English faculty member awarded international fellowship
Dr. Jenna Butler to continue literary work in Scotland
When RDC’s winter term comes to a close in a few weeks, English instructor Dr. Jenna Butler will conclude her instructional activities and transition into scholarly projects outside the classroom. Butler, an award-winning writer who has been a faculty member with RDC’s School of Arts and Sciences for the past three years, will join a handful of other writers from around the globe as part of the prestigious Hawthornden Castle Fellowship for Writers.
“The application process for this fellowship is quite involved, and I feel very grateful to be one of the writers who has been awarded this opportunity,” Butler says, adding that the month-long fellowship will take place 45 minutes outside of Edinburgh in Scotland. “The location doesn’t have any cell or internet service, and there are strict no-talking rules from breakfast to supper, so it will provide dedicated time for me to really delve into my projects.”
While at the international fellowship, Butler will be working on three main projects, all of which include topics with global relevance. “My first priority will be to complete the final edits for my fifth book, a travelogue that connects the endangered Norwegian Arctic with the environmentally sensitive northern Canadian boreal,” she says. “This project came out of a writer in residence position I held onboard a sailing ship at the Norwegian Arctic Circle in 2014. I’ll also be researching and planning for a sixth book, which looks at how women beekeepers build community and explores their reasons for taking up the trade. I hope to incorporate stories from women in Alberta, Cameroon, Nicaragua and Turkey.”
Her third area of focus involves her work with a second-year Science student from RDC as they undertake what they hope will be a reconciliatory book project involving the Dene people who were impacted by uranium mining near Great Bear Lake. Butler explains how people from the Dene community of Délįne mined the uranium in the early 1940s and, without their knowledge, this uranium was used in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
“It’s a real pleasure to work with Mandy Bayha, who is from Délįne herself, as we look to share the stories of the elders and the community as a whole,” she says. “We are hoping to respect and acknowledge the traumatic uranium-mining history of the area, while also looking to the future. Right now, there is so much hope manifest in initiatives being undertaken by the community, such as self-governance and traditional knowledge projects. It feels like the right time to use these stories to build a bridge between Délįne and the rest of Canada, and one that perhaps even reaches as far as Japan.”
The projects Butler will be working on during her fellowship represent inter-cultural, international and inter-generational perspectives, and the outcomes will have far-reaching impacts. “Jenna’s writing is grounded in Alberta and the Canadian North, and she makes global connections in order to explore issues that affect people from all over the world – indeed, that may affect us all,” says Dr. Steve Lane, Associate Vice President Academic with Red Deer College. “Her work represents the type of scholarly activity that faculty from across the College are engaged in. As faculty continue to build upon their expertise, they may have the opportunity to connect directly with students for projects, as Jenna is doing, and they also bring their extensive knowledge into their classrooms for the benefit of all learners.”
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