Five students win national Storytellers Challenge

Postsecondary students share stories about why social sciences and humanities research matters

Monday, May 6, 2024—Saskatoon, Saskatchewan—Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Today, Ted Hewitt, president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), announced the winners of the 2024 Storytellers Challenge. SSHRC’s annual Storytellers Challenge calls on postsecondary students to demonstrate—in up to three minutes or 300 words—how SSHRC-funded research is making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

Students entering submit stories in the format of their choice about Canadian social sciences and humanities research and how it helps improve our society and the world. Hewitt made the announcement as part of this year’s Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC) conference.

This year’s five winners are:

  • Harmata Aboubakar, from the University of Toronto, who spoke about the transformation of memory and identities through an analysis of the shifting transnational collective memory of Kenya’s 1952-1960 Mau Mau (Land and Freedom) Uprising. What was initially condemned as an anti-colonial event against Great Britain is now celebrated as a major historical example of colonized peoples seeking justice and self-determination.
  • Olivia Abram, from the University of Saskatchewan and Leah Alfred-Olmedo, from The University of British Columbia, who described the challenges graduate students and early-career researchers face when it comes to collaboration in academia—a group they call “fledging” collaborators. The presentation by Alfred-Olmedo (Kwakwaka’wakw) and Abram (settler) discussed the systemic incompatibility of academia and collaboration and called for creating opportunities for more meaningful collaboration in the Indigenous literary arts and research in general.
  • Nancy Lin, from The University of British Columbia, who explained that people with cognitive, motor, language and perceptual impairments resulting from acquired brain injury (ABI) face difficult psychosocial recoveries, which can be barriers to receiving existing mental health treatments as they are not designed to accommodate differences in ability. This project will identify an inventory of research-based and practice-based accommodations that will contribute to future research on designing and providing fully accessible mental health treatments.
  • Jul Jeonghyun Parke, from the University of Toronto, who told us about the juxtaposition between market research that asserts that white and female influencers are disproportionately favoured by both audiences and brands, yet in the virtual influencer world, where CGI- or AI-rendered characters imitate the work of human social media influencers, an overwhelming majority of virtual humans represent themselves as ethnic minorities. This project addresses the critical questions of who creates virtual social media influencers, and what drives their choice of race and ethnic identity in the design of these nonhuman agents?
  • Madeline Springle, from the University of Calgary, who shared a story about how asynchronous video interviews (AVIs) allow for flexibility for both job applicants and hiring organizations, yet individual video backgrounds can reveal personal information about an applicant such as socioeconomic status (SES) through visual cues about their living environment. This may influence their evaluation with those applicants perceived to be from a lower SES rated as less hireable based on an association of less affluence with lower professional competence and job performance, pointing to the use of a standardized AVI virtual background for a more equitable evaluation process.

The Final Five winners were selected from 20 Storytellers finalists, who were chosen from a highly competitive field of over 200 submissions from students across the country. Each finalist received $3,000, research communications training and the opportunity to present their story in front of an audience and a panel of judges at the SSHRC Storytellers Showcase during the SWCC conference. The Final Five winners receive an additional $1,000 each, in recognition of their outstanding ability to communicate research.

Social sciences and humanities research helps us understand what it means to be human and points the way toward a better future for all. While research can often seem abstract, stories and storytelling can help translate complex projects into ideas and concepts we can all understand, appreciate and learn from.

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