Engaging citizens

November 20, 2017

Distinguished Research Award recognizes sociologist for vast body of work and research collaborations


The turning point for Associate Professor Dr. Shelley Boulianne’s sociology career came at a time when she was trying to balance her research work with her teaching practice. She was wondering why she was trying to do so much on both sides and was considering how to rebalance.

But then in 2013, she received the American Sociological Association’s Best Paper Award in Communication and Information Technology. Though she was considering cutting back on the amount of research she had been doing, the award encouraged her to continue.

“I didn’t rebalance—I just kept up with it,” says Shelley. “The award made me realize that I actually do good research and so I should continue on with it.”

Distinguished recognition

In 2017, Shelley received MacEwan University’s Dr. Sherrill Brown Distinguished Research Award. “I know that there are a lot of incredible researchers at MacEwan, so I feel very honoured to have received it.”  

Shelley’s research examines citizens’ engagement in civic and political life. “This research is important because citizens’ engagement is critical to producing healthy, caring communities and ensuring good government.”

In between her master’s degree and PhD, Shelley worked for the Alberta government, conducting research activities, managing surveys, policy planning and doing survey evaluations— “I loved the practice of social research, designing questionnaires and figuring out sampling.”


Nominate the next Distinguished Research Award recipient

The Dr. Sherrill Brown Distinguished Research Award is granted periodically to recognize scholarly excellence of faculty whose research, scholarship or creative activity have made significant contributions to society and the scholarly community within local, national, or international contexts.

Nominate a faculty member today. The deadline is December 15.

After a few years, she realized she wanted to develop her own surveys and work on her own topics, and so she returned to school to get her PhD. Since then, Shelley has collaborated on a number of research projects, including a five-year climate change policy study in which she partnered with international researchers, the City of Edmonton and community groups. She has published several papers about digital media in civic and political life—which have become required readings in politics courses at Oxford University, Harvard and other top universities.

: Read about Shelley’s collaborative research into the part social media played during the Fort McMurray wildfires.

Sabbatical year

In Fall 2017, Shelley returned to teaching following a year-long sabbatical, which allowed her to finish several papers on her climate change research, and complete a project on social media and engagement in civic and political life. She started a number of new projects as well, travelling to 14 cities throughout the year to present her research at conferences where she received feedback and made new connections.

“In that process of presenting, I met a lot of colleagues with similar interests, and so I started a lot of new projects that I’m excited about,” she says, crediting her productivity to colleagues who helped and encouraged her in advancing her papers.

Over her sabbatical, one of the projects she completed, with a collaborator, was about youth, digital media, and engagement in civic and political life. She proposed the subject matter as an advanced topic in the Sociology 400-level, and it was accepted.

“I am going to be teaching the exact topic that I am studying,” she says. “The symmetry there helps me in terms of being productive. Of course, I have lots of opportunities in my methods and statistics courses to tell my students about the research that I’ve done.”

: Two articles Shelley published during her sabbatical, Revolution in the making? Social media effects across the globe and Mini-publics and public opinion

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

Read stories about past recipients of the Distinguished Research Award:

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter