Wiikwemkoong grad student recognized

Amy Shawanda

TORONTO—Amy Shawanda of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories has been chosen as one of two recipients of this year’s Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowships for excellence in social sciences, humanities or arts. The awards are through the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).

“The (OCUFA) is pleased to announce that the recipients of this year’s Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowships for excellence in social sciences, humanities or arts include Amy Shawanda from Trent University for the doctoral level of study and Laura Paolini from the University of Ottawa for the masters level of study,” a release states.

“The Mandelbaum Fellowship recognizes graduate students who combine exceptional scholarship with deep engagement in their communities,” said Susan Wurtele, vice-president of OCUFA. “Each year, we receive many excellent applications, and this year was no exception.” 

“Amy Shawanda, who is enrolled in the Indigenous studies program at Trent University, is a formidable candidate whose academic work explores Anishinaabe maternal teachings in a contemporary context to better understand how gaashiuag (mothers) can share their teaching and knowledge with children. Her dedication to the community is moving. She creates care packages for homeless people in Sudbury, meal kits for low-income families,  beading auctions to support Indigenous action and volunteers with at risk youth,” said Ms. Wurtele.

“The depth and breadth of Amy’s volunteering and leadership is impressive and inspiring,” said Ms. Wurtele. “The project she has undertaken to understand Anishinaabe maternal teachings is important research that deserves recognition.”

Ms. Shawanda, when contacted by The Expositor in Peterborough last week said, “I am enrolled in Indigenous studies and I am almost done completing my PhD this year (in her fourth year of studies).” She pointed out obtaining her PhD could have taken up to 10 years, “but with the pandemic we have all had to slow down our lives and I haven’t been able to play hockey, partake in social gatherings and the like that I would normally. So I’ve focused a lot more of my time on my studies.” 

“Even though there are cultural teachings available to all Anishinaabe people my PhD is on Anishinabek maternal teachings and culture. I want to help empower Anishinabek mothers to reconnect to their culture,” said Ms. Shawanda (who is the mother to two sons). “Colonialism has taken a toll on our culture and I am exploring why mothers aren’t engaging themselves in our culture.” 

Ms. Shawanda is having a paper published on her findings and will then be seeking funding to publish a booklet to give back to her community.

The Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowships for excellence in social sciences, humanities or arts were established to honour Henry Mandelbaum, executive director of OCUFA from 1996-2011. The fellowship is awarded to graduate students who have demonstrated academic excellence, show exceptional academic promise and have provided significant service to their community during their university years.

“Henry was passionate about social justice and improving the lives of those who faced formidable social and economic barriers,” said Ms. Wurtele. “Sadly, Henry passed away in 2012, but we are honoured to continue his work through the Mandelbaum Fellowship.”