Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Fascinating summer of research ahead for StFX students, recipients of the RBC Foundation Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Award

May 25th, 2018
L-r, Hannah Moore, Monica Ragan, Kelsey Ellis and Alyssa Mansfield. Missing are Amy Rowe, Alejandra Torres, and Jake Yeandle.

This summer, StFX undergraduate student Hannah Moore will work to understand why and how women end up incarcerated. Fellow student Alejandra Torres will study the social, political, and racial logic of representations of racial minorities in contemporary scripted narrative television. And Jake Yeandle will complete a three-and-a-half month internship in Manly, Australia researching the issues, policies, and actions needed to implement a marine park in Sydney.

They are just three of the fascinating research projects seven StFX undergraduate students will undertake this summer as 2018 recipients of the RBC Foundation Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Award program. The awards are worth up to $6,250 for a minimum of 12 weeks and a maximum of 16 weeks of paid research. 

Fellow recipients Amy Rowe will study the impact of language on GDP; Monica Ragan will spend the summer looking at the Margaree River and the impacts associated with the title of Canadian Heritage Rivers System; Kelsey Ellis will evaluate the feasibility and potential health benefits of a community-based physical activity program for children with autism spectrum disorder; and Alyssa Mansfield will conduct research on non-citizen voting rights, laws and restrictions focusing on Canada. 

The research is made possible through the RBC Foundation Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Award program, which gives StFX students the opportunity to be involved in the creation of new knowledge and the creative use of existing knowledge through original research carried out under the supervision of a faculty supervisor/mentor.  

Funding to support student researchers in summer research internships through the Mulroney Institute of Government comes from the RBC Foundation.


“It is genuinely such an honour and a privilege to have been awarded the RBC Foundation Research Award. I am extremely grateful and eager to research because this is such a promising opportunity for myself, but also others such as the Elizabeth Fry Society and women whom they work with,” says Ms. Moore of Fredericton, NB, a third year honours student doing a degree in women’s and gender studies with a subsidiary in political science. 

She will research the “root causes of women’s criminality in Canada” and be supervised by StFX women and gender studies professor Dr. Rachel Hurst and Emma Halpern, director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia.

“Both of these women will provide me with excellent supervision, guidance and mentorship. My research question; “Why and how do women end up incarcerated?” was at the request of the Elizabeth Fry Society,” she says. “They identified this area as one that was lacking in research.”

Through her research, she will provide them with answers in the form of a literature review. She will identify and include all literature produced in a Canadian context on why and how women become incarcerated. 

Upon completion of her research there will be a report distributed to Canadian organizations, and she says this research will ideally aide in bettering the lives of criminalized women in Canada, and minimizing this number. “The RBC Grant allows me to research something that I am extremely passionate about; women and the criminal justice system, while simultaneously preparing for my thesis. The research that I will be producing is extremely fulfilling because it will be acted upon, and aid the Elizabeth Fry Society in their future endeavours relating to funding and justice reform. 


Ms. Torres, a fourth year honours English student from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, supervised by Dr.Mathias Nilges, will study in detail the social, political, and racial logic of representations of racial minorities in contemporary scripted narrative television. 

“While mainstream commentary and academic dialogue have long embraced the logic of diversity in order to combat old notions of racial distinction and exclusion, I wish to show that TV content is severely lagging behind this movement,” she says. 

“With the help of the research funding and the mentoring project, I will be able to dedicate the summer of 2018 to a detailed analysis of this phenomenon, and I hope to show that TV’s refusal to embrace multiculturalism’s beliefs must be confronted. We cannot simply keep changing channels.

“I am extremely grateful to have an opportunity to work on a project that is very close to my heart. My aim in this project, which in part arises from my own experience of these issues as a Latina woman, is to facilitate a better understanding of the ways in which mass culture may participate in both negative and positive ways in shaping the imagination of race and identity that translates into the very real social and political fabric of daily North American life.”

Fourth year economics student Amy Rowe of Aurora, ON, supervised by Dr. Zeynep Ozkok, will study the impact of language on GDP. 

“Using econometric techniques I will determine if countries with official languages that are linguistically similar to English have higher levels of GDP per capita. This can be explained by the fact that English is regarded as the lingua Franca, or language of business. So multinational corporations are now mandating English. Moreover, an increasing amount of academic resources masters programs worldwide are now being instructed in English,” she says. 

“I’m incredibly grateful to have this opportunity funded by RBC. To be able to apply the skills and knowledge that you’ve learned in the classroom to a research topic that you’ve chosen in is an awesome experience. It gives students a chance research experience, which is a crucial skill for many masters programs.”

For Monica Ragan, a fifth year anthropology and aquatic resources student supervised by Dr. L. Jane McMillan, the summer will be spent looking at the Margaree River and the impacts associated with the title of Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) may have on conservation, rights, and recreation. 


The research consists of gathering and comparing the perspectives different communities of river users on the impact CHRS designation has had on the Margaree River. This research examines the evolution of salmon use and actors associated with the Margaree River from three time periods. First, Mi’kmaq use of the river and salmon from time immemorial to 1986. Second, from 1986-1998, when the proposal and designation of the Margaree River as a CHRS site. Third, is from 1999-present to analyze the impact this designation has had on the various actors. From the past and present data gathered, she will make projections to the future relationship between the actors and the river. 

“The focus of this study is to understand how the watershed is regulated, to gather stories from those who access the resources and detail how the activities and resources are managed. It asks how and why the regulations have changed over time and seeks to discover if the regulations reflect the interests the various communities using the river, or if the interests of one community dominate how the resource is managed,” she says.

“This research opportunity means a lot to me. I am applying all the skills I have learned thus far in my educational career to make my own, unique project, and to work with and learn from my community. I would not be able to conduct this research or even quality of research without the RBC Foundation Research Award.”


Jake Yeandle of Oshawa, ON, a fourth year aquatic resources and public policy and social research student supervised by Dr. Doug Brown, says he is fortunate to have the opportunity to begin his research with a three-and-a-half month internship in Manly, Australia working for the Manly Environmental Centre and Northern Beaches Council. 

“There I will be researching the issues, policies, and actions needed to implement a marine park in Sydney, which would include the Northern Beaches coastline from Cabbage Tree Bay, Manly north to Barrenjoey and including the existing aquatic reserve in Sydney Harbour. This exciting opportunity falls directly in line with my degree pattern, incorporating public policy, social research, and aquatic resources. 

“Not only does it fit with my degree, but it also aligns with the priorities of the RBC Foundation and Mulroney Institute of Government by making use of global affairs, environmental policy, Indigenous affairs, and social policy and governance,” he says.

His independent majors research project will merge his focus of Australia’s marine park to compare the process for establishing these aquatic reserves in Canada and Australia. Reviewing relevant jurisdictions and legislation from both firsthand research in Australia, as well as, a selection of particular case studies from Canada will allow for parallels to be drawn between the two processes to highlight differences, strengths, and shortcomings of each separate country. 

His intent is to conduct research into each separate policy network to see what influence different actors have in separate contexts. 


“Environmental sustainability has been at the forefront of my educational interests for as long as I can remember and this opportunity, with the help of the Mulroney Institute of Government and the RBC foundation, could be one of the pivotal moments of my career, hopefully shaping my view of the world and providing me with numerous opportunities to learn and grow as a student and adult. I find myself very lucky to be able to have the opportunity to work alongside the Northern Beaches Council, Doug Brown, the Mulroney Institute of Government, and the RBC Foundation, to research this policy field and the comparisons between my home country and such a marine-rich place like Australia. Examining this project and the regulations of these processes, as well as their history, will enlighten me with knowledge that I will be able to transfer to the St. Francis Xavier community through Student Research Day, my major’s presentation, and conversation with the amazing community that St. Francis Xavier University has to offer. I am very excited to share this project with everyone.”

Fourth year human kinetics student Kelsey Ellis of Ottawa, ON, supervised by Dr. Amanda Casey, will be evaluating the feasibility and potential health benefits of a community-based physical activity program for children with autism spectrum disorder. 

“There is a high incidence of unintentional drowning especially in children under 14. However, there remains a lack of sustainable swim programs for children with autism despite evidence that aquatics skills are very important. Therefore a long-term goal of this research is to encourage accessibility, sustainability and repeatability of the current program across Nova Scotia,” she says. 


“I am very grateful to be among the recipients of the RBC Foundation Research Award. Through this award, StFX has provided me with the opportunity to pursue my academic interests by allowing me to devote my time and energy to my research. This award allows me to put into practice the knowledge that I have gained over the past three years while developing my research skills and gaining hands-on experience with vulnerable populations.”

Second year political science student Alyssa Mansfield of Antigonish, supervised by Dr. Nathan Allen, will conduct research on non-citizen voting rights, laws and restrictions focusing on Canada. 

“I will be focusing on how international norms surrounding overseas voting are translated and understood in the Canadian context and how this is applied to policy making. 

“This is an amazing opportunity that will allow me to expand my skills and add to my education. The grant allows me to expand my learning beyond the classroom and will expose me to learn how to understand law and policy that will help me in the future. I plan to peruse a career in law and this will allow me to gain background and skills that will help in the future.” 

This research is, in part, made possible by the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.


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