The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) has announced the Top 25 finalists for its 2023 Storytellers Challenge.
The annual competition challenges postsecondary students across the country to inspire audiences with a research story — in up to 300 words or three minutes of audio or video — of how SSHRC-funded research is making a difference in the lives of Canadians.
This year’s winners were chosen from among nearly 200 applicants from across the country, and UCalgary has four finalists. Each finalist receives $3,000 and a chance at one of the coveted final five spots, which come with an additional $1,000.
“Participating in competitions like the SSHRC Storytellers Challenge is a fantastic way for our students to showcase the impact of their research on society," says Dr. Penny Pexman, associate vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary. "We are proud to support our students in these endeavours and to host training workshops to help them communicate their findings effectively."
Jennifer Williamson (they/them), a master’s student in psychology is among the finalists. Their research focuses on autism and how to help autistic students succeed in university and beyond. Unlike most finalists who submitted videos, Williamson took a different approach and decided to submit their entry as a poem.
“I was intrigued by the creative possibilities given on the Storytellers website. Where else can you write up your research as a song, or a poem?” they say.
It wasn’t hard for them to decide on the medium, but Williamson, who is autistic, says it was hard to get started when writing about such a personal topic. Putting it into words was a lot of emotional work.
“In the end I think it worked well, and that putting so much of myself into my writing lent itself well to the raw, emotional nature of poetry.”
Williamson was one of many participants at the university who signed up for a workshop to help students with their storytelling skills. The event was hosted prior to the SSHRC Storytellers submission deadline by the Knowledge Engagement team in Research Services, a unit specializing in knowledge mobilization and supporting partnerships for research with impact, along with My GradSkills in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Lab NEXT in Libraries and Cultural Resources.
"Through competitions like this, students gain important skills in applying their knowledge in a practical way that will be valuable in their future careers," says Dr. Robin Yates, vice-provost and dean of graduate studies. "Their research storytelling skills not only translate their work for a broad audience, but also demonstrate their academic achievements and their dedication to creating a better world."
Williamson is now preparing to head to Toronto, where they will present their story live alongside all 25 finalists to a panel of judges, in three minutes or less. The final five winners will be announced at the Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences on May 29.
UCalgary’s 2023 SSHRC Storytellers Challenge finalists