Dr. Will Garrett-Petts, professor of English and vice-president Research (interim) at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), is a strong proponent of undergraduate research, creating opportunities for students and faculty to work closely together to advance research interests.
Recently awarded a Killam Visiting Professorship in Canadian Studies for the 2023 spring semester at Bridgewater State University (BSU) in Massachusetts, Garrett-Petts looks forward to fostering a positive exchange of information with his American colleagues.
“The relationship between the two universities sets the stage for a genuine, mutually beneficial partnership, where we can share some of the innovative things that we’re doing,” he says.
Partnering for success
Endowed in 2008, the Killam Visiting Professorship allows BSU’s 50-year-old Canadian Studies Program to invite prominent Canadian scholars and public intellectuals to its university and, through public speaking engagements, to enhance an understanding of Canada in southeastern Massachusetts, New England and New York State. Garrett-Petts is the tenth holder of the Killam Visiting Professorship at BSU.
“This award creates an opportunity for two institutions that highly value undergraduate research to collaborate while drawing upon Dr. Garrett-Petts’s wealth of expertise and knowledge to share unique, Canadian perspectives,” says TRU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Brett Fairbairn.
Garrett-Petts has formerly held the positions of associate dean of arts, department chair of English and modern languages and department chair of journalism at TRU. He was Research Director of the Small Cities Community-University Research Alliance — a national research program exploring the cultural future of smaller communities. Garrett-Petts currently holds research grants from Mitacs, the Vancouver Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, supporting his work in cultural mapping, undergraduate research and community-engaged research in small cities.
“I was immediately drawn to BSU because of the symmetry of the two universities, both being open access and committed to research, especially to undergraduate research,” says Garrett-Petts, whose own research looks at the intersection between Canadian literature and photography, the visual culture of small Canadian cities – how they work and function – and the mapping of local cultures.
Recognizing undergraduate research
Recognized nationally and internationally for its undergraduate research program, BSU received the 2019 Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments from the Council on Undergraduate Research.
“We are thrilled to have Will on campus at Bridgewater State this semester and have the chance to solidify ties between our two schools, especially in the realm of undergraduate research initiatives but in faculty initiatives as well,” says BSU Director of Canadian Studies Dr. Andrew Holman.
“At TRU, our Envision goals commit us to becoming national leaders in undergraduate research and community engagement through research, so building relationships with acknowledged national leaders elsewhere, like BSU, is important,” says Garrett-Petts. “They do amazing things to support their undergraduate students. They’ve developed a culture that’s one to be envious of in terms of the mentoring relationship of faculty to students, providing opportunities for an enhanced, hands-on educational experience.
According to Garrett-Petts, his colleagues at BSU want to learn how TRU is combining community engaged research and undergraduate research and providing opportunities in the community for students.
“One of the things we’ve done at TRU that’s new is we’ve linked community engagement through research and undergraduate research together with initiatives like the Researcher-in-Residence initiative, which is of real interest to BSU. And I think the major interest there is because TRU has a pan-university commitment to community engagement, community-engaged research and undergraduate research,” he says.
Garrett-Petts looks forward to building a strong and lasting partnership with BSU.
“We’re working towards a memorandum of understanding between the two universities, including faculty and student exchanges, building on the Canadian studies link that we’re establishing,” he says.