Announcing the Final Five Winners of the 2020 SSHRC Storytellers Competition

June 1, 2021
Megan Perram (she/her), PhD Candidate in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta 

Congress 2021 blog edition 

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) announced their Final Five winners of the 2020 Storytellers competition, selected from the 25 finalists who moved forward in this latest edition. This panel included lively presentations of the stories of research from the five winners. Congratulations to Noah Schwartz from Carleton University, Leïla Mostefa-Kara from The Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Oriane Morriet from Université de Montréal, Joanie Caron from The Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, and Sydney Seidel from the University of Calgary. Additionally, a special congratulations to the winner of the 2020 Storytellers Engagement Prize: Lee Beavington from Simon Fraser University. 

As Ted Hewitt, SSHRC President, took the virtual stage to acknowledge the competition winners, he detailed the methods of adaptability the Storytellers competition was forced to engage with due to pandemic restrictions. Where the competition typically saw contestants present their research live to a panel of judges, this year submissions were recorded virtually. Even with the constraints of technology, Hewitt notes: “These 25 finalists intrigued us, they engaged us, they entertained us, and they moved us. Their investment of creative energy has brought ideas to life in new and inspiring ways.” 

Each winner took several minutes to engage the audience in the story of their research, and these stories were incredibly diverse. Schwartz’s research details how he spent the summer of 2019 with the National Rifle Association of America, researching how the organization tells stories in order to build a political community of gun owners. Mostefa-Kara, in contrast, uses small props of diverse-sized women’s bodies to take on the issue of body-image.  

The panel’s universal theme of diverse research continued with research stories on storytelling through virtual reality, the rights of Indigenous workers, and policy work related to vaping. Morriet discussed her work in relation to virtual reality and narrativity, noting that this emerging technology is particularly suited to invoke empathy for characters. Caron detailed to the audience her important research exploring success factors related to the recruitment, integration and retention of Indigenous workers in the mining sector. The panel closed with the work of Seidel, who began with a series of alarming statistics related to health decline and vaping use. Seidel asks: “what's the truth about vaping? And why is it harming young people?” The young scholar shows her research into policy aspects will help answer this question. 

Notably, SSHRC excelled in recognizing a diverse, bilingual group of Storytellers, three of which delivered their research in French.