Anthropology PhD Candidate receives a 2022 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Funding will support Rebecca Bourgeois’ fieldwork and research in partnership with the Tłı̨chǫ Government.

Faculty of Arts - 05 December 2022

Each year, doctoral students from across Canada apply to the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Vanier CGS) competition, a prestigious national awards program that provides significant funding for doctoral research based on three areas of criteria: academic excellence, research potential and leadership (potential and demonstrated ability). 

The Faculty of Arts is pleased to announce that Anthropology PhD Candidate Rebecca Bourgeois — whose work supports a community archival research project in partnership with Northwest Territories’ Tłı̨chǫ Government — is a 2021-2022 Vanier CGS recipient. We reached out to Bourgeois to learn about her research, what keeps her inspired and her reaction when she learned she is a recipient. 


This scholarship is quite an honour! What was your reaction when you learned you are a recipient?

Finding out about the results of the Vanier competition came as a complete shock. Although I was proud of the application I put forward, I was just grateful to have been nominated by the U of A and knew that every applicant was just as deserving as I. In this mindset, I had no expectations, and so when I opened the result documents it took a second to process what I was reading. 

That afternoon I was able to call my family and celebrate with friends, all of whom had been supporting me throughout the whole process. I still remember all of their reactions, especially my supervisor Andie Palmer spitting out her tea over Zoom when I broke the good news. 

What parts of your research will this scholarship fund? 

I am currently in Yellowknife, working with the Tłı̨chǫ Government on the creation of their community archive. The Vanier scholarship will support me through my fieldwork and through the completion of my doctoral degree, allowing me to focus fully on my research and the relationship I am building with the communities I work with. I am very lucky and appreciative to have this support, as well as those of other funders, which have given me the opportunity to be the best partner I can be to these communities.

What was the application process for this scholarship like for you? Do you have any advice for those who might go through it in the future?

For me, the application process was very much a journey of discovery in my own research. I explored applying for the Vanier competition fresh off of being rejected by SSHRC CGS-D for the second time, and I approached applying for the Vanier as a training exercise to better communicate and engage with my research for the next SSHRC competition. I spent those months learning from my research and community partners to process my place in this team and my positionality as a researcher. Focusing on those relationships has proven invaluable to my research experience thus far and has created a basis upon which we will continue to build. 

My advice for those applying in the future is to approach the application process as an opportunity for growth that will strengthen your connection with your research, whether your application is successful or not. 

Who or what keeps you the most inspired as you pursue your doctoral studies?

I never set out to pursue doctoral studies. My love for hockey led me to pursue my undergraduate degree, having had the opportunity to play varsity hockey at the University of Toronto. During my time there I began to participate in academic research. My background in sports gave me a love for teamwork, which has led me down the path of a doctoral degree in collaborative community-driven research. 

I am inspired by the people and communities I work with and am excited by the chance to get to work as a team toward common goals through meaningful research. To be invited in as a small part of the community’s vision and to be trusted with their stories is what drives me throughout every aspect of my studies.

Is there anything else about your research that you would like the university community to know? 

I would really like to emphasize the role of the communities that shape this work. As an invited researcher, my research is merely an amplification of community knowledge that contributes to their incredible vision and community-building goals. Similar work is being done across Canada, with many Indigenous communities engaging in research both within and outside of academia. Attention is often paid to the researchers involved in these efforts, but it is the communities who are the driving and guiding forces. 

Since coming north, I have learned from Tłı̨chǫ Elders and community members that research projects such as mine are more than academic discovery, but that they play a crucial role in the resurgence, resilience, and survival of their language, culture, and way of life.