Alumnus Greg O’Leary has much to celebrate. The doctoral student at the University of Toronto was awarded a two-year postdoctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) valued at over $80,000.
Mr. O’Leary, who has a BA (honours) and B.Ed. from Memorial, will work with Dr. Ken Stevens in Memorial University’s Faculty of Education to research how students construct a social identity and a sense of place in their community, country, and the world, in part, through experiences with texts, pedagogical approaches, and educational discourses in school environments.
“The English curriculum, because it also provides the literacy for the study of other subjects, is central to this kind of research,” explained Mr. O’Leary. “It becomes a formal expression of what we value as a society and one of the ways of encapsulating cultural knowledge and experiences for students.
“English as a subject was, in a sense, forced to develop in between British, American, and Canadian currents of influence in Newfoundland, and I believe that massive changes to the subject in recent years can be better understood when situated within this larger historical context,” he said. “It is important to understand how the subject changed in pre-, post-, and present-day Confederation Newfoundland, and how this sense of being in between might have influenced the students of these eras.
“Such research illuminates deep currents elsewhere in the field by raising new questions about student learning, teaching practices, and curriculum development in neocolonial educational contexts.”
This is Mr. O’Leary’s third national award. To date, he has received SSHRC’s top funding in each of their three scholarship and fellowship competitions, awards totalling over $200,000. His recent postdoctoral fellowship received one of the highest scores in this year’s national multidisciplinary competition.
As a result, he is currently one of the few students in the country to be nominated for SSHRC’s Postdoctoral Prize, which will be awarded later this year to the most outstanding postdoctoral fellowship recipient across the disciplines.
“Greg’s research offers a current, original, theoretically informed means of casting new light on the impact of postcolonial schooling and cultural practices, which has implications for a wide international audience,” said Dr. Stevens. “I am not surprised that his work has been ranked so high nationally again. He has consistently been one of the top students in the country. I anticipate that we will push the boundaries of one another’s research.”