Faculty Profile: Dr. Dara Culhane, Sociology and Anthropology

November 04, 2011

We're delighted to profile the winners of the inaugural Dean's Awards for Excellence in Graduate Studies. Dr. Dara Culhane received a 2011 award for Excellence in Graduate Leadership.

The 2012 awards are now open for nominations. Nomination deadline is November 15.

Dara Culhane began her academic career with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at SFU in 1994, after serving as deputy director of the Canadian Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples from 1992–94. She has held positions as a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California, and the National University of Ireland/Galway.

Her history of leadership in graduate studies includes five years as graduate chair for Sociology and Anthropology and an additional three years on the department’s graduate program committee. In that time, she coordinated a review and subsequent major revisions to the department’s graduate program, including adding five new courses. The revised program also benefits graduate students, who now have a streamlined process with a quicker completion speed.

Her exemplary leadership wasn’t limited to recrafting the graduate program. Her research projects have involved many graduate student researchers and build bridges to the community. From 1999–2005, she was principal investigator on a SSHRC-funded multi-disciplinary project entitled "Health & Home:  Relationships between Health and Housing Among Low Income Women in Downtown Eastside Vancouver." This project involved 13 faculty members from SFU as co-investigators and was a collaborative partnership with the Downtown Eastside Womens Centre and the Bridge Housing Society for Women. It employed and trained over 20 graduate students from a number of disciplines and institutions as well as community-based researchers.

In 2006 and 2007, she directed two performance ethnography projects, People Like You, and The Stories and Plays Project, in partnership with the Vancouver Native Health Society. Graduate and undergraduate students were employed as research assistants as were community-based researchers. Graduate students she supervised have succeeded in obtaining academic and professional appointments internationally, and have written prize-winning books.

Her colleagues’ comments reflect her commitment to leadership in her department. One of her nominators says, "Dr. Culhane’s office door is always open to a seemingly endless stream of faculty and graduate students who turn to her for guidance.”

Another adds, "Professor Culhane encourages and facilitates graduate student attendance at and involvement in seminars across the campus and at neighbouring universities. She is extremely generous with her time, meeting with students individually and in small groups, introducing them to colleagues, and promoting their inclusion in local, national, and international professional networks.

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