On March 30, 2016, the Public Scholars Initiative (PSI) received the 2016/17 Helen McCrae Award during the UBC Vancouver Student Development Awards. The Helen McCrae Award is granted to recognize a service for students provided by the AMS, GSS, or UBC in honour of Helen McCrae’s commitment and contributions to community. The PSI is a pilot program that offers funding, networking, and academic and professional development support for doctoral students to help them incorporate non-traditional forms of scholarship into their dissertations, with a focus on scholarship for the public good.
The award was accepted by the architects of the PSI: Efé Peker, Public Scholarship Coordinator, Jenny Phelps, Senior Advisor to the Dean, and Susan Porter, Dean and Vice-provost of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies.
“Our PhD scholars are going to be at the forefront of addressing the complex problems of the world as we move through the 21st century. But what are the capabilities they are going to need as they address these complex, multi-faceted, interdisciplinary, multi-dimensional problems?” asked Dean Porter, as she accepted the award. “Our graduates are going to be scholars in the broadest sense of the world. They are going to be using their brains and their knowledge to transform society.”
Recognizing both value of scholarship in solving complex problems and the fact that 70% of PhD students will find careers outside of the academy, the PSI seeks to reimagine doctoral education to encourage community collaboration and prepare students for diverse careers.
Developed and funded by UBC Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies in 2015, the PSI has accepted 79 students into its network since its inception in 2015. It has funded their collaborative scholarship (approximately $600,000 awarded), provided academic and professional development support, and helped encouraged scholars to connect to the general public through research talk events (PhDs Go Public) and an extensive project website.
This award is named in honour of Helen McCrae, a former UBC professor of social work and dean of women from 1959 to 1973. Helen McCrae’s legacy of community service extended from UBC to the United Nations in her efforts to improve educational opportunities and the lives of women and children. As Dean Porter noted, “Helen McCrae was herself a public scholar. She contributed to the community both through UBC and the United Nations, and she made a huge impact. What a wonderful honour to receive this award.”