Co-chairs for the 2020-2021 season are Dr. Julie Young (Department of Geography & Environment) and Mia van Leeuwen (Fine Arts - Drama Department)

What is the Women Scholars' Speaker Series?
The 2020/21 Women Scholars' Speaker Series, first launched in Fall 2002 by Dr. Shelly Wismath, is a series of online panels and presentations that engage with the latest research around pressing and multifaceted topics. Our goal is to continue to highlight local, national and international cutting-edge scholarship by researchers who identify as women and provide a venue for under-represented voices in academic research. This year, the series included panels on gendered experiences of discrimination and microaggression in the recording studio and a panel on equity, diversity, inclusion and tracing work in the academy, organized with the Support Network for Academics of Colour Plus (SNAC+). Our most recent panel centred on reflections on migrant activism and community-based research in a global pandemic. Our final event highlights the artist as researcher and contributor to the development of knowledge and innovation through artistic expression, scholarly investigation and experimentation.

Why was it developed?
The Women Scholars’ Speaker Series (WSSS) was launched in Fall 2002 by Dr. Shelly Wismath, dean of the School of Liberal Education and professor of mathematics, who recounts the early history of the initiative here:

"In May 2002, a University Town Hall with the president and provost included some discussion on diversity and inclusion. In the ensuing Q&A, there were once again questions about how to balance diversity with excellence, implying that members of under-represented groups were not as well qualified or as excellent. A few years before this, there had been a round of hiring of women faculty in the Faculty of Arts and Science, but by 2002 most of them had left the U of L. One issue for many of them was being the lone woman in a sometimes not very welcoming department.

Right after the Town Hall, I had a long discussion with Provost Seamus O'Shea about these issues, and suggested some ways to improve life for women on campus. One suggestion was a speaker series that would feature the work of women scholars, especially recent hires, to allow them to get their research out into the campus community and to make connections with women in other departments and faculties than their own. Dr. O'Shea followed up on this with significant funding, and thus was born the Women Scholars' Speaker Series. Nearly 20 years later it is still flourishing as a showcase for talented women researchers on campus."

What made you both decide to sign up as co-chairs?
We are both recent University of Lethbridge hires and welcomed the opportunity to engage with our colleagues and to connect with a wider network of researchers through the series. We were excited to develop panels related to our respective research interests in fine arts and geography, as well as to bring in perspectives on research that tend to be under-represented in such venues.

When we signed up in February 2020, little did we know how differently this year’s series would unfold, given the pandemic. Our foray into digital event planning was initially by the seat of our pants, but — with support and guidance from Advancement Services, the Faculty of Arts and Science’s communications, and IT — we slowly got the hang of things. One silver lining of these unusual circumstances was that it allowed us to pull together panels with far-flung colleagues across multiple time zones, which would not have been possible to support had we been able to be in person. For example, our last event on February 17 included panelists in Vancouver, Lethbridge, Toronto, and Athens, Greece. Coming up, we’re connecting our audience here with artist-researchers based in Quebec and Washington state.

How do you decide on speakers for the series?
Coming into this year, a priority we shared as co-chairs was to ensure events represented a diversity of voices, which to us included highlighting activist and arts-based approaches to research that disrupt established ways of doing work in the university context.

The first event of this year’s series reported findings from an international online survey of recording engineers, producers, and studio assistants and their experiences of discrimination and microaggressions within the recording studio. Panelists Dr. Amandine Pras (Faculty of Fine Arts), Dr. Athena Elafros (assistant professor in sociology), Grace Brooks (live sound engineer, experimental musician, and PhD student from McGill University), and Monica Lockett (journalist and undergraduate student in sociology) discussed how their quantitative and qualitative findings highlight significant and systemic gender inequalities within the recording field.

Our most recent event highlighted three scholars whose research bridges academia, advocacy, and community-based work in the area of migrant justice. Panelists Evelyn Encalada Grez (Simon Fraser University), Petra Molnar (York University), and Ethel Tungohan (York University) addressed questions such as: What does it mean to do community-based work in the midst of a pandemic? How do we give space in our pedagogy for our community work and what our communities are going through?

A nice feature of how the WSSS is structured means that it has been able to support initiatives of various groups on campus over the years through co-sponsorship; we have participated in two such opportunities this year. In the Fall semester, we supported an event by SNAC+ that was funded by The Alberta Human Rights Commission Education and Multiculturalism Fund. The event featured a presentation by Dr. Nisha Nath (Athabasca University) and was moderated by Dr. Caroline Hodes (Women and Gender Studies) followed by a roundtable discussion with SNAC+ members: Drs. Gülden Ozcan (Department of Sociology), Gideon Fujiwara (Department of History), Glenda Bonifacio, (Department of Women & Gender Studies) and Saurya Das, Department of Physics).

You can watch Dr. Nisha Nath’s presentation on 'The Letters' EDI and Tracing Work in the Academe on YouTube.

In the Spring semester we co-sponsored, along with Asian Studies and the Centre for Oral History and Tradition, a presentation by Dr. Mai Ishihara entitled, 沈黙silence/痛みpain/言葉speech: the invisible and subalternized ‘self’ towards decolonization/hope.

Our final virtual event of the season takes place on March 22 and highlights the artist as researcher. The WSSS invites Dr. Monique Giroux (Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Music, Culture, and Politics), Jaimee Jarvie (U of L master of music student), Eve Chartrand (visual artist and current PhD candidate at Transart Institute), and Marie-Jeanne Musiol (photographer and experimental video maker) to share their varying perspectives on arts-based approaches to research and how their work is being shaped by the current pandemic.

For more information visit: Women Scholars' Speaker Series

Zoom Link: (no registration required)