Kathy Dobson has won a prestigious Vanier Scholarship. The award is worth $50,000 per year for up to three years.

“When I saw the email, I was so nervous and excited, I forgot all my passwords to access the site for a few minutes!” says Dobson. “When I read I had actually won the Vanier, I was shocked. Then I was afraid to go to bed and wake up the next morning in case it was just a dream.”

The award recognizes the significant value of her research.

Dobson’s mother, Eileen Dobson, was the inspiration behind her research and a book she wrote called With a Closed Fist (Vehicule Press, 2011).

“As a single parent on welfare, my mother fought for social justice, improved health care and education,” shares Dobson. “She was always asking whose voices are missing whenever social workers and policy-makers would talk about the cycle of poverty and insisted we needed to develop a common language when speaking about poverty and the poor.”

Says Dobson: “My book shares an insider’s view of the culture of poverty and examines the impact and ripple effect it can have on all aspects of one’s life. I believe the Vanier award means an opportunity for me to continue my mother’s work.”

Her PhD research is looking at how the poor are represented, including by social welfare and government agencies, media platforms (such as the news media and also social media) and how this can reinforce certain self-conceptions of those living in poverty.

“I think we need to stop blaming the poor for their own poverty and teach the poor to stop blaming themselves as well,” says Dobson.

“As a mother of five children, three of whom are still dependent on me, the Vanier means extra funds to devote specifically to my research and also allows me to reimagine my research on a larger scale, so that I can work more intimately with community members and hope to make more of a difference.”

Dobson grew up in Point St. Charles in Montreal, then described by the National Film Board as the `‘toughest neighbourhood in Canada.” Although Dobson grew up on welfare and dropped out of high school at the age of 15, she did eventually go back to school and complete a BA at Waterloo and a Master’s in Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier. After working as a journalist for 20 years, she is now pursuing a PhD in Communication at Carleton.

She says that her department is very multidisciplinary, with faculty members and students working with a very broad range of research interests and approaches.

“The entire department is incredibly supportive of all of its students, with regular workshops and meetings to help with (for example) grant applications, research and writing.”

Her thesis adviser is Dr. Sheryl Hamilton. “In addition to her expertise, Sheryl is an incredibly supportive, involved supervisor whose advice and guidance has helped me throughout the first the first year of my PhD. She’s actually one of the main reasons why I came to Carleton…She has guided me towards a more nuanced project that considers the larger picture.”

In addition to her Vanier award, Dobson has also been offered a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship.

With files from University Communications

Monday, November 2, 2015 in ,
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