Three Western graduates are among the recipients of this year’s Governor General’s Academic Medals. For more than 140 years, the awards have recognized outstanding students across Canada and has become one of the most prestigious recognitions that a student in a Canadian educational institution can receive.
Western PhD graduates Jaqueline Dron, Tyler Girard and Heather Stewat are among this year’s Gold Medal recipients, awarded for academic excellence at the graduate level.
Dron completed her PhD in the department of biochemistry in December 2020. Her PhD thesis surveyed the genetic architecture of cardiovascular disease risk. By combining bioinformatics with next-generation DNA sequencing at Robarts Research Institute, Dron mapped out the complex genomic barcodes in Ontario patients, whose extreme plasma lipid levels render them vulnerable to life-threatening medical complications. Once identified, these patients stand to benefit from state-of-the-art preventive measures that prolong life and reduce suffering.
Dron’s work with Dr. Rob Hegele was supported by a CIHR Banting and Best Doctoral Fellowship and was recognized with the Collip Medal from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. During her graduate studies, Dron published 35 articles in peer-reviewed journals, ranging from reports of original genetic discoveries to international collaborative research projects to reviews that synthesized current knowledge in her field.
Dron is currently a CIHR Banting postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Girard completed his PhD in the department of political science in July of 2021. His PhD thesis examines the origins and diffusion of ‘financial inclusion’ as a new international development norm. Financial inclusion is the belief that everyone in society needs access to financial services, including bank accounts, payment services, credit and insurance. To explain how broad support was generated among international organizations, countries, businesses and NGOs, Girard develops a new concept called participatory ambiguity. This concept reveals how the promotion of many different policies and interpretations of financial inclusion can create ambiguity around the idea, which helps maintain widespread support. Girard argues this concept can also be used to explain the creation and diffusion of other global policy agendas. The evidence includes substantial new datasets based on over 70 interviews in the U.S., U.K. and Ghana, as well as a quantitative content analysis of 49 national financial inclusion strategies.
Girard has been the recipient of top scholarships, including two Ontario Graduate Scholarships as well as MA, doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. He has also published single-authored articles in top journals including one in the American Political Science Review, the leading journal in political science.
Girard is currently a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow in the department of political science at Duke University.
Stewart completed her PhD in the department of philosophy in July 2021, during which she held the Barnard Scholarship in Political Philosophy. Her work primarily focuses on the moral, social and political implications of speech and language, and the ways in which our linguistic practices can reinforce stereotypes, biases and oppression more generally. In her dissertation, she defended a novel approach to understanding one particular oppressive speech phenomenon – that of microaggressions – and analyzed their serious moral implications across various applied contexts, including in the medical and academic contexts.
Stewart’s research has been featured in numerous peer reviewed journals in philosophy and psychology, including The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science, and Southwest Philosophy Review, as well as in numerous edited books. She is currently working on a co-authored book project, Microaggressions in Medicine, which is under contract with Oxford University Press. The book advances a novel approach to understanding microaggressions and develops this approach within the context of clinical medicine.
Stewart is deeply committed to intersectional feminist, queer and anti-racist theorizing and practices. Her long-term professional aspirations involve finding more robust ways to bridge philosophical theorizing with political advocacy and community activism, all in the service of social justice. She is currently assistant professor of philosophy (tenure track) at Oklahoma State University.
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