Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Editor's Message

Being Strong and Taking Risks

Tracey Skehan
Published July 12, 2013
Tracey Skehan

It's not always easy to stand up for what you believe in, or to make choices that stray from the conventional path.

Yet this isn't stopping Lakehead alumni and faculty from doing just that. In this issue of the magazine, we meet Lakehead grad Breanna Lawlor-MacDonald who decided to go back to school to pursue an education degree while her daughter was still a toddler. After setting in motion this major life upheaval, she found that classroom teaching wasn't for her. But she didn't let this newfound insight discourage her, instead, she searched for alternatives and now has a job she loves as a museum art educator.

Taking these kinds of risks is something Media Studies Professor Sandra Jeppesen is familiar with too. She made a dramatic change when she walked away from an established career as a biomedical engineer to study creative writing and become a social activist. Jeppesen (featured in this issue's Faculty Profile), is the coordinator of Lakehead Orillia's Media Studies program, which gives students media production skills and the tools to advocate for positive social change.

The social sciences and humanities have always been essential to understanding our world and making it a more compassionate and democratic place. Faculty members like Sandra Jeppesen are in the thick of this vital work as researchers as well as teachers.

Research endeavours in areas like anthropology, political literacy, kinesiology, history, and palliative care are making people sit up and take notice. Lakehead was ranked first in the value of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grants awarded among Ontario's primarily undergraduate universities by Maclean's Magazine in 2011 and we continue to make inroads.

In 2012, Lakehead received $23.8 million in research dollars and was ranked #1 in Canada for publishing in the area of Aboriginal Studies. "Our researchers and students are highly committed to creating new knowledge and products that benefit communities, business, and society," says Rui Wang, Lakehead's vice-president of research, economic development, and innovation.

One of these researchers is Psychology Professor Ed Rawana, who recently secured Lakehead's first SSHRC Partnership Development Grant for nearly $200,000. He is winning acclaim for working with school boards to empower students to improve their academic performance, overcome hardships, and reduce bullying.

Professor Rawana, along with Professor Keith Brownlee, have developed a Strengths Assessment Inventory (SAI) so that teachers, parents, and counselors can identify children's personal strengths and build their self-esteem. Rawana's new SSHRC grant will allow his research team to explore how cultural diversity shapes the integration of strengths-based programs in schools.

This positive approach is transforming the classroom and the schoolyard. Focusing on the unique qualities of individuals makes society as a whole stronger. And it gives our youngest citizens the courage to stand up for what is right, even when it's hard.

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