Cape Breton University Professors Receive SSHRC Grants

Cape Breton University is home to four award winners as a result of national Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) competitions. SSHRC supports postsecondary-based research, research training and knowledge mobilization activities in the social sciences and humanities.

Dr. Tanya Brann-Barrett, a professor in the Communication Department, received a Standard Research Grant in the amount of $54,239 over three years for her research project titled The Learning Significance of Place-based and Virtual Communication Networks in How Young People Living in Disadvantaged Regions Experience Civic Engagement. The study examines ways older youth (age 16-28) living in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality learn about, experience and understand civic engagement.

A professor of Folklore, Dr. Ian Brodie received a one-year Standard Research Grant in the amount of $13,596 for his study titled Painting the Trestle: Adolescent Negotiation of Space and Place in Post-Industrial Cape Breton. This project focuses on the history of the painting of the Sydney River Trestle Bridge a form of contesting the urban geography of industrial Cape Breton.

Also receiving a one-year Standard Research Grant is Dr. Heather Sparling, an Ethnomusicology professor, for her project Disaster Songs of Atlantic Canada: Music of Myth, Memory & Mourning. Dr. Sparling, who is collaborating with a research team from Carleton University, has received $24,366 to help conduct her research which examines song traditions relating to disasters, focusing on those of Atlantic Canada. This is the second year that this team has received a SSHRC grant.

Dr. Chris McDonald, a lecturer in Ethnomusicology, has been awarded an Insight Development Grant, a two-year grant in the amount of $46,100. Dr. McDonald’s project titled The Development of Accompaniment Styles in Cape Breton Traditional Music examines one aspect of the celebrated Cape Breton fiddling tradition which has developed in very distinctive ways on the island: its accompaniment. The project will explore the history of the piano accompaniment style, provide a musicological analysis of the style and compare Cape Breton's styles to those of other old world and new world accompaniment practices.

Dale Keefe, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, shared some context for these awards. “Obviously we are aware that we have attracted a high calibre of researchers and professors here at CBU, but to see that recognised by an external agency such as SSHRC, and to have our researchers judged against those across Canada and perform so well, clearly demonstrates that CBU research is something that we all can, and should, take pride in.”

The funds will be used to hire undergraduate student researchers as well as purchase equipment that will assist with the research projects.

For more information on the grant program visit