Jan. 22, 2021

Community-led research focuses on holistic well-being of Indigenous youth

Northern Alberta project is led by one of 20 promising new postdocs joining UCalgary in 2021
Jennifer Markides standing on the Peace Bridge
Jennifer Markides

When Dr. Jennifer Markides arrives in northern Alberta later this year to begin her new research projects, she won’t know what those projects are going to look like and that’s how she wants it. 

“Working with Indigenous communities means putting the goals and interests of the community ahead of our own. I don’t get to decide the research, and I’m okay with that,” says Markides, MEd'13, PhD'20. The Métis researcher and Eyes High postdoctoral scholar in the Werklund School of Education studies the application of holistic Indigenous well-being frameworks in education. 
 
When it’s safe to do so, Markides, pictured above, will travel to the Peace Wapiti and Fort Vermilion school divisions, visiting schools where a significant portion of the students are Indigenous. In partnership with students, teachers, Elders, community members and the schools’ Indigenous education co-ordinators, Markides will research how to increase engagement with Indigenous students. 

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Markides at UCalgary as an Eyes High postdoctoral scholar,” says Dr. Penny Pexman, associate vice-president (research). “Jennifer is representative of the incredible calibre of new postdocs that will be joining us in 2021, and we look forward to all that will be achieved through her promising, community-engaged research.”

Markides’ community-led and community-engaged research may sound daunting how can you start a project if you don’t know what it’s going to look like? 

The starting point of Markides’ work is relationship-building. While she brings experience and knowledge about holistic Indigenous well-being to the project, she does not think of herself as having expertise in communities that she isn’t a part of. This ensures she won’t impose her ideas of success or engagement on the communities she is working with, recognizing that it is a deeply collaborative process.

We’re building relationships with people within the communities who have expertise and knowledge about their communities, who can help frame the research so that it is strengths-based and reflects the specific values and interests of the communities.

Markides anticipates that students will benefit from seeing their cultures and the values of their communities reflected in their schools. If that’s the case, Markides and the schools will create plans that enrich student experiences. For example, this could include inviting community members to offer language lessons and cultural and land-based teachings. In some cases, training may be provided for school administrators and teachers to help reduce barriers for Indigenous students. 

The lack of certainty around the specifics of how the research will play out is worth it, given the potential for transformative change, says Markides. “In community-led research, there is that momentum and buy-in from communities that sees them carry the work on beyond the length of the research time frame, because it is their project and they have had ownership,” she says.

Eyes High postdocs inspire excellence at UCalgary

Markides’ postdoc research is funded through the Eyes High Postdoctoral Match-Funding Program. The program is designed to support UCalgary faculty in recruiting and supporting exceptional postdoctoral scholars through a 50-50 salary-matching package, split between a faculty member and the Office of the Vice-President (Research).

“I’m grateful to Dr. Doug Clark for providing the funding for my postdoc,” says Markides. “I feel so lucky to be part of a project led by a group of wise and influential Métis women: Elder Ms. Betty Letendre, poet and educator Rita Bouvier, and Dr. Yvonne Poitras Pratt. I am honoured to be learning from them, and to have their mentorship is incredible.”

Markides is one of 20 postdocs who will be joining UCalgary as Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholars this year, following a competitive selection process. This is the first cohort of awards in the twice-annual program. The program funded postdocs in faculties across campus representing a diverse range of fields of study, research approaches and academic backgrounds. 

“Our new Eyes High postdocs will inspire excellence as they pursue their research,” says Pexman. “The flexibility of the funding enabled faculty members to bring postdocs on board for cutting-edge and unique research programs, which will lead our institution in exciting new directions.” 

The next round of the Eyes High Postdoctoral Match-Funding Program will be open for applications between March 1 and May 1, 2021. Visit the Research website for more details. 

The first cohort of Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholars hired under the match-funding program are: 

  • Dr. Ryan Alcantra, PhD, Faculty of Kinesiology (supervisor: Dr. Brent Edwards, PhD) 
  • Dr. Amer Alizedeh, PhD, Schulich School of Engineering (Dr. Anne Benneker, PhD)
  • Dr. Sara Becker, PhD, Faculty of Arts (Dr. Brandy Callahan, PhD)
  • Dr. Rosanne Blanchet, PhD, Cumming School of Medicine (Dr. Dana Olstad, PhD)
  • Dr. Arthur Gustavo Fernandes, PhD, Faculty of Arts (Dr. Amanda Melin, PhD)
  • Dr. Olivia Galea, PhD, Faculty of Kinesiology (Dr. Carolyn Emery, PhD)
  • Dr. Catriona Hippman, PhD, Faculty of Nursing (Dr. Dawn Kingston, PhD)
  • Dr. Alec Hutchings, PhD, Faculty of Science (Dr. Benjamin Tutolo, PhD)
  • Dr. Hongseok Jo, PhD, Schulich School of Engineering (Dr. Simon Park, PhD)
  • Dr. Hitendra Kumar, PhD, Cumming School of Medicine (Dr. Dylan Pillai, MD, PhD)
  • Dr. Jennifer Markides, PhD, Werklund School of Education (Dr. Douglas Clark, PhD, and Dr. Yvonne Poitras Pratt, PhD)
  • Dr. Maxine Myre, PhD, Werklund School of Education (Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew, PhD)
  • Dr. Rémi Méreuze, PhD, Faculty of Arts (Dr. Matthew Walls, PhD)
  • Dr. Meaghan Perdue, PhD, Cumming School of Medicine (Dr. Catherine Lebel, PhD)
  • Dr. Brianne Redquest, PhD, Werklund School of Education (Dr. Carly McMorris, PhD)
  • Dr. Charlie Rioux, PhD, Faculty of Arts (Dr. Lianne Tomfohr-Madsen, PhD)
  • Dr. Marie-Jolie Rwigema, PhD, Faculty of Social Work (Dr. Regine U. King, PhD)
  • Dr. Fay Judy Strohschein, PhD Faculty of Nursing (Dr. Sandra Davidson, PhD)
  • Dr. Thomas Theurer, PhD, Faculty of Science (Dr. Gilad Gour, PhD)
  • Dr. Lauren White, PhD, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (Dr. Jocelyn Poissant, PhD)

Jennifer Markides’ research with the Peace Wapiti School Division is part of a five-year project funded by Pembina Pipeline Corporation through the Werklund School of Education.