Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

From class essay to academic conference – Schwartz School student Ali Barnes presents work at the 48th Atlantic Schools of Business Conference

October 16th, 2018
Ali Barnes

What started as a class research paper for Schwartz School of Business marketing student Alexandra (Ali) Barnes has taken on a life of its own, evolving and growing so much that the 

fourth year student from Toronto, ON, had her paper accepted for presentation at an academic conference attended mainly by faculty and graduate students.  

Ms. Barnes presented her paper, “Restorying activism and precarious work through Denise Cole’s dedication to protecting Labrador lands and waters,” during the Atlantic Schools of Business annual academic conference held Sept. 28-30 in Moncton, NB—an achievement even more significant as it’s rare for undergraduate students to present at the conference. 

The paper is co-authored with Ms. Barnes’ Gender and Management class professor, Schwartz School faculty Shelley Price and their colleague Denise Cole. 

“In this paper, we restory “activism” and “precarious work” through Denise Cole’s dedication to protecting Labrador lands and waters at the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Development site,” the authors write in the paper’s abstract. “We were curious about activism as “community work” and how it challenges the boundary conditions of precarious work.” 

Ms. Barnes says the paper all started as an assignment in her Gender and Management class, in which she wanted to look at activism as a form of precarious work, particularly Indigenous women’s role in protection work

Since then, the paper has shifted and evolved, and changed to better understanding Indigenous storytelling methodology, which Ms. Barnes has learned is very central in many Indigenous cultures. 

After the completion of the course, the study expanded as a collaborative effort between the three authors. 

Ms. Barnes credits Prof. Price as an instrumental mentor. 

After reading the essay, she says Prof. Price approached her to let her know the work had much potential and provided a list of conferences to which she could apply to present the work if interested. She says she also supported her in the decision to take on the extra work of the paper, in which she worked hard to understand story as Indigenous methodology and Indigenous axiology in her decolonizing efforts.  

“It was a really cool experience,” Ms. Barnes says. “She really pushed me in ways to learn and grow and to explore new ways of writing and conducting collaborative research.”

Conducting research using a circular approach toward the co-creation of story is very different and challenging, she says, but a very good learning experience.

The work, Ms. Barnes says, continues to evolve even now. It’s going into a book chapter. The book is titled, Connecting Values to Action: Non-Corporeal Actants and Choice in Actor Network Theory (ANT), with editor, Dr, Chris Hartt. The title of the chapter is, A mighty river and its story-acts: An approach to capture a more holistic network of agencies, by authors, Shelley Price, Chris Hartt, Denise Cole and Alexandra Barnes. 

Ms. Barnes says her interest in Indigenous cultures and colonization—something she wasn’t exposed to her during her high school career—started at StFX when she took first year women’s and gender studies and sociology classes.

“I was floored by what I learned. I was shocked. And also fascinated,” she says. “Every opportunity I got to write papers or do projects, I took it as my responsibility to learn.”

Ms. Barnes says the opportunity to participate in the academic conference was a terrific learning experience. She particularly enjoyed meeting many like-minded people who are interested in research and learning about other research project ideas. 

Of the four months of extra research work she did on the paper after the course’s conclusion, she says: “I did it because I think it’s important for people to learn, and to be a part of the reconciliatory process.”


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