Elia Scholars celebrated for research achievements

2015 Elia scholars at reception with some prior winnersThe Elia Scholarship, one of the university’s most prestigious awards, was celebrated last week honouring 2015 recipients Anita Buragohain, Emily Colpitts and Erika Ashley Couto.

Valued at $30,000 per year and renewable for up to four years, the purpose of the award is to attract doctoral candidates of the highest calibre from Canada and around the world. The Elia Scholars Program was established in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies in 2007 through a gift of $1.8 million from the Elia Family Foundation.

A reception dinner — hosted by Dr. Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies, and Wade Hall, Assistant Vice–President, Development — was held to recognize their research accomplishments and future work. Held in the recently opened Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, the event served to celebrate graduate academic excellence, and to recognize the contributions of a visionary and generous man.

Mariano A. Elia, who died in 2006, was an outstanding citizen, a leading member of the business community and a philanthropist with a passion for learning. In 1984, he established the Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian–Canadian Studies at York, and in 1985, York recognized his philanthropy with an honorary doctor of laws degree. The Elia family’s dedicated support of Italian–Canadian and graduate studies at York has enabled the University to provide the best possible education for the next generation of scholars.

Joining this year’s inductees at the reception were: 2012 recipient Martin Dimkovski (Computer Science); 2013 recipients Sarah Switzer (Environmental Studies), Syeda Mariam Humayn (Administration), and Diane Sepa–Kishi (Kinesiology); and 2014 recipients Ayyaz Ahsan Mallick (Environmental Studies), Anna Roberts (Administration) and Melanie Wilmink (Art History & Visual Culture). Representing the Elia family were Mariano’s children Paul and Valerie.

Anita Buragohain
Science & Technology Studies

Prior to joining York this fall, Anita Buragohain worked in a public health and research organization in India. Through an advocacy–oriented role, she gained insight into a host of issues that determine visibilities and outcomes in public health in a developing country, over and above treatment regimens.

“One example would be how patents on diagnostics and drugs affect pricing and the availability of essential medicines,” she explains. “As an up–and–coming crisis, antibiotic resistance is a lens through which I’d like to explore some of these policy areas.”

Buragohain says she will continue to work on issues around the political economy of health and medicine in the developing world.

“I look forward to exploring the world of academic and research opportunities this opens up, and I anticipate that my doctoral research on antibiotic resistance will contribute immensely to that end,” she says. “Without the Elia scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to start my doctoral studies at York.”

Emily Colpitts
Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies

Interested in issues relating to gender inequity, and in particular gender–based violence, Emily Colpitts has conducted research on perceptions of efforts to engage men and boys among members of South Africa’s gender–based violence sector. Last year, as a research assistant at the Gender and Health Promotion Studies Unit at Dalhousie University, she conducted research on LGBTQ health in the context of Nova Scotia.

While Colpitts has enjoyed researching in the context of South Africa, “gender–based violence is a global issue and I’d like to conduct my PhD research in Canada,” she says.

The Elia scholarship has enabled Colpitts to focus on her studies full time without the stress of working to finance her studies. “I’m a stronger student and I have a better work–life balance than I otherwise would,” she says. “The scholarship will allow me to work on publications, attend conferences, and get involved in the exciting groups and activities happening on and off campus. It will facilitate my research because I’ll have greater flexibility in scheduling interviews, for example.”

While at York, Colpitts says she will further her research by interrogating how efforts to engage men and boys address social constructions of masculinity. Once her studies are complete, she hopes to work as a researcher in this area and teach courses related to her research interests.

Erika Ashley Cuoto
Art History & Visual Culture

An art historian and cultural worker, Erika Ashley Couto’s dissertation research at York will investigate Portuguese–Canadian art and craft production since the mid 20th century. Her other research interests include modern and contemporary art, feminist art and writing, diaspora studies, and Canadian indigenous art.

Thanks to the Elia scholarship, Couto has been able to pursue opportunities in the cultural sector that will positively impact artists and cultural sector workers in the province. For example, she currently serves as the advocacy coordinator for the Provincial Arts Service Organizations coalition, which strives to strengthen the environment for the individuals and institutions that create and disseminate the arts in Ontario and for public access to the arts.

“I’m grateful for the liberties the Elia scholarship has provided me to take on unique opportunities or unpaid work without having to worry about the financial remuneration attached,” Couto says. “These opportunities will help me broaden my skills and spend some time doing behind–the–scenes work at a museum. The Elia scholarship is helping me to think big and pursue ideas and projects that move beyond the strict requirements of my dissertation.”