Presenter Abstracts and Bios

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Presenter Abstracts and Bios

Keynote Address

Dr. Lauren Silver

Transformative Childhood Studies—Using Civic Engagement to Bridge Education, Research, and Justice


Transformative Childhood Studies brings together transformative justice (TJ) with child and youth-centered research and teaching.  TJ calls attention to state violence and oppression, which must be healed, not restored—so that society can be actively transformed. Civic engagement tends to be understood as individual or collective actions to address public concerns for improving quality of life and justice in a community. In this presentation, I look closely and critically at this definition and explore underlying assumptions around community, justice, and public concerns.  Where do we draw the boundaries around community? Who gets to decide which public concerns should be addressed and what justice looks like in a community? Do youth get a stake in these definitions? Who gets to participate or engage in civic actions? And, how does civic engagement, at times, contest or perpetuate, power inequalities along intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, space, and age? To explore these questions, I reflect upon examples from nine years of civic engagement with Rutgers University students and children and youth in Camden, NJ (U.S.).  I draw upon classwork and ethnographic research.  Camden, NJ is widely considered one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S.—it is also a city that is disproportionately made up of poor young people of color.  I share a framework of transformative childhood studies to integrate key aspects of civic engagement while also providing a map for moving forward.


Lauren J. Silver is Associate Professor of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ. Dr. Silver joined the Rutgers-Camden Department of Childhood Studies in 2009 and is also an Affiliate Scholar of the Center for Urban Research and Education. She is a critical ethnographer whose work lies at the intersection of the sociology and anthropology of youth, feminist methodologies, and analyses of urban systems. Her scholarship centers on the lives of young people who experience structural violence through poverty and social constructions of race, gender, and sexuality; it is deeply connected to the urban places where she lives and works.

Dr. Silver’s book, System Kids: Adolescent Mothers and the Politics of Regulation (2015, University of North Carolina Press) is based on two years of ethnographic research with youth of color and explores their identity work and service negotiations in a large, urban child welfare system. She is currently completing fieldwork for her next project: Youth Pathways Across Camden: Narratives in Urban Schooling. Dr. Silver’s research and teaching interests include: youth identities, urban education, gender & education, child welfare, and comparative urban ethnography.


Panel 1

Taylor Little Mustache and Jamie Lewis

Raising Spirit: Youth Engagement with Technology and Tradition


The Raising Spirit: Opokaa’sin  Digital Library Project is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project based in Southern Alberta. The inter-generational team from Opokaa'sin Early Intervention Society and the University of Lethbridge works to promote the resiliency and capacities of Blackfoot  youth and their families. The project also seeks to address the calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) regarding culturally appropriate curricula. 

This talk will focus on the work done with Blackfoot young people in 2016 and 2017, as they collected stories about their history and culture in both English and Blackfoot. These stories were then digitized and placed in a child-friendly digital library, for use in Opokaa’sin’s educational programming. By involving young people in the  process of constructing this library, both in terms of the collection and curation of the data, we will show that those involved developed research capacities and technical skills, and strengthened connections within and beyond their communities.

Bio: Jamie Lewis

Jamie Lewis is currently working toward a B.A. in Anthropology and Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge. She was awarded funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in 2017 for her position as a research assistant for the Raising Spirit: Opokaa'sin Digital Library Project. Previously, Jamie was also an undergraduate ethnographer and research assistant for Dr. Janice Newberry and Mr. Jeff Meadows' Retention Squared project, which afforded her the opportunity to be co-published in an article for Light on Teaching Magazine, and co-present at ULeth's Spark Teaching Symposium in 2017. Jamie is also looking forward to presenting a paper at the University's upcoming Research in Religious Studies Conference. Outside of school, Jamie has been involved in the establishment and ongoing success of a club on campus which raises funds for refugee students to attend the University of Lethbridge and become permanent Canadian residents.

Dan Irete

Defining Civic Engagement for Immigrant Youth

Oseremen Daniel Irete graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a BA in Anthropology in 2017. He is currently working as a Youth Settlement Practitioner at Lethbridge Family Services – Immigrant Services. He is a Nigerian immigrant who is proud to call Lagos, Lethbridge, and Fort McMurray home. He is presently pursuing his dream of eating junk food from every country on the globe.
Through stories of local racialized immigrant youth, Dan Irete will explore their existing and under-recognized civic engagement, and invite conversation about a more inclusive consideration of youth participation.

Omar Rodriguez

Omar is an Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages. He has worked with Latin American popular culture and identity. Currently, he is conducting research on popular and marginal cinemas in Latin America. Specifically, he helps organize video workshops directed at adolescents in marginal areas of Caracas, collects the completed short films and analyzes them from a narrative, aesthetic and ideological point of view.



Panel 2

Irene Dersch and high school students Teagan Dixon, Eman Ali, & Sydney Whiting

Promoting Civic Engagement in High Schools


One of the primary goals in education, particularly in Social Studies education, is to promote and give opportunities for students to develop the skills and attitudes to become active and engaged citizens. Although schools spend time trying to develop these attitudes, it is not always easy to have students see beyond their own lives to reach out and help others, or bring awareness to the injustices we see around the world. Another barrier schools face is giving the students the opportunity to take action. The Interact Club of Chinook High School attempts to address the second barrier where we give the opportunity for students to make a difference in their community as well as globally. Interact is a branch of Rotary International that targets students to develop leadership skills while discovering the power of “service before self”. Because we have the support of Rotary, we have the structures in place and the connections to the communities that we wish to support. The Interact Club has also partnered with WE Schools which has also been phenomenal in setting up the structures to effectively engage in global and community action. The presentation will centre on the challenges and successes of facilitating civic engagement at high school, recognizing the importance of student leadership, as well as gaining the perspectives of the students involved.

Bio: Irene Dersch

Irene Dersch began her career in education as a middle and high school teacher in London, England. After one year overseas, she continued her career teaching the humanities at Wilson Middle School for seven years, and Social Studies at Chinook High School since its inception in 2010. She received her BA/BEd with a major in Social Studies from the University of Lethbridge. Irene has always been concerned with the apathy she sees in society and has seen it as her responsibility to inspire students to take a stand for what they believe in and know that they can make a difference in our world. Irene has been involved with the Interact Club of Chinook High School for the last three years.

Bio: Teagan Dixon

Teagan is a grade 12 student at Chinook High School and the President of the Interact Club. She has been actively involved in the club for four years.

Bio: Eman Ali

Eman is a grade 11 student at Chinook High School and the Vice President of the Interact Club. This is her second year involved in the club.

Bio: Sydney Whiting

Sydney Whiting is a grade 9 student at Chinook High School and the WE coordinator. It is her first year involved in the Club.


Aaron Stout 


The status of citizenship education within public education has been under review and challenged by a number of researchers (Sears, Peck, & Herriot, 2014). Westheimer (2015) asserts that the changing structure of the education system that prioritizes content and jurisdictional standards has eroded the priority of citizenship development. Inspired by the work of Barton and Levstik (2004), this presentation will assert that history must be regarded as a humanity first and foremost. As a humanity, history education draws parallels between the past and the present, thereby directly relating to goals of citizenship education (Alberta Education, 2005). History education must adopt its place as a liberal art in providing the attitudes and skills necessary to produce thoughtful and open-minded citizens within a pluralistic democratic society. 


Aaron Stout is a current M.A. student in Education at the University of Lethbridge. Professionally, he has been a high school social studies teacher and is currently an instructor in the Faculty of Education. A key area of interest in his academic work has been the role of history education as it relates to citizenship.


Panel 3

Dr. Andriko Lozowy

Cameras, Youth, and Community


Cameras and images are everywhere. This presentation is about what happens when you take a social question, where is here? And ask young people to picture here, or picture place, and then share the results with the community. The objectives and stakeholders can vary, but the method is flexible to the context. In my case, I used collaborative forms of image making and dialogue to conduct sociological research about youth experiences in relation to living in an oil industry town. In another case, the method I will describe, could be used by most any other group to serve their needs, be it for fun or as a form of direct political action.


Hi, my name is Andriko and I am a photographer-researcher currently teaching Sociology at the University of Lethbridge. My current research considers precarity and practicality in the context of local economies that are thrust into chaos because of globalized economic forces.


Katelyn Mitchell

“#ProLifeAllIn: A Look at the Recruitment of Youth by Contemporary Canadian Anti-Abortion Organizations”


“Young people have a special role to play...” (CLC Youth, 2018) when it comes to anti-abortion activism, according to the Campaign Life Coalition youth recruitment webpage. This sentiment stressing the potential of youth activists is echoed by many other anti-abortion organizations, who also utilize youth-specific recruitment and place particular importance on involving young people in their campaigns. This presentation examines the websites of several Canadian anti-abortion organizations to illustrate their tactics for recruiting youth, while asking critical questions about how particular conceptualizations of youth and civic engagement are being strategically employed by these organizations to reshape perceptions of their movement and what it means to be “pro-life”. While exploring how young people are being targeted for recruitment by contemporary Canadian anti-abortion organizations and considering why this movement has appeared to increasingly highlight youth as important ambassadors for their cause, this presentation will outline just some of the complexities that arise at intersections between youth civic engagement and anti-abortion activism.


Katelyn Mitchell is a Master’s student in the Cultural, Social and Political Thought program at the University of Lethbridge, having completed her B.A in Sociology with Great Distinction in 2016. She has been a research assistant for Dr. Claudia Malacrida on both the Childbirth and Choice and Eugenics to Newgenics projects. Katelyn recently received a SSHRC Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship in support of her current research, which explores women’s experiences of unwanted pregnancy and abortion in the context of Southern Alberta.

Anne Jones

“Montessori Adolescents and Positive Social Change”


Montessori education proposes that all humans progress through sequential developmental stages. Each stage, referred to in the Montessori literature as a “developmental plane,” is considered to be qualitatively different than previous or subsequent stages: planes are characterized by unique “sensitive periods” (affinities toward particular environmental stimuli) and “human tendencies” (stereotypical behaviours that support development in a particular plane). Adolescence is the third of Montessori’s four developmental planes. It spans from 12-18 years of age, and is described as being a period of drastic physical and psychological change. During this plane, adolescents are considered to be preparing for social life outside their immediate social networks. Thus, Montessori theory posits that complex social issues are developmentally appropriate topics for adolescents, who are encouraged to research and actively participate in social and environmental change. The Montessori Institute for the Science of Peace (MISP)was established to help adolescents work towards this goal, and facilitates international workshops and internships for Montessori students. According to Montessori theory, adolescents are perfect candidates for creating positive social change. Therefore, Montessori education provides an interesting case study for those studying perspectives on youth.


Anne Jones is a PhD student in the University of Lethbridge’s Evolution and Behaviour program; her current project investigates the role of variable action in young children’s motor development. Motivated by an interest in Maria Montessori’s developmental theory, Anne obtained a Montessori Primary Education Teaching Certificate at the Montessori Training Centre of British Columbia, followed by a Master’s degree at the University of Lethbridge. For her Master’s project, she studied repetitive behavior, which Montessori considered to be developmentally typical among children ages 3-6 years. Anne’s scholarly interest in Montessori spans from ecological perspectives on behaviour to the consideration of Montessori education as a driver of social change.  


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