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Doctoral student receives major award

A Memorial doctoral student is one of 15 across the country to receive a prestigious doctoral scholarship from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

Leila Qashu is an ethnomusicology student working with Dr. Bev Diamond in the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place. She is studying how Ethiopian women, while devoid of political power, successfully use musical rituals for conflict resolution.

Each of the 15 new Trudeau Scholars has been offered up to $180,000 to advance their research into critical issues such as labour, mental health, conflict resolution and the environment. The scholarships subsidize tuition fees and living expenses and allow the Trudeau Scholars to travel for research and scholarly networking and knowledge dissemination. The Trudeau Scholarships are among the most coveted awards of their kind in Canada.

Ms. Qashu said her aim is to work in both academia and the public sector, applying the findings of her interdisciplinary ethnomusicology research to promote women’s rights, human rights and restorative justice.

After completing her bachelor’s degree at Carleton College, Ms. Qashu taught and studied languages in France and Egypt before beginning to research Ethiopian music in 2003 as a master’s student at Paris 8 University in France.

In addition to her research activities, Ms. Qashu has been performing on the viola with many ensembles, including the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, and has been active in several non-profit organizations, such as the Multicultural Women’s Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Her doctoral research builds on her pre-doctoral work, based on many months of field research conducted among the Arsi Oromo ethnic group of Ethiopia.

After studying wedding rituals, and men’s warrior songs and cattle praising songs, she became interested in investigating the position and voice of women in Oromo society. Although Arsi Oromo women are excluded from many male spaces, activities and political decisions, they secure and assert their power by creating their own social spaces and by interacting with the male social order through such media as musical conflict resolution rituals.

By studying these musical rituals, Ms. Qashu said she hopes to understand what makes them effective mechanisms of restorative justice, with the aim of informing national and international policy decisions to strengthen women’s rights and human rights.

“Trudeau Scholarships not only accelerate the careers of those who receive them, but also enable recipients to make a significant contribution to Canada and to Canadians. We reward excellence and provide doctorate students with the best conditions to ground their work in the real world,” said foundation President P.G. Forest.

In addition to receiving financial support, Trudeau Scholars benefit from the expertise and knowledge of Trudeau Fellows and Mentors, highly accomplished individuals in the Trudeau Foundation community who are leaders in both academic and non-academic settings.

Interaction with non-academic milieus, including public policy networks and the public at large, is a key component of the Trudeau Scholarship program.

The Foundation’s Summer Institute, held May 17-21 this year in Saskatoon, will be the new Scholars’ first introduction to the Trudeau Community.