2022-2025 Cohort

2022-2025 Cohort of Kule Scholars

Politics, Pandemics, & Misinformation

Aligning with the Kule’s vision of creating a greater understanding of the most important issues of the day, we are excited to announce the members of the 2020-2023 cohort who have come together around the theme “Politics, Pandemcis, & Misinformation”.

Over the course of the next 3 years these scholars will weave an interdisciplinary and collaborative research community that explores such questions as:

  • How is SARS-CoV-2@ similar to / different from other mass contagion events?
  • What has been gained or lost during the pandemic, and by whom?
  • What communities and configurations are evoked, reorganized, or fractured by pandemics?
  • What kinds of truths are in play?
  • Who creates misinformation? How does it circulate?
  • What makes misinformation plausible?

You can stay up to date on the activities of the Kule Scholars Program by visiting the KIAS Website, Twitter, and Facebook Pages.

To learn more about our Kule Scholars please click on the links below.

Dr. Amy Kaler (Convener)

Dr. Amy KalerDr. Amy Kaler
Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Amy Kaler is a professor in the department of sociology. She is a former Killam Annual Professor and three-time recipient of the Faculty of Arts Research Excellence Award, as well as the 2019 recipient of the Cecile MacTaggart Travel Award for Narrative Writing. Her most recent book Until Further Notice: A Year in Pandemic Time, has just been released by the University of Alberta Press. She is also one of the founding team leads of Stories of Change, a Signature Area of Excellence in the Faculty of Arts. 

Dr. Jared Wesley

Dr. Jared WesleyDr. Jared Wesley
Faculty of Arts, Department of Political Science

Dr. Jared Wesley is a Professor of Political Science and a member of the Black Faculty Collective at the University of Alberta.   His research focuses on the nexus of political culture, public opinion, public policy, and political behaviour in Canada.  Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic throw all four of these elements into question as governments confront long-standing norms, shifting attitudes, bureaucratic obstacles, and reluctant citizens in their efforts to preserve public health.  Combining focus groups, surveys, interviews, and his own experience in government, Wesley's work seeks to understand: (1) how deeply-held communal values shape individual beliefs and vice versa; (2) how these norms and prevailing sentiments influence policymakers and vice versa; and (3) how all of these forces combine to constrain our behaviour as political actors.

As Principal Investigator, Wesley launched two (2) major research projects on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic: the Viewpoint Alberta study (which uses surveys to measure public opinion in the province) and the Common Ground initiative (which uses focus groups to measure community-level values). He is also the Alberta lead on a SSHRC Partnership project called The Consortium on Electoral Democracy (C-Dem), which has engaged tens of thousands of Canadians through surveys dating back to 2018.  The timing of these projects has allowed him to compare baseline data to evidence collected over the course of the pandemic, illustrating how the crisis has affected our politics. 

Dr. Liza Piper

Dr. Liza PiperDr. Liza Piper
Faculty of Arts - Department of History, Classics, & Religion

Liza Piper is a professor in the department of History, Classics, and Religion. Originally from Nova Scotia, they are a specialist in the histories of northern and western Canada and author of When Disease Came to this Country: Epidemics and Colonialism in Northern North America (Cambridge University Press). In addition to this forthcoming work, Dr. Piper has articles and book chapters on the histories of polio, influenza, diphtheria, food and nutrition, with a focus on relations between humans and other-than-human nature, and the history of colonialism in shaping experiences of disease. Previous works include The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada (UBC Press, 2009), and two co-edited, interdisciplinary collections, Environmental Activism on the Ground: Small Green and Indigenous Organizing with Jon Clapperton (UCalgary Press, 2019) and Sustaining the West: Cultural Responses to Canadian Environments (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2015) with Lisa Szabo-Jones.

Dr. Piper’s teaching ranges from an introductory course titled, Plague: Disease and Epidemics in History to a senior seminar on the history of environments and health in Canada. Dr. Piper is also enthusiastic about experiential and land-based learning. They have been involved in Ganahghootr’onatan, a land-based learning course in Teetł'it Zheh (Fort McPherson, NT) led by colleagues in the Faculty of Native Studies, and have co-organized interdisciplinary field courses on the environmental history of the Rocky Mountain national parks. Dr. Piper is active in the American Society for Environmental History and in interdisciplinary mountain studies, with a current research project on industrial activity in the Rocky Mountains and foothills, and as past co-chair of the Thinking Mountains international conference.

Dr. Michael Litwack

Dr. Michael LitwackDr. Michael Litwack
Assistant Professor Professor
Faculty of Arts, Department of English & Film Studies

Michael Litwack is assistant professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta (Treaty 6 and Métis Nation Region 4 Territory), where he teaches courses in media studies, literary and critical theory, and critical race and ethnic studies. His research focuses on the theoretical and historical encounters among race, media, technology, and modernity. His interdisciplinary writing has appeared in journals such as Media Culture and Society, PUBLIC, Cultural Critique, Media Fields, and Camera Obscura. He recently co-edited a volume on new directions in marxist film and media studies for Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media. Michael's current projects include SSHRC-funded collaborative research on the entanglements between formations of racial capitalism and the history of media and media studies, and a monograph titled Racial Technics that offers a revisionary genealogy of twentieth-century media theory through the formative interventions of Black radical thought and praxis.

As a Kule Scholar, Michael will examine how accounts of, and responses to, the COVID-19 pandemic have been contoured by competing conceptions of life and the problematics of raciality and sovereignty that govern their articulation. He will also address the uses and limits of misinformation as a political concept within our contemporary media milieu, particularly as this concept is reworked in relation to theories of information and current debates over the status of critique.

Dr. Michelle Maroto

Dr. Michelle MarotoDr. Michelle Maroto
Associate Professor
Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Dr. Michelle Maroto is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Alberta. Her research interests include social stratification, gender and family, race and ethnicity, labor and credit markets, and disability studies. Dr. Maroto's methodological expertise extends across qualitative and quantitative areas and includes survey development, longitudinal data analysis, and audit study methods. She regularly teaches statistics and data analysis courses and is Director for the Certificate in Applied Social Science Research.

Much of her research agenda has focused on two areas – documenting and understanding dimensions of wealth inequality and bringing disability into studies of stratification with a focus on ableism and discrimination. Her projects have examined the causes and consequences of bankruptcy, wealth disparities in the United States and Canada, the effects of incarceration on wealth, and labor market outcomes for people with different types of disabilities. These projects bring together her broader interests in processes of economic insecurity and cumulative disadvantage.

Dr. Maroto’s recent projects study different dimensions of social stratification in relation to the pandemic. With her long-term collaborator, Dr. David Pettinicchio, Dr. Maroto recently conducted a national survey and set of interviews within the mixed-methods Disability COVID-19 Project to better understand the experiences of people with disabilities during the pandemic as it unfolded. In her collaborative work with Dr. Zohreh BayatRizi, she has been building large-scale mixed methods project, The Great Canadian Class Study, that will bring together secondary data, multiple online surveys, and in-depth interviews to study the complicated dynamics behind social class in Canada. She has also been a continuing collaborator with Dr. Jared Wesley and others on the Alberta Viewpoint Survey, as part of the Common Ground Initiative, documenting how the pandemic has affected economic insecurity among different groups of Albertans.

Dr. Lianne Lefsrud

Dr. Lianne LefsrudDr. Lianne Lefsrud
Associate Professor
Faculty of Engineering, Department Chemical and Materials Engineering

Dr. Lianne Lefsrud, P.Eng. is the Risk, Innovation, and Sustainability Chair (RISC) and Associate Professor, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta. She uses mixed methods to study how change agents shape our conceptions and management of energy, risk, and environment. In Fall 2022, she will be a visiting professor at Hamburg University in the "Climate, Climatic Change, and Society” (CLICCS) Cluster of Excellence to map collaboration and information/disinformation networks. In 2024, she has a forthcoming book (with Elena Bruni) — Science denial impact: People, organizations, and institutions — with Stanford University Press.

As risk management and communication are multidisciplinary, she works with scholars in engineering, computer science, geoscience, cognitive psychology, medicine, design, business, economics, anthropology, and environmental sociology. She publishes in high-impact interdisciplinary journals, practitioner-focused journals, and in public presentations, interviews, social media, and policy and industry reports to reach the broadest possible academic and practitioner audiences. Besides doing award-winning research, she also provides policy and strategy advice to government and industry. Before joining UofA, she was with the Erb Institute of Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. She obtained her PhD in Strategic Management and Organization, MSc in Environmental Engineering and Sociology, and BSc in Civil Engineering. For more, see www.liannelefsrud.com, https://twitter.com/lefsrud, and https://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=5OUTlEQAAAAJ&hl=en.