Researcher Spotlight: Lauren Cross, Full Time Research Assistant
If you'd asked me where I would find myself in the years following my graduation from Mount Royal University, I certainly never would have predicted how things would turn out. After completing an Honours degree in English in December 2014 I applied and was accepted into the pilot year of the Community Prosperity Student Research Program (CPRSA), offered through the Institute for Community Prosperity, a sister institute to IES. This program allowed me to expand my research skills and my network within the MRU research community, and helped me link areas of study from my English degree with more community-based projects beyond the classroom. While finishing my CPRSA project, I applied for a Research Assistantship with the Institute for Environmental Sustainability, confident that I could continue to apply the proficiencies I had developed through my university education and the CPRSA program within a new branch of MRU research, where I would also acquire new knowledge and skills in the area of environmental sustainability.
I was part of a group of four students and recent graduates who undertook full-time research assistantships with IES over the summer of 2015. Supervised by inaugural IES Director Michael Quinn, my focus for the summer was to research and review the potential for IES to develop a professional development certificate program in environmental sustainability. This IES project equipped me with a wealth of invaluable professional experience as a recent graduate as I gave presentations, facilitated focus groups, and liaised with different IES contacts within and outside of MRU.
After we determined that IES would be well-positioned to provide a unique course offering in sustainability to the energy sector in Alberta, I was hired on full-time in the fall of 2015 to support the newly appointed IES Director Connie Van der Byl. Through the Office of Research Services, which houses IES, I was also able to complete a project directly linked to my studies in English, through which I completed the Index for a new book co-authored by Mount Royal English Professor Clifford Werier.
At the same time, I was submitting applications for graduate school to several universities across Canada. My time with IES was always a highlight in my application letters and I know my ability to demonstrate interdisciplinary research experience in both professional and academic contexts was invaluable to my success with applications – which came back with a 100% acceptance rate. I eventually accepted a generously-funded offer of admission to the University of British Columbia’s Master of Arts program in English Literature in Vancouver, where I will focus on Indigenous studies, migration and ecocriticism. I am also very grateful to have been awarded a SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) award at UBC – the highest governmental scholarship available to Canadian Master’s students in my field.
Throughout my time at IES, I have been given countless opportunities to participate in diverse projects across disciplines involving not only research assistance and curriculum development but also teaching assistance, event planning, editing, website creation, social media strategy and more. These experiences have undoubtedly helped prepare me and given me confidence to take on the challenges of graduate school and those in my professional career more broadly. I am particularly appreciative of my involvement in the professional development course project, which culminated with the IES’s official launch of an online pilot course in Strategic Sustainability and the Energy Industry that will be offered in October 2016 through Mount Royal’s Faculty of Continuing Education.
I would like to thank everyone at IES, the Office of Research Services, and the Miistakis Institute for their support. I am especially grateful to Connie Van der Byl and Michael Quinn for their inspiration and confidence.