Oct. 19, 2021

Inaugural recipients of Provost’s Postdoctoral Awards for Indigenous and Black Scholars announced

Research spans Blood Tribe residential school experiences, STEM learning, sexual and gender-based violence, and African Canadian literary and filmmaking studies
photos of provost's postorctoral award recipients
From left: Rachael Edino, Winta Ghidei, Tiffany Prete; and Uche Umezurike.

The University of Calgary is pleased to announce the recipients of the inaugural Provost’s Postdoctoral Awards for Indigenous and Black Scholars. This pathbreaking new program is part of UCalgary’s foundational commitment to inclusive excellence and to identifying and supporting the next generation of talented researchers and community-engaged scholarship.

The four inaugural recipients are: Dr. Rachael Edino, PhD (Faculty of Science); Winta Ghidei (Faculty of Social Work); Dr. Tiffany Prete, PhD (Werklund School of Education); and Dr. Uche Umezurike, PhD (Faculty of Arts). While contributing to the intellectual life of the university, these scholars will receive mentorship, career, and financial support during their time at UCalgary.

The new postdoctoral opportunities are a collaborative effort of the Offices of the Provost and Vice-President (Research). Initiated by Dr. Malinda Smith, vice-provost (equity, diversity and inclusion) and Dr. Dru Marshall, former provost, the initiative was launched with the support of Dr. Michael Hart, vice-provost (Indigenous engagement) and Dr. Penny Pexman, associate vice-president (research) and postdoctoral program director.

“We are thrilled to welcome these outstanding scholars into newly created postdoctoral positions at UCalgary,” says Dr. Teri Balser, provost.

They are top-tier postdocs pursuing bold new knowledge in their fields. I look forward to all that they will achieve.

“This program reflects our commitment to future-focused initiatives that proactively identify and create equitable pathways for outstanding scholars at UCalgary,” says Smith. “These research opportunities also set the stage for Black inclusion and flourishing as well as the growth of Black, African, and diaspora scholarship.”

Creating meaningful, transformative change requires us to expand the ways we promote and support Indigenous research and training,” says Hart, vice-provost.

Dr. Rachael Edino, PhD
Perspectives on Black Students’ Experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Post-Secondary Institutions in Alberta
Faculty of Science (Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Adams, PhD)

Edino will study racial gaps in post-secondary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Alberta, with a goal of addressing the gap in literature around race in post-secondary STEM education in Canada. Edino will be asking ‘What are the demographics of Black students currently pursuing STEM majors in post-secondary institutions in Alberta, and how can a critical race theory and intersectionality lens be used to describe their STEM education experiences?’

Using a critical race theory lens allows Edino to ask questions about how existing structures impact STEM learning and integration experiences for students of colour and, specifically in the sciences, how claims of objectivity and neutrality and a culture of meritocracy in the sciences affect the opportunities of students of colour.

“My research is unique in that it will identify the successes and challenges of racialized students in pursuit of STEM majors and careers and generate conversations in boardrooms across universities and relevant government departments,” says Edino. “I am confident that the research could lead to a review of existing policies or formulation of new ones to promote equitable access to STEM education in Canada.”

Winta Ghidei, PhD candidate
Engaging Men in Violence Prevention Initiatives within Black Communities in Alberta
Faculty of Social Work (Prof. Lana Wells)

Ghidei aims to advance gender equality and inclusion within Black communities as integral to sexual and gender-based violence. In Canada, 50 per cent of women have experienced domestic and sexual violence, with Alberta having the third-highest rate of police-reported rates in Canada. However, these numbers do not tell the full story of the experience and implications of domestic and sexual violence within Black communities.

“The main goal of my postdoctoral research project is to develop and support community-led sustainable and equity-focused approaches to advance gender equity and violence prevention in Black communities in Alberta,” says Ghidei.

Ghidei will use a ‘changing contexts approach,’ developed by Shift at the University of Calgary, which aims to co-develop contextual changes to influence behaviour. The approach was developed specifically with male-oriented settings in mind and draws on evidence-based approaches to support the development of ‘nudges’ that research shows help to cue more equitable, pro-social behaviours.

“My project will support the testing and customization of the approach with Black men and Black communities in Alberta with a focus on supporting an array of advocates working to advance violence prevention.”

Dr. Apooyak’ii /Tiffany Prete, PhD
Niitsitapi (the Real People) in Photographs: Surviving Colonization
Werklund School of Education (Dr. Aubrey Hanson, PhD)

Prete will conduct a photographic archival and oral history research study that draws upon a Blackfoot worldview and Indigenous methodologies to reveal and record significant aspects of the Blood Tribe’s Indian residential school system historical experiences.

Prete will collect and analyze photographs taken by the missionaries who administered schools on the Blood Reserve, and will interview survivors from the Blood Tribe about the photographs and their experiences with the schools. Together with survivors, Prete will then publish a historical photographic book of the Blood Tribe’s experiences with the schools who controlled education on the Blood Reserve.

“I see the research that I am engaging in as one way to help rectify the untruths that Canada has told, and to help address the intergenerational trauma suffered in the schools,” says Prete. “My work provides one avenue for my Blood People to learn what has happened to us and gives us the space and knowledge we need as we continue along our healing journey.”

Prete hopes that her work will help to improve the perceptions Canadians have of Indigenous Peoples, and lead to public school systems teaching about the entire colonial history of assimilation that the Canada Government employed, and not just focus on residential schools.

Dr. Uche Umezurike, PhD
Desiring Home: Blackness, Belonging, and Diaspora in Canada
Faculty of Arts (Dr. Clara Joseph, PhD)

Umezurike will examine how African Canadian writers and filmmakers negotiate the complexities of home in Canada and how the stories they tell enrich or problematize our understandings of what it means to be a Black Canadian. His research addresses the lack of literary scholarship on African migrants’ narratives of Canada. 

Umezurike is also interested in examining the presence or absence of Indigenous Peoples in fiction, memoirs, and films by African Canadians, and its implications for Black and Indigenous solidarity in Canada.

“The authors and filmmakers whose works I am researching offer us glimpses into the ways immigrants seek and nurture communities that enable them to become and thrive amid structures that disable and threaten their selfhood,” says Umezurike. “I find it inspiring that the stories these authors and filmmakers tell are not entirely of abjection and negation but stories that prompt us to appreciate the resilience of immigrants.”