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Library Award for Excellence in Scholarly Endeavours

Kyle Kinaschuk earns place in prestigious doctoral program, while Chandra Martini completes impressive midwifery research

The 2015 winners of the MRU Library Award for Excellence in Scholarly Endeavours submitted projects displaying creativity, intelligence and a stubborn determination to persevere despite obstacles.

Kyle Kinaschuk’s English Honours thesis has already earned him a spot in one of University of Toronto’s prestigious doctoral programs; meanwhile, first-year student Chandra Martini’s original research into midwifery practices in black pioneer communities uncovered a link to her own past.

This is the first year two winners were awarded the $1,000 cash prize. Established in 2012, the Mount Royal Library Award for Excellence in Scholarly Endeavours is given annually to students who employ outstanding research skills and use of information resources.

“It’s about celebrating student ability, creativity, tenacity and skill,” says Associate Professor and Librarian Katharine Barrette, chair of the Award Committee. “We want to encourage students to engage in scholarship and produce new knowledge.”

By increasing the award to allow for both a senior and junior winner, students from all levels are able to compete. The senior award is reserved for applicants in a 4000 to 5000 level course, while the junior winner is selected among applicants in a 1000 to 3000 level course. A panel of five judges evaluates all submissions, ranging from essays and posters to films and fiction.

“We’ve had some heated discussions,” laughs Barrette. “It can be very difficult to decide.”

Faculty and staff celebrated this year’s winners at a special Library event on Tuesday, May 5.
Kyle Kinaschuk, senior winner

Library Award for Excellence in Scholarly Endeavours - Kinaschuk 2015 
Kyle Kinaschuk ~Photo courtesy, Mount Royal's Media Production Group 

Kyle Kinaschuk’s English Honours thesis immediately stood out among this year’s submissions.

“It’s a beautiful thing to read,” says Barrette. “It’s sophisticated and complex. There are professors in Canadian institutions who do not write like this.”

Kinaschuk’s thesis grew out of a question posed during his presentation at the 2014 Derrida Today Conference in New York City.

“My thesis examines the questions, ‘how can we recognize, create and welcome new ideas?’” says Kinaschuk. “Do politics emerge from a commitment to thinking about the unexpected? What is the relationship between desire, finitude and loss? Does the past, too, yield events?”

To answer these questions, Kinaschuk embarked on an investigation that was epic in scale.

“There was an incredible amount of information to synthesize and analyze,” says Associate Professor Kit Dobson, PhD, Kinaschuk’s thesis supervisor. “There was a potential infinite breadth to his work.”

Undaunted, Kinaschuk searched through multiple databases and tracked the bibliographies of prior theses, dissertations, manuscripts and articles. The result is a paper that catapulted him to the attention of graduate schools across the country and helped launch the next stage in his academic career.

“(Kinaschuk’s) achievement speaks not only to his ability, but also to opportunities Mount Royal creates for students,” says Barrette. “He’s had the opportunity to be supported and encouraged, and he’s used these opportunities to excel.”

Kinaschuk has received a number of scholarships and awards during his program; however, the Library Award holds a special significance.

“I am extremely pleased and honoured to have received the MRU Library Award for Excellence in Scholarly Endeavours,” says Kinaschuk. “As this Award recognizes the capstone project of my degree, it is truly remarkable to receive such generous support and recognition during the final moments of my study at Mount Royal.”

Graduating spring 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Philosophy, Kinaschuk looks forward to continuing his research at the University of Toronto.

Chandra Martini, junior winner

Library Award for Excellence in Scholarly Endeavours - Martini 2015 
Chandra Martini ~Photo courtesy, Mount Royal's Media Production Group 

The daughter of a historian and descendent of Western Canada’s black pioneer community, Chandra Martini grew up listening to legends about Alberta’s Amber Valley. When she stumbled across a brief mention of a black midwife who had served this region, she decided to pursue the topic for a history paper in her midwifery class.

“I was thrilled by the possibility that my own people helped to build the tradition of midwifery in Canada,” says Martini, who is in the first year of her Bachelor of Midwifery at Mount Royal and holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science from McGill University as well as a Master of Arts from the University of British Colombia.

Scouring Mount Royal’s resources, she quickly realized there was little written about the tradition of black Canadian midwives. Undeterred, Martini turned to an expert for help — her mother.

“When I asked her whether she had ever heard or read anything about a midwife in Amber Valley, my mother went into the basement and emerged with a stack of books, collections of memoirs, family reunion documents, and other oddments,” writes Martini in her reflection essay.

“We … started to uncover a story that, if it weren’t for her work and my circumstantial interest, might otherwise have been forgotten.”

“Chandra was able to use exceptional depth in finding obscure resources for her paper,” says Assistant Professor Deborah Duran-Snell, Martini’s supporting instructor. “I was amazed at the selection of resources and references used including books, articles, unpublished manuscripts and interviews.”

Through her mother’s archives, Martini discovered a connection between the black midwives in Canada’s pioneer communities and the practices of enslaved “granny midwives” of the American South.

“These women were important, not just for bringing babies into the world, but for their place as community healers,” says Martini. “I felt like I was connecting with my family history and this tradition that goes far back.

I think this work shows the importance of acknowledging the diversity of midwifery and its history.”

Martini looks forward to pursuing this topic for her capstone project. She hopes to conduct interviews with the black pioneer descendant community in Alberta and so ensure that the stories of these women and this community are recorded and shared.

Collette Burjack — May 12, 2015