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Grenfell prof joins rural research study

{Dr. Ivan Emke}
Dr. Ivan Emke, professor of Grenfell’s social/cultural studies program, recently met with Heather Legge, a psychology student in her final year, to review research she collected last summer for the New Rural Economy project. The second phase of the project was just awarded $3 million from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Dr. Ivan Emke is one of 15 university researchers who are joining with rural people and policy makers to build capacity in rural Canada. The social/cultural studies professor at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College has been involved in an interdisciplinary research team focusing on changes in the new rural economy for the last five years. Now, with another $3-million infusion from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the project will enter into its second phase – another three-and-a-half years of research on rural Canada, titled Building Rural Capacity in the New Economy.

The research and education project will pursue four themes relevant to rural society: communications, environment, services, and governance. Dr. Emke is primarily involved in the communications and environment themes.

With respect to the communications theme, for instance, Dr. Emke and his team will look at the role and use of media such as community newspapers, radio and cable television. Another communications initiative will examine the use of the Internet and email in rural households. Among other activities, the environmental theme will examine the differences between the environmental values of urban and rural residents across the nation.

Dr. Emke is also working on the development of a new sub-theme – rural youth.

"The proposal would involve approaching schools to be involved in a project on youth experiences and perceptions, with special attention to migration decisions," he explained.

For the past five years, NRE (New Rural Economy) researchers have collected and analyzed information on the economic, social, political, and cultural changes experienced by people living in 32 rural and remote locations across the country. Two of the sites are in Newfoundland – Winterton and Twillingate. Dr. Emke has been working with the people who live in these sites to help them understand the ramifications of living in rural Newfoundland in the face of the major economic, social and cultural shifts of the 21st century.

"Not only are we gaining valuable data and statistics as researchers, but we’re also helping these people empower themselves – we’re giving them information that will help them understand their place in the new economy," said Dr. Emke. "In turn, they can use this information to set and achieve goals that will solidify their position in the future."

Closer to home, some of the direct funding that Dr. Emke has received has gone into the pockets of students like Heather Legge, who worked last summer through a university-government grant program.

"My participation in this project has been extremely beneficial from a research point of view – I got to learn and do a lot of things I’ve never done before," said the psychology student, adding that she conducted subject interviews, wrote press releases and learned more about certain computer programs in the process. "This experience will definitely help me in the future."

The new NRE project will include an education component that will teach rural citizens to conduct research, interpret the results and take appropriate action. Policy makers will benefit from scientifically collected and analyzed data to inform and direct their decisions.

"We are very excited to have one of our professors involved in a research project of this magnitude," said Adrian Fowler, principal of Grenfell College. "We’re happy to be associated with a project that will not only raise the research profile of Grenfell College, but also promises to be of significant help to a large percentage of the Newfoundland population – the residents of our rural communities."

Building Rural Capacity in the New Economy is a collaborative effort of over 50 partners, including 32 rural communities, 19 universities and their associated research centres, three government departments, and two non-government organizations. See www.crrf.ca or nre.concordia.ca for more information on the project and a complete list of partners.

{Memorial University of Newfoundland}