Research Recognition Awards


The annual Research Recognition Awards (RRA) are designed to celebrate full-time faculty members at Mount Royal University who are making extraordinary contributions to their respective academic/professional fields, our students and our communities. The five awards recognize the outstanding achievements of MRU scholars at all career stages and from all disciplines. They are also designed to recognize the diversity of disciplinary research and scholarship and “capture the full spectrum of activities that we embrace and celebrate at Mount Royal.” By celebrating our faculty members, these awards support and enhance the burgeoning research culture at MRU.  

Award winners are recognized during Research & Scholarship Days and featured on the ORSCE webpage and newsletter.





2023 Award Recipients

Knowledge Mobilization Award

Dr. Kenna Olsen, PhD

Kimberly Williams headshot

Through a combination of passion, expertise and innovation, Dr. Kenna Olsen, PhD, extends her research beyond traditional avenues for dissemination and publication, aiding in the broad and diverse knowledge mobilization of medieval English literary scholarship.

Olsen teaches Old and Middle English literature, the History of the English Language and a variety of specialized courses stemming from her research, including medieval ecocriticism and women’s participation in medieval English literature. Beyond the classroom, she is the associated dean of research, scholarship and community engagement for the Faculties of Arts and Teaching & Learning, co-director of the Research Cluster Oceologies, and co-founder of the Phoenix Rising — Subjects that Matter initiative.

An active scholar and collaborator, Olsen’s research has been published across a variety of platforms and disseminated at significant conference presentations both nationally and internationally.

Of special note is her decade-long work on the medieval English poem Cleanness, one of the most important manuscripts in English literary tradition which is included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. In collaboration with the Cotton Nero A.x. Project and the British Library, Olsen authored four double-blind peer-reviewed online book-length publications. They not only provide clarity on the meaning and significance of the poem, but act as an important avenue for providing global access to works considered crucial to understanding the human condition.

In her pursuit of enhancing curiosity and eliciting critical conversations with a wider audience, Olsen has also created numerous open educational resources that support scholarly work on medieval English studies, including four multimedia recordings of medieval literature that allow the viewer to see and hear the poetry in its original language. These recordings are accessible through her scholarly website, Emerging Medievalism: Methods, Media, Manuscript, which stands as a hub for various projects and teaching activities devoted to understanding the literary and cultural output of medieval England.

Olsen is also known for employing the use of digital methods and social media to further engagement, such as utilizing MRU’s Immersion Studio for teaching and research, placing students in geographical spaces and periods. Another project required students to use Twitter as a tool to voice opinions and perspectives by parsing lines of medieval poetry down to 280 characters.

Since her start at MRU in 2008, Olsen has also been recognized with a Distinguished Faculty Award, the Faculty of Arts Outstanding Teacher Award, and several MRU and national grants for scholarship in English literature and teaching innovation.


Research and Scholarship Excellence Award

Dr. Anupam Das, PhD

Mohamed El Hussein headshot

With an impressive record of publications, successful grant applications, conference presentations, media interviews and invited lectures, Dr. Anupam Das, PhD, showcases research excellence on both a national and international scale.

A professor in the Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at MRU, Das has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles and five book chapters, with another four articles currently in progress. His papers have appeared in top-tier economics and social science journals, including International Migration, Journal of International Trade Economic Development, and Applied Economics.

In 2015 and 2016, the Chief Economist of the central bank of Bangladesh invited Das to train central bankers in effective, policy-oriented research and publishing. Under his guidance, 40 researchers wrote policy notes, research papers on macroeconomic and monetary policy issues related to the Bangladesh economy.

Highly sought-after for his expertise, Das has presented his work at more than 35 national and international conferences and has been invited to give talks at numerous institutions, including the University of Tennessee, Calcutta University, University of Manitoba, University of Dhaka and King’s University College at Western University. In addition, Das has done 69 interviews to date for outlets such as CBC, Global News, CTV and Calgary Herald, on issues related to COVID-19, costs of childcare, the provincial budget, inflation, job growth, and wage gap among Canadians and immigrants.

In 2020, Das was a co-recipient of a SSHRC Partnership grant for $2.5 million for a project studying the persistence of complex, racialized poverty within the settler colonialist political context of Canada. He has also received three Internal Research grants and two Institute of Environmental Sustainability grants, acting as principal investigator in all five.

Das has further pursued avenues to share his knowledge through supervising seven undergraduate and two graduate research assistants, co-supervising two honours students and co-authoring over twenty articles with early career scholars.

Previous recognition for Das’ longstanding excellence in research and scholarship include the prestigious 21st Immigrants of Distinction Award from Immigrant Services Calgary in 2017, an MRU Distinguished Faculty Award in 2019, an MRU Faculty of Arts Outstanding Scholar Award in 2020.


Emerging Scholar Award

Dr. Carolyn Willekes, PhD

Michael Asmussen headshot

While still early in her scholarly career, Dr. Carolyn Willekes, PhD, has already published a body of work impressive in both quality and volume. An assistant professor of General Education at MRU and president of the Equine History Collective, Willekes’ research focuses on the horse-human relationship in the ancient Mediterranean. Though her studies centre around the classical world, they build intriguing connections to other periods and highlight the importance of equines as a tangible, living connection to the past.

As demonstrated by her breadth of academic publications, Willekes’ research finds relevance across many disciplines, including classics, art history, military history, sport history and equine studies. She is the sole author of two monographs: The Horse in the Ancient World: From Bucephalus to the Hippodrome (I.B. Tauris/Bloomsbury, 2016) and Greek Warriors: Hoplites and the Heros (Oxford: Casemate, 2017). Willekes has also written several book chapters for edited volumes on topics ranging from Alexander the Great to the history of equestrian sport, and completed peer-reviewed articles exploring aspects of warfare, nomadic traditions and ancient art.

In February 2022, Willekes delivered a lecture at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, one of the preeminent research institutions for Classics, as part of the President's Lecture series. Her talk had an audience of over 900 attendees and she was the only junior scholar invited to speak in the series. Later the same year, she co-curated the exhibition Money Zoo: Fantastics Beasts in the History of Money for the Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary.

A strong believer in sharing her work with diverse audiences, Willekes has contributed to documentary projects, public education events, podcasts, blogs and vlogs. This includes developing two public education programs that have allowed her to engage with thousands of students over the years. She created “Warhorse to Sporthorse” for the Spruce Meadows School Tours program, which focuses on the story of the horse, and “On the Trail” for Archeology Now in Houston, a program that explores the global history of the cowboy.

“Dr. Willekes is a thoughtful, industrious scholar, who is developing an important new line of scholarship,” says Dr. David Clemis, PhD, associate professor of history and interim associate dean and chair of General Education at MRU.

“The extent and significance of her work to date, and the imaginative, innovative approaches driving her research, suggest that she is a scholar who will build upon her already considerable achievements.”


Undergraduate Research Supervision Award

Dr. Harpreet Aulakh, PhD

Leah Hamilton headshot

Drawing on her own wealth of knowledge and expertise, Dr. Harpreet Aulakh, PhD, has dedicated her efforts to bolstering undergraduate students’ involvement in research. As an associate professor in Justice Studies at Mount Royal, Aulakh’s student-centered approach helps students realize their research and scholarship potential, preparing them for success with their future academic and career goals.

“Preparing the next generation of justice professionals and researchers to be analytical and critical thinkers and be adept as leaders, problem solvers and decision makers is the objective I pursue in my role as an educator,” Aulakh says.

Aulakh is currently the program coordinator for the Bachelor of Arts — Criminal Justice (BAJC) Honours stream. Her contributions to the program include designing the Honours Seminar course, a weekly lecture that explores the synthesis of research and theory within the study of justice. She has delivered the course for the past eight years, working with all students in the program to formulate a research design and framework for their projects. Since the inception of the BAJC honours stream, Aulakh has taken on the role of research supervisor for 30 honours students, providing direction and fostering their development and proficiency in research.

Persistent in her pursuit to strengthen students’ involvement in research, Aulakh encourages students to take on appropriate challenges, such as submitting abstracts for conference presentations or manuscripts for journal publications. This unwavering support has resulted in her students presenting research findings at local and international levels, getting published in peer-reviewed journals, winning awards and summer research scholarships, and being admitted into highly sought-after graduate and law schools.

Over the years, Aulakh has also involved many of her students in her own work as research assistants, training them in valuable research skills. Going above and beyond, she is also known for providing continued mentorship and guidance even after graduation.

In the broader community, Aulakh is the Vice President of the BowMount Youth Justice Committee and a member of the MRU Human Research Ethics Board. She has also served as a faculty mentor for students of the MRU Catamount Fellowship for Emerging Changemakers and spent a decade as a board member for the Calgary John Howard Society.

She has previously been awarded a Mount Royal Faculty Association Teaching Excellence Award for her sustained commitment to the development of teaching and learning at Mount Royal.

“I find immense pleasure in the work that I do and learn so much from the students that I work with.”


Community Engagement Award

Dr. Janne Holmgren, PhD

Leah Hamilton headshot

Merging her passion for criminology and science, Dr. Janne Holmgren, PhD, has led a storied career in the field of forensic DNA evidence. With her specialized research background and keen understanding of the justice system, Holmgren is a sought-after expert consultant to defense lawyers and is regularly invited to present at regional, national and international conferences related to forensic science.

As a professor of Justice Studies, Holmgren teaches several courses, including Aberrant Behaviour, Critical Analysis of Forensic Science Techniques and Forensic Interviewing. Since her tenure at MRU, dating back to 1998, Holmgren has continually found innovative ways to bring aspects of the community into her classes as well as students into the community.

Wanting to provide her students with educational opportunities and exposure related to death investigation, Holmgren created an unprecedented practicum partnership with the Calgary Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) alongside Leann Archeson, justice studies practicum coordinator. The unique program, which is supported by a memorandum of understanding between Alberta Justice and MRU, provides carefully selected fourth-year students with an experiential learning placement at the OCME, introducing them to the work of autopsies and death investigations.

Holmgren mentors students throughout the experience, which she describes as a “visceral, emotional and confidential reality that very few persons will ever experience.” Due to the sensitive nature of the work, Holmgren’s unwavering support is a key component of the ongoing success of the program.

“She helps students build their own self-confidence and resiliency while providing unwavering compassion and support when students are involved with cases that are difficult to process,” says MRU alumna Taylor Dube-Mather, who completed the practicum with the OCME. “Her impact is monumental, both in the quality of students she fosters and the practical opportunities her community engagement provides.”

Since the inception of the program in 2017, twelve MRU justice studies students have completed the practicum and three have been hired full-time by the OCME’s office in the death investigation unit and autopsy suite.

In addition to her role as mentor, Holmgren has also worked closely with OCME staff, technicians and pathologists over the past five years while collecting data for her current scholarship related to raising public appreciation of OCME work.

“There are several issues that could benefit communities, families, politicians, academics, and many others by learning about the incredibly difficult cases examined by the OCME in Calgary and Edmonton,” Holmgren says.



Nomination information


Each year, members of the MRU community are invited to nominate a faculty member for a Research Recognition Award. Please review the following information prior to completing your nomination.


Eligibility for Research Recognition Awards

  • Full-time faculty (including Senior Lecturers) are eligible.
  • Self-nominations are not accepted. 
  • Following the nomination, a faculty member may only submit one award application in an academic year. 
  • A faculty member can only win one award every five years. 
  • The ORSCE will typically give out a maximum of one award per category every academic year. 
  • All nominees are expected to demonstrate principles and behaviours consistent with the responsible conduct of research. 


Nomination process and criteria

  • For all awards, nominations are invited from colleagues (including contract faculty), department chairs, Deans and institute directors. 
  • The committee will not consider an application for any award other than that for which the person was nominated.
  • Each nomination requires two nominators: one primary and one secondary nominator. 
  • For the Undergraduate Research Supervision Award, at least one of the nominators must be an MRU student.
  • Nominators are encouraged to inform the nominee of the nomination.
  • Nominees will be contacted by the Adjudication Committee and invited to accept or decline their nomination.

The nomination form can be accessed here. The deadline for nominations is January 31, 2023. 


Application requirements

Nominees for Research Recognition Awards will be invited to submit the following materials to the selection committee as a part of their award application package:

  • 2-page (maximum) cover letter (double spaced, 12 point font) that articulates how you meet the award criteria and your most significant scholarly achievements as they relate to the award. 
  • CV (any format – MRU CV not required) 
  • Two (2) letters of support.  
  • For the Undergraduate Research Supervision Award, at least one letter from current or former MRU students is required. Letters must detail the impact that the faculty member has had on students’ research and/or scholarly endeavours.  
  • For the Community Impact Award, at least one letter from a community member is required.
  • Cover letters and letters of support should be addressed to the Research & Scholarship Recognition Awards Adjudication Committee. 
  • Extra materials (including extra letters of support) contained in the application package will not be reviewed. 
    All application materials (including letters of support) must be assembled by the applicants and submitted in a single email to

We are committed to an inclusive, barrier-free nomination and selection processes for these awards. We encourage nominations and applications from the entire full-time faculty community.  

The application deadline for 2023 nominees is March 3, 2023 at 5 p.m. MST.


About the awards


There are five distinct Research Recognition Awards.