Ashlee Cunsolo Willox – Working for Communities

Cape Breton University was the best fit for Ashlee Cunsolo Willox when she was deciding what university could help further her research and teaching initiatives. The assistant professor of Community Health and a Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Healthy Communities, Ashlee was looking for a flexible, nimble, creative, and innovative option that would support her community-led and community-based methods.

“I love the ways in which the university is connected to so many parts of the Island, and really seeks to contribute positively to the overall narrative and wellness of the region,” says Ashlee. “I love the camaraderie that emerges when you become a Caper, and the ways in which people develop strong loyalty and commitment to this place.”

Ashlee’s research is based on that deep commitment to and honouring of Indigenous research methodologies, premised on respect, reciprocity, relationships, relationality, ritual, responsibility and relevance. She says, “I believe that research is ceremony, and that it can contribute to a process of reconciliation, if approached full of humility, hope, humour, and healing intentions.”

Ashlee’s research program focuses on Indigenous-led intercultural health research, with connections among culture, place, health, and environment at the very core. For the past decade she has worked with Inuit communities in Arctic Canada on projects related to climate change and mental health, supporting youth resilience, cultural resurgence and reclamation, and land-based monitoring of environment and health impacts. More recently, she has begun working with and learning from Mi’kmaq communities in Unama’ki (Cape Breton), as well as First Nations, Inuit, and Metis leaders from across Canada through a variety of research projects.

Ashlee feels strongly that relationships are at the heart of her work, and says, “I work at a university; but I work for communities.”