MacEwan Author Celebration showcases work of 33 members of the university community
Scholarly articles, textbooks, recordings and even a children’s book were among the academic and creative endeavours showcased at MacEwan University’s annual Author Celebration on March 16. This year’s event included work from more than 30 staff and faculty members.
Dr. Judee Onyskiw, assistant professor in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, has been studying how domestic violence affects children for almost 20 years. Her work has been published in academic journals, but she wanted to find a way to reach children directly.
“I reviewed books written for children about domestic violence, and found they all seemed to end with mother and child hand-in-hand going off to a shelter,” says Judee.
But that’s not the end of the story. Women leave and return an average of seven times (whether to find important papers, put money aside or put a plan in place) before they leave for good, says Judee. Each time they go back, they – and their children – are at risk.
Providing information that can help children mitigate some of that risk was the motivation behind Tommy's House Has a Secret - A Story for Children About Domestic Violence, a book Judee co-authored and self-published in 2017.
“The book is about letting children in these situations know that they are not alone, helping them understand that they need to tell somebody, and giving them strategies they can use to stay safe,” says Judee.
The book is available in shelters and transition houses in Edmonton, but Judee would ultimately love to see it in the hands of every Grade 1 teacher in the province.
Music in the moment
Rubim de Toledo, section head of the bass department in MacEwan’s Department of Music, released his latest album, The Gap, last October. The album is modern, acoustic jazz played by a trio, with Rubim’s bass joined by piano and drums.
Rubim’s previous albums included larger ensembles, where he found his bass was sometimes overshadowed. “In a trio setting, there’s more room for each instrument to have a voice – the bass can really be prominent.”
With Brazilian parents, much of Rubim’s work is linked to a Latin tradition. However, The Gap is also inspired by his recently-completed master’s thesis, which explores African rhythmic influence on popular music.
Rubim says sharing his work at the Author Celebration allowed him to speak not only about the process of composing, recording and self-releasing an album, but also the unique nature of jazz music.
“I’m attracted to jazz because of the interaction, the expression and the improvisation,” he says. “You never know what’s going to happen and you can’t prepare for it. It’s not like other types of art, or even other types of music, where you can sit there and manipulate and rethink. With jazz, the art is the moment.”
The truth about cheating
Dr. Rohit Jindal, an associate professor in the School of Business Department of Decision Sciences, spent a summer asking one question – will people cheat if given the chance?
Rohit had noticed a trend in research where all findings seemed to be backing a single theory – that if people are not supervised, they will definitely cheat. Rohit wasn’t sure this was right, as he noticed much of the research was conducted in a simulated, academic setting. “Rather than finding data that fit this model, I decided to test if the theory was correct in a realistic environment,” he says.
Rohit travelled through rural villages in Vietnam, where he asked community members to fill out a survey, offering a half-day’s wages as compensation for their time. After people completed the survey, they were told to travel to another location to pick up their payment – where they found a pile of unguarded cash. They could take the amount they were promised, or stuff their pockets and walk away. And yet, in village after village, no one cheated.
“Our main finding is that we cannot assume people will cheat,” says Rohit. “The study discovered that when people feel they are part of a community with strong norms of trust and honesty, people will not even think about cheating – they’ll just do the right thing.”
Rohit’s research creates a potential roadmap for businesses to save time and resources. “If an organization is building a culture of trust and honesty, they don't need to monitor people all the time.”
The vicious cycle of borrowing to buy food
Dr. Ashraf Ali grew up in Bangladesh right next door to a non-governmental organization (NGO) that offered microcredit, so the anthropology faculty member saw firsthand the impact of the small loans with low interest – both good and bad.
His research, including three studies published in 2017, explores the ties between microcredit, indigeneity and the struggle for food sovereignty in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh that borders India and Myanmar. He found that while loans can help middle- and high-income groups, they can be devastating for people struggling to survive.
“Rather than helping, microcredit puts these people in debt cycles that are almost impossible to escape,” he says.
Chronic household poverty is common in that part of Bangladesh, so loans from NGOs are often used to buy food rather than investing in a small business or livestock. It’s the beginning of a vicious cycle, explains Ashraf. When the loan comes due and there is no profit to repay it, people find themselves going to another NGO and taking a new loan to repay the first.
“The issues become more severe over time, with people reducing the number of times a day they eat to try to repay the loans,” says Ashraf.
He hopes his research helps show the full picture of microcredit, including its limitations. While he intends to publish more on the subject, Ashraf is shifting his research focus closer to his new home in Canada, looking at how climate change affects food security for Indigenous people living in the country's north.
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