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Adrianne Xavier, acting director of the Indigenous Studies Program

Dr Adrianne Xavier is a recipient of the Petro Canada-McMaster University Young Innovator Award

Xavier aims to create opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in Indigenous research projects.

May 19, 2021

Dr. Adrianne Xavier, the acting Director of the Indigenous Studies Program and McMaster Indigenous Research Institute Community Scholar, has been selected as a 2021 recipient of the Petro Canada-McMaster University Young Innovator Award 

The University established the award in 1993. It provides funding for research projects developed by emerging scholars. Petro Canada finances the award through a $250,000 endowment, which is matched by McMaster’s Office of the Vice-President. Projects considered for the award are required to propose innovative ways to engage undergraduate students in research.  

“Collaboration is often the starting point for innovation,” says Lori Goff, Director of the Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching. “It’s so important to bring students and instructors together to foster diverse perspectives and ideas. This award is a great example of our commitment to that at McMaster.”   

Xavier's research focuses on Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Community at Six Nations. Based on her work, she proposed a project that combined her passion for Indigenous research and her desire to share her research philosophy with students.  

“In Indigenous communities, there is often a lot of mistrust of the research process, so it was always important for me to promote research that’s respectful and reciprocal and does something positive. When I do research within a community, it is because I want to be of service to them. I don't just want to do things for myself, and I want my students to learn that as well,” says Xavier.  

Her plan is to create opportunities for students to build a minor research project on campus, using her research as a base. Students will learn virtually about Indigenous research methods while gaining first-hand experience. 

“We will take an idea that is wanted by the community of Indigenous students and treat it as a research project. Eventually, this will become its own research and be practiced in the community, which is very similar to the process I go through.”    

It will be a unique experience for her students, who Xavier says are eager for more opportunities to be involved in research. 

"I've discovered that so many of the students that I meet in my classes, are not only eager to learn but are already asking the right questions at an undergraduate level. They’re already engaged and really want to be a part of the research. It’s important they have these experiences now because this can help them decide what they want to do after graduation.”   

Students participating in the project will also be able to learn from different speakers throughout the duration of the project and publicly present their work at a TED-X-style event. Xavier adds she chose the topic of food sovereignty, not only because of the impact on the Indigenous community but also because of the interest from students.  

“I'm not coming with an agenda ahead of time. I chose a specific project on campus with students, but it was also something I knew the students were interested in. If it were new research in a Community, I would never presume to think that I know what they want.”   

Xavier will begin work on her project in June 2021.   

There were two awardees for the Petro Canada-McMaster University Young Innovator Award during the 2020-21 season. Dr. Dilyana Mincheva, Assistant Professor in Critical Media in the Department of Communication Studies and Media Arts, also received a Young Innovator award. Mincheva is aiming to create the CoMMa Script Frenzy Lab: a screenwriting lab that bridges a gap between academic research and creative output.