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2018 Women and Graduate Student of the Year

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2018 Academic Women’s Association Awards – University of Alberta

 (Edmonton, 25 June 2018) The Academic Women’s Association–University of Alberta is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s AWA awards. The two recipients of the Academic Woman of the Year Award are Dr. Janice Williamson (Arts) for her lifetime achievements and Dr. Sara Dorow, Dr. Lois Harder, Dr. Nat Hurley, and Dr. Susanne Luhmann (Arts) for their collaborative initiative, Research at the Intersections of Gender. The winner of the Bente Roed Graduate Student Award is Ms. Brittany Johnson (Arts). The 2018 winners will receive their awards at the AWA’s reception and awards ceremony in the fall.

“This year’s AWA award winners share a fierce commitment to a creative approach to scholar-activism that is intersectional and interdisciplinary, reaching across barriers and silos—be they within our own institution or erected between communities—to draw connections between people in their fight for social justice.”

First awarded in 1992, the AWA’s Woman of the Year Award is given to an academic woman or female-identified person in recognition of her contributions to the advancement of women and equity-seeking minority groups in the University of Alberta community, either over the course of her career or through current achievements in scholarship, teaching, and/or activism. Since 1999, the AWA’s Bente Roed Graduate Student Award, valued at $500, is given to a University of Alberta student in recognition of academic achievement and for community engagement that advances the status of women and equity-seeking minority groups.

The Academic Women’s Association is the major voice for the advancement of women and female-identified persons at the University of Alberta. It provides opportunities for networking and mentoring and recognizes and celebrates the achievements of academic women and female-identified persons.

This year’s awards committee was chaired by Dr. Carrie Smith (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies) and included Past President, Dr. Sheena Wilson (Campus St. Jean), Dr. Nat Hurley (Office of Interdisciplinary Studies/English & Film Studies), Dr. Naomi Krogman (Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences), Dr. Liza Piper (History and Classics), and Dr. Dilini Vethanayagam (Medicine and Dentistry).

Academic Woman of the Year Award—Janice Williamson


Dr. Williamson and her daughter Rae Xiao Bao Williamson

Dr. Williamson receives this award in recognition of her career-long contributions to the advancement of women and equity-seeking minority groups within the university and beyond. Long before the start of Dr. Williamson’s academic career in the Faculty of Arts in 1987, and throughout her 31-year academic career, social justice was her vocation. A teacher, writer, scholar, public intellectual, and community organizer, she is recognized for a lifetime of activism and commitment dedicated to improving the lives of others and fighting injustice on many fronts. Schooled in Canadian and Women’s Studies, her academic work focuses on intersectional initiatives attending to race, gender, sexuality, disability, citizenship status, and family relationships. She has written and edited six books along with award-winning prose essays and poetry. Her joy and work as a devoted single mother emerge in writing about mothering and adoption.

Over her long career, she taught thousands of students in the Departments of English & Film Studies, Women’s Studies, and the Faculty of Extension Women’s Writing Week program. As well as working with other professors on institutional-level reform, she supported and advocated on behalf of undergraduate and graduate students, colleagues, and visiting scholars and writers. For the past three years, she served as Equity Chair of the 4000 member Association of Academic Staff of the UofA preparing for bargaining equity under the new Alberta Labour Code and working on strategies for salary equity, child care, Indigenous and other initiatives to create an inclusive university that values diverse ways of knowing and learning. In the Faculty of Arts, she participated in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission through curricular and policy changes.

Among other subjects, her work investigates violence perpetrated on women’s, children’s, and men’s bodies. As one reviewer writes: “Dr. Williamson is unique in how she balances her attention among structural critique, policy development, and sharing personal narratives of lives lived inside [systems of structural violence]. Few academics can tell the stories at these multiple registers…. She is not only helping build a better institutional response at the University of Alberta and across Canada, but she simultaneously adds nuance to the cultural landscape in which these stories emerge.” And, as her nominator, reinforces: “Janice Williamson is not only our Woman of the Year; she is our ‘woman of a lifetime.'” It is in this spirit that the AWA awards her this honour. Read more about Janice Williamson here.

Academic Woman of the Year Award—Research at the Intersections of Gender (Sara Dorow, Lois Harder, Nat Hurley, and Susanne Luhmann)

The collaborative team behind the initiative Research at the Intersections of Gender (RiG)—Dr. Sara Dorow, Dr. Lois Harder, Dr. Nat Hurley, and Dr. Susanne Luhmann—has been named 2018 AWA Woman of the Year together with Dr. Janice Williamson. Find out more about RIG here.

Spearheaded by this team of outstanding feminist scholars, RiG has been named one of three University of Alberta Signature Areas. RiG is multicampus collaboration at its very best, bringing together the expertise of numerous researchers on campus. Through their visionary leadership, dedicated organization, and courageous collaboration, Drs. Dorow, Harder, Hurley, and Luhmann have developed a Signature Area that showcases the UofA as the premier institution in Canada for gender-based intersectional research. In the words of their nominator, RiG is a “game changer for researchers, graduate students, undergrads and administrators across all 18 Faculties, and it responds to EDI commitments at every level of government.” These four scholars have led institutional change that positions the university as a global leader in feminist, gender, and intersectional research.


Left to right: Dr. Nat Hurley, Dr. Susanne Luhman, Dr. Sara Dorow, and Dr. Lois Harder

Dr. Sara Dorow is currently Chair of the Department of Sociology and Alberta Team Lead for the SSHRC-funded On the Move partnership, a major project taking an intersectional approach to studying mobile work in the Alberta oil context. Her research and teaching are in the areas of gender and family; migration and mobility; transnationalism and racialization; and qualitative methods. She is the author of the book Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship (NYU Press, 2006).

Dr. Lois Harder is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and incoming Principal of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. Her research engages issues of citizenship determination, birth and family status. She is a former Associate Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Arts and is a strong proponent of interdisciplinary research and collaboration. Recent publications include “Does Sperm Have a Flag? On Biological Relationship and National Membership” (Canadian Journal of Law and Society) and Patriation and Its Consequences: Constitution-Making in Canada (co-edited with Steve Patten).

Dr. Natasha Hurley is currently the Senior Director of the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies. Her research and teaching take as their focus the fields of American Literature, Children’s Literature, Queer Studies, and Critical Theory. She is the author of Circulating Queerness: Before the Gay and Lesbian Novel (Minnesota 2018) and co-editor of Curiouser: On the Queerness of Children (Minnesota 2004).

Dr. Susanne Luhmann is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Her research agenda is broadly concerned with pedagogies or epistemologies of implication. Recent publications have grappled with ways to un-settle queer and feminist pedagogies. Current projects include a co-edited volume Feminist Praxis Revisited: Critical Reflections on University-Community Engagement (forthcoming from Wilfrid Laurier University Press); a co-edited collection (with Marie Lovrod) Prairie Sexualities: Theories, Archives, Affects, Communities, and a monograph in progress: Domesticating the Nazi Past: Gender and Generation in Recent German Cultural Memory.

AWA Bente Roed Graduate Student Award—Brittany Johnson

Ms. Brittany Johnson has been awarded the Bente Roed Graduate Student Award. Since 1999, the AWA’s Bente Roed Graduate Student Award, valued at $500, is given to a University of Alberta student in recognition of academic achievement and for community engagement that advances the status of women and equity-seeking minority groups.

Brittany Johnson_2018_AWA_Student_of_the_Year

Brittany Johnson

Ms. Johnson is a Métis Ph.D. Student in the Department of English and Film Studies in the Faculty of Arts. In addition to being a graduate student, she is a singer/songwriter, burlesque dancer, creative writer, wife, and mother of two. Her cutting-edge research and activism are both grounded in creative knowledge mobilization across different communities. As her nominator writes: “[Brittany] does what she does in order to create communities of support for Indigenous students—in particular, for women and non-binary folks—and she does so with tremendous good humour, charisma, and innovation.”

As a decolonial burlesque performance artist, creative writer, artist, and Métis scholar, she deploys interdisciplinary methods of research creation in her dissertation work to explore Métis identity and sexuality through Indigenous feminism. This interest comes through also in her activist and other creative works. As a trained Indigenous full-spectrum doula, she aims to encourage traditional teachings about bodies and sexualities. Further, her song “Making Bacon Naked” can be heard on CFWE and her poetry can be read at ayikisispoet.com. Other writings appear in the most recent edition Birth Issues magazine and the NDN Country edition of Prairie Fire magazine in Fall 2018.

For more information:

Professor Malinda S. Smith (Political Science)
President, Academic Women’s Association
Email: malinda.smith@ualberta.ca

Dr. Nancy Bray
AWA Communications Officer
Email: nbray@ualberta.ca

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