Mount Allison’s Dr. Lauren Beck elected to the RSC 2023 College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists

11 Sep 2023
Royal Society of Canada recognizes excellence, promotes culture and knowledge of innovation

SACKVILLE, NB — Dr. Lauren Beck, Mount Allison University professor of Visual and Material Culture Studies (VMCS), has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s (RSC) College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. The national announcement was made by the RSC on September 5.

“I am honoured to be named to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars,” says Beck. “The RSC provides an incredible platform for researchers nationwide to collectively strengthen our research endeavours and I look forward to the opportunities that this fellowship will bring.”

Mount Allison University Provost and Vice-President, Academic and Research Dr. Vicki St. Pierre believes this recognition is well deserved.

"Lauren’s outstanding interdisciplinary research and innovative teaching has earned her a rightful place in the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists,” says St. Pierre. “Her work not only enriches our academic community, but also contributes significantly to the broader conversations about equity and justice in our society. On behalf of the entire Mount Allison community, I extend our congratulations on this latest honour.”

Beck’s research centers on exposing the deeply ingrained colonial influences in our visual culture, which have historically shaped and restricted identities through various forms of social and mass media. She strives to elevate the narratives and perspectives of marginalized communities, including women, Indigenous populations, and racialized people.

“Visual and material culture studies gives us the opportunity to go beyond the confines of textual culture, which historically tends to limit what authorities of knowledge sound like,” says Beck.

Over the course of her career, Beck has secured over $2.2M in research funding from agencies across Canada and internationally, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF), and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

One of her ongoing SSHRC-funded projects explores place names through racialized and gendered lenses. She is currently surveying all 8,000 incorporated settlements in Canada, inquiring about their place name policies. Her research team is offering a model policy with best practices, examples of priority areas for future names, and guidance on handling problematic names for those who don’t currently have policies in place. She also recently authored a book on this topic titled Canada’s Place Names and How to Change Them.

She is set to release another book this fall. Co-authored with UPEI professor Margaret Augustine, the cookbook Mitji- Let's Eat! Mi'kmaq Recipes from Sikniktuk combines a cultural history of Mi’kmaw cuisine with practical recipes. Beck also has a forthcoming 6-volume series with Bloomsbury Publishing that explores the cultural history of exploration through a diverse lens.

Since 2017, Beck has held the Canada Research Chair in Intercultural Encounter and her appointment was recently renewed for a second term. She also serves as the director of the Centre for Early Modern Visual Culture, providing students and researchers with opportunities to engage in independent research in this field.

Beck was instrumental in the establishment of the Visual and Material Culture Studies program and has developed a range of new courses in these areas, with a strong focus on visual literacy and culture. Her teaching complements her research and she consistently incorporates discussions about identity into her courses, encouraging students to critically analyze power dynamics within visual culture.

“We strive to make VMCS accessible to all, aligning to a broader paradigm shift in terms of privileging the knowledge in its varied forms and mediums while considering what that looks like for different groups of people,” she says.

Since its inception in 2019, VMCS has experienced substantial growth, attracting students from a wide range of disciplines. For Beck, this is the value of interdisciplinary programs.

“Having those different perspectives in the classroom is so enriching because you don’t just have students interested in one discipline. You have students from women and gender studies engaging with students from Indigenous studies, while biology students contribute insights from the perspective of environmental science,” says Beck. “These interdisciplinary programs really knit together diverse threads, laying the foundation for students to leave the university with a holistic foundation, enhanced skills, and a broader vision for applying their knowledge and degrees in the real world."

Beck joins Mount Allison colleagues Dr. Susie Andrews (religious studies), Dr. Christl Verduyn (Canadian studies), Thaddeus Holownia (Fine Arts), Herménégilde Chiasson (alumnus and previous Artist-in-Residence, Fine Arts), and Dr. David Hornidge (physics) as members of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists.

Founded in 1882, the RSC comprises the Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences, and The College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. The RSC recognizes excellence, advises the government and the larger society, and promotes a culture of knowledge and innovation in Canada and with other national academies around the world. The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, part of the Royal Society of Canada, is the country’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership.

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