Kira Gill-Maher and Corinna Paumier explore GNH, Buddhist practices as part of independent study in religious studies
Kira Gill-Maher, a third-year political science and religious studies student, and Corinna Paumier, fourth-year international relations, are working to bring a popular development indicator in eastern religions to campus as part of their undergraduate research experiences.
Gill-Maher and Paumier travelled to Thailand last summer to attend the World Youth Buddhist Symposium as part of their research examining Gross National Happiness (GNH), an alternative development indicator used in Bhutan to examine how happy its citizens are. The international conference focused on Buddhist visions of wellbeing.
“Seeing Kira and Cori bring their research project on GNH to the university campus over the past year has been exciting,” says religious studies professor and Dr. Barb Clayton, who supervised the students’ research. “Sharing this development model with people in our community helps us determine how we might incorporate it into our everyday lives and work to evoke change from the ground up.”
Clayton looks at ethics and the happiness phenomenon in Bhutan as part of her research program. She participated in meetings on this topic at the United Nations several years ago and received a research grant for work in this area from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in 2016.
Back on campus, Gill-Mater and Paumier worked to develop a survey for the Mount Allison community on GNH over the course of the academic year, sharing it with students, faculty, and staff members this semester.
“It was interesting to take the knowledge we learned, both in Thailand and in our studies, and apply it to a survey on campus,” says Paumier, who will graduate this spring. “We hope to start more local discussions on GNH and look at the benefits for this kind of model in the Mount Allison community.”
Gill-Maher will spend this summer continuing her research on Gross National Happiness as a policy tool on campus. She has been awarded an independent student research grant from Mount Allison, and will travel to Bhutan to conduct interviews and research at the Centre for Bhutan Studies.
“My thesis project will examine how GNH works as a policy tool in Bhutan,” she explains. “I’m excited to explore this application more thoroughly over the summer and in my final year at Mount A.”
The students received several awards and bursaries to help support their international research including the Nelson Littlejohn Student Award in Philosophy and Religious Studies, the Fran and Edmund Clark Mobility Fund, Experience Beyond MTA-Class of 1980 and BP MacDonald International Experience Travel Bursaries.
Gill-Maher and Paumier will present their survey findings in a public presentation on Tuesday, April 10 at 4:30 pm in the Ebbutt Reading Room, Hart Hall 107. All are welcome to attend. For more information on the project visit: https://gnhsurveymta.com
Photo caption: Kira Gill-Maher and Corinna Paumier at the World Youth Buddhist Symposium in Thailand in 2017.