the state, and how water is known and experienced differently by members of Dokis First Nation (DFN), an Anishinaabe community in Northern Ontario. Understanding how water quality risk claims are locally negotiated, contested, and experienced is particularly important given the unique historical, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of water for Indigenous people from across distinct Nations and cultural traditions.

The specific objectives of this research are 1) to query the ways in which risk calculation around water in Indigenous communities in Canada is constructed by the state, and 2) to gain insight into how DFN community members experience and negotiate water meanings and emplacement in the face of designations as having a high risk water system. DFN is one of the communities identified in the National Assessment as having a high-risk water system. Yet, in preliminary interviews we have had with community membership and leadership, we have been repeatedly told that DFN has “good water.” We aim to explore these divergent perceptions and knowledges about water quality risks through a detailed case study conducted collaboratively with DFN.

One of the strengths of this research program is the adoption of an exploratory methodology established cooperatively with DFN in the form of storycircles. Storycircles involve gathering DFN members together to exchange stories about a common theme. Grounded in story based sharing, this exploratory method is closely tied to decolonizing and emancipatory methodologies and will facilitate an understanding of the nature of DFN members’ relationships with water, and the role that water plays in local history, identity, and culture.

This program of research brings together an interdisciplinary team of scholars and expertise to better understand the subjective and affective consequences of water quality risks for Indigenous peoples in Canada, an issue of direct importance to Indigenous communities, policy-makers, scholars, and the general   public. It answers calls for increased qualitative data to complement technical surveys of risk perception in Indigenous communities (Spence and Walters 2012), and for increased focus on the subjective and embodied consequences of environmental suffering (Auyero and Swistun 2009). Our research will provide tangible benefits to DFN in the form of data that can be used in land-use and environmental management plans, and will facilitate emancipatory approaches to understanding and documenting community history, values, culture, and language. The results from this research will assist DFN, and other Indigenous communities, in responding to water quality risks and recent federal legislation on drinking water in First Nation communities. This research will also be valuable for the federal government who is now required, under the Safe Water for First Nations Act, to develop enforceable regulations for drinking water in First Nation communities.

Collaborators with Dr. Dokis include Dr. Benjamin Kelly, assistant professor of Sociology at Nipissing University; Dr. Dan Walters, associate professor of Geography at Nipissing University; Randy Restoule, Community & Economic Development Officer Dokis First Nation; Graduate students from the MES/MESc program.

Dr. Justin Carre

Sexual assault is a major societal concern afflicting millions of women worldwide. Recently, sexual assault (and harassment) has received a great deal of media coverage in Canada. For instance, popular CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi has been accused of sexual assault by several women and male dentistry students from Dalhousie University posted sexually aggressive comments on social media targeting female classmates. Going beyond media reports, a recent survey of Canadian University students indicates that more than 50% of first year female students have experienced one or more forms of sexual victimization since the age of 14. Notably, female university students are 5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault compared to the general population of women, indicating that sexual assault is a major problem in post­secondary institutions.

Numerous studies have contributed to our understanding of the situational, psychological, and hormonal risk factors for sexually aggressive behaviour. For instance, exposure to pornography, alcohol consumption, narcissistic personality, misperception of sexual intent, and testosterone have all been linked to men's risks for committing sexually aggressive acts. Despite advances in our understanding of the individual risk factors for sexual aggression, few studies have taken a truly integrative approach to the study of sexual aggression. Specifically, few studies have investigated how situational, psychological, and hormonal factors work together to promote the expression of sexually aggressive behaviours. An integrative approach to the study of sexual aggression would enable researchers to have a more complete and comprehensive understanding of the basic mechanisms underlying one’s risk for engaging in sexually aggressive behaviour.

In the current program of research, a team of researchers with varying areas of expertise (behavioural neuroendocrionology, sexual aggression, evolutionary psychology, personality, and prejudice) will take an integrative approach to the study of sexual aggression. Across two experimental paradigms, we will examine the extent to which experimental exposure to pornography increases men's inclinations toward sexually aggressive behaviour. Well-validated laboratory-based behavioural measures will be used to capture variability in one’s propensity toward engaging in sexual aggression. In addition, we will test two novel mechanisms through which pornography increases one's inclinations toward sexual aggression. Specifically, we will examine whether exposure to pornography increases dehumanization (the psychological process whereby people perceive others as lacking human traits), and whether this process in turn increases one's inclinations toward sexual aggression. In addition, we will examine whether exposure to pornography increases testosterone concentrations and whether this in turn increases men's inclinations toward sexually aggressive behaviour. Finally, we will examine whether these relationships depend on the extent to which men are at increased risk for sexual aggression based on several well-known risk factors for sexual aggression (e.g., narcissism, hostile masculinity, misperception of sexual intent, past perpetration history).

The proposed experiments have the potential to make a major contribution to our understanding of the situational, psychological and hormonal processes that give rise to individual differences in sexual aggression. Ultimately, knowledge derived from this work may help with the development of empirically-based intervention programs designed to curtail sexual aggression and/or treat perpetrators of such acts. This program of research will further aid in student development and training, providing both undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to learn how to collect, analyze, and interpret hormonal, psychological, and behavioural data. Moreover, students will contribute to the dissemination of knowledge through authoring conference presentations, journal articles, and book chapters.

Co-investigators on the grant include Dr. Steven Arnocky, associate professor of Psychology at Nipissing University; Dr. Antonia Abbey, professor and Area Chair of Cognitive Developmental and Social Psychology at Wayne State University; Dr. Gordon Hodson, professor of Psychology at Brock University.

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