Time to claim bragging rights.
May 14th, 2010


Time to claim bragging rights. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) just announced the winners of the 2010 doctoral competition and Memorial did well, really well. Almost our entire list of recommendations for awards was recommended for funding. This is a new record for us, and a sign of the success of our collective efforts to attract the best students in the world to Memorial. Normally, I am skeptical about awards and about claims to their inflated significance, but in the world of social sciences and humanities scholarship SSHRC sets the gold standard. The competitions are assessed by dedicated volunteer committees of faculty from across the country who annually give their time and expertise to the adjudication process, offering impartial assessments of each application. It doesn’t get any more objective or fair a competition than that.

Yet, without a sizable increase in its budget (indeed, some can well argue that SSHRC’s budget has actually been shrunk in the last few years), SSHRC has been experiencing inordinate pressure. The number of applications to its awards programs has increased sizably in keeping with the steady increase in graduate cohorts across the country. More and more students are therefore applying, while SSHRC has not had a budget increase commensurate with that growth. This is why the achievement of such a high percentage of award winners at our institution is such a big deal, and why I can’t help myself from crowing about it.

Moreover, half of those fortunate recipients will be earning the coveted Canada Graduate Scholarships, at $35,000.00 a year for up to 3 years. For many of these students, that’s a lot of zeroes, or a handsome $105,000.00 guarantee over the life expectancy of their programs. For those earning what are called SSHRC Doctoral Awards, it’s a sizable $20,000 annually for each of the eligible years they have remaining in their programs. The awards from SSHRC also free up departments and programs that would otherwise be supporting these students out of their own fellowship budgets. Now the departments have more money to play with, so to speak, while they can also claim pride of place for the students whom they have admitted and coached to success. It’s win win win all around, as Yoga Berra might say.

Now, in a not totally coincidental situation, we recently learned that Memorial University has won a record 12 awards in the Prix d’excellence 2010 of the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE). I am probably not even supposed to be mentioning any of this before the big announcement at the CCAE’s annual conference in Victoria BC in June, but I can’t help myself. The happy coincidence of these and the SSHRC doctoral awards is just too juicy to ignore. As with SSHRC, the CCAE awards are judged by peers who evaluate submissions from colleges and universities across the country. So it is that brag-blogging must happen, early and often.

The CCAE awards that most directly complement and compliment our beat are those in the Best Program or Department Website and Best Program – Recruitment categories. Our “Literally – Graduate Student Recruitment” campaign won the Gold and Silver medals, respectively. Is there any relation between the success of our SSHRC applications and the achievement of our CCAE awards? A rational, self confident person would say yes. Developing a client-friendly, readable, creative, edgy website has been our mission for the last 2 years, and we have dedicated considerable resources as a university, not just as a School of Graduate Studies, to the goal of looking and sounding good.

It’s probably no accident that we have attracted some of the best graduate students in the country to Memorial. Forgive me, but I really do feel as if we own the podium right now.


Dr. Faye Murrin is Dean pro tempore of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. She completed her B.Sc. (Hons.) at Memorial University, her M.Sc. at Acadia University, and her Ph.D. at Queen's University. Her research interests have always been focused on fungi, in particular the cell biology of insect pathogenic fungi and, more recently, the ecology of mycorrhizal mushrooms in the boreal forest. Dr. Murrin has served in a number of positions on the Council of the Mycological Society of America and was awarded the title of MSA Fellow for her contributions. She was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Membership Award as founding co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Summer Program. Dr. Murrin participates in public lectures and workshops, and is a Director on the board of Newfoundland Foray, Inc.

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