PhD student Jean Ketterling said her heart rate shot through the ceiling when she clicked on an email notification to check the 2020 Vanier scholarship results.

“Once my heart rate went back to normal, I was thrilled!” says Ketterling.

Ketterling is one of three Carleton University students to win a Vanier Graduate Student Scholarship this year. This extremely prestigious scholarship is awarded to Canadian PhD students who conduct exceptional research. It is valued at $50,000 per year for three years during a student’s doctoral studies.

The other two Carleton recipients are Systems and Computer Engineering student David Luong and Public Policy student Antoine Genest-Gregoire.

“Receiving funding takes away so much of the financial stress that comes with being a graduate student and will mean I can fully focus on my work, make significant progress on other research projects, and be more involved with the issues I care about.”

Ketterling’s PhD research looks at the role of video games in our intimate and erotic lives.

She explains: “By focusing on the emotional experiences of these games, I’m hoping to contribute to the effort to understand how our sexual and intimate lives are impacted by technology by helping to build analytic tools for making sense of video games as sites of pleasure.”

Ketterling notes that, by industry estimates, well over half the adult population in Canada and the United States play video games. Given this, she says that studying how we use video games in our everyday life is important, especially erotic video games which are more available than ever to mainstream audiences.

Says Ketterling: “We’re also seeing examples of video games being used to maintain intimate connections with families, friends and partners. One example is how people are using video games such as Minecraft and Animal Crossing to gather, spend time together, or to go on dates during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is still a lot of fear or ambivalence about the importance of video games in our culture – and in our intimate lives in particular – so I hope my research contributes to a better understanding of this phenomenon.

 She says that she would be thrilled if her research can contribute to a nuanced public conversation about the role of technology in our sexual and intimate lives.

Ketterling has combined academic excellence with ongoing volunteer and leadership
work in the sexual and reproductive health communities in Nova Scotia and in Ottawa. She
has taken leadership roles in various organizations focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as acted as a strategic planning consultant for Planned Parenthood Ottawa.

Ketterling came to the Department of Law and Legal Studies precisely to do
graduate study with Dr. Ummni Khan, first as an MA student, and now for her PhD, and to work
with this scholarly community working at the intersection of sexuality, law and culture.

She loves the interdisciplinary nature of the Law and Legal Studies Department. “My colleagues are what really make it great! It’s amazing to get to work every day with a group of brilliant, passionate, and supportive people with such a wide range of expertise.”

“And Professor Khan is the best person to have in your corner; she’s brilliant, incredibly generous in her mentorship, and always musters enthusiasm for my work even on the days when I find it hard to. I’m also very grateful for Dr Aubrey Anable and Dr Sheryl Hamilton, who sit on my committee, and who support and challenge me.”

Ketterling has received other awards including Ontario Graduate Scholarships, and the Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Read about all three of Carleton’s Vanier Awards recipients…