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History of Spark

Spark began as an interdisciplinary working group of social scientists led by Drs. Tina Fetner (Sociology) and Jeremiah Hurley (Economics) in 2013.

Over several years, the working group met regularly to reflect and plan for a new organization at McMaster to support researchers interested in social research using innovative research methods and tools. The working group met with groups of Faculty of Social Science researchers to understand their needs, and reviewed the types of research supports offered by similar research centres and institutes elsewhere in Canada and the United States.

 

    

Photos of Dr. Tina Fetner (left) and Dr. Jeremiah Hurley (right)

 

Shortly after Dr. Hurley transitioned to Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr. Michelle Dion, who was a member of the working group, took the lead in further developing the vision and programming for the new centre, the Centre for Research in Empirical Social Sciences (CRESS).

After additional consultation within the Faculty and piloting several modest initiatives, it became apparent that to grow into the centre envisioned by the original working group, CRESS needed an experienced leader to develop the centre’s programming and plan for future growth.

  • In 2019, Allison Van accepted the challenge of building CRESS into a world-class research centre promoting methodological rigour and innovation in the social sciences, and became the Centre’s first Executive Director. That fall, CRESS launched its first SSHRC-funded workshop series, Transparent Research, and was formally recognized by the University as a research centre. Dr. Dion was also formally appointed as the Centre’s first Academic Director for a five-year term. In summer 2020, CRESS hired its first non-student staff member, and continues to grow.

           

Photos or Allison Van (left) and Michelle Dion (right).

  • In 2020-21, CRESS partnered with the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship to host its second SSHRC-funded monthly research workshop series, Relevant Research, which helps researchers effectively communicate their research findings to the public or policy makers. We also began partnerships with local community groups and non-profits, helping them address organizational and programmatic research needs as they serve their communities. The Centre also expanded the research infrastructure it makes available to researchers through its management of SEAL and state of the art focus group and interview facilities in LRWilson Hall. In January 2021, CRESS re-launched as Spark: A Centre for Social Research Innovation. 

  • In 2021-22, we plan to continue our monthly workshop series and expand our training and other programming to include opportunities for members of the McMaster and local community to take up new research tools, learn new methodologies, and contribute to a brighter world.

Contact Us

Email Us

For any inquiries and questions, feel free to email us at talk.to.spark@mcmaster.ca.

 

Faculty & Staff


Allison Van

Allison Van

Executive Director

Lars Nielsen

Lars Nielsen

SEAL Manager

Astara van der Jagt

Astara van der Jagt

Course Developer

Michelle Dion

Michelle Dion

Academic Director

Cheryl Fenn

Cheryl Fenn

Office Administrator

Jeff Black

Jeff Black

Brighter Spark Applied Research

Gavin Zhao

Gavin Zhao

Brighter Spark Applied Research

Kartik Sharma

Kartik Sharma

Course Developer

Kohei Kanai

Kohei Kanai

Brighter Spark Applied Research

Rochelle Wijesingha

Rochelle Wijesingha

Brighter Spark Applied Research

Celine Keomany

Celine Keomany

Web Developer

Supriya Thukral

Supriya Thukral

Events Coordinator