SFU President's media award winners (l-r): Prof. Paul Kingsbury, Paola Ardiles, Tia O'Grady, with President Andrew Petter.


Trio to receive new President's media awards

February 27, 2018

A geography professor whose paranormal research attracts national and international media, a health sciences lecturer known for her social trailblazing and a communicator with an eye for strategy are being recognized with new SFU awards.

Professor Paul Kingsbury, whose research on the paranormal captured national and international headlines last year, has garnered the 2017 President’s Media Newsmaker award. The award recognizes an SFU expert who has outstanding results in working with the media to promote research or to comment on current events.

Health sciences senior lecturer Paola Ardiles is being recognized for her ability to advance social change online and, in turn, positively influence SFU’s overall reputation. She receives the President’s 2017 Social Media Newsmaker Award. 

And Tia O’Grady, communications manager for the Office of the Vice-President, receives the President’s Strategic Communicator award, given to an SFU communicator whose strategic approach has outstanding results in shaping public knowledge and opinion.

The trio will be honoured during SFU’s annual awards ceremony on February 27.

Kingsbury’s research focuses on the recent growth of beliefs, practices and experiences related to the paranormal. His media relations efforts led to more than 250 articles, including front page stories in the Vancouver Sun and other media, as well as numerous radio and TV spots, including North America’s most popular late-night show, Coast to Coast AM, with a reach of nearly three million weekly listeners.

His November article on crop circles published in The Conversation went on to be re-published by Newsweek and Live Science.

“It’s important that we connect with the media because it not only dispels the dangerous myth that academics work in "ivory towers,” it also shows the power of our research to explain fundamental processes that shape the world around us,” says Kingsbury.

“In my case, as a social scientist, I hope my interviews with the media help to illustrate the ‘everydayness’ of people’s paranormal beliefs and experiences, as well as the recent growth of paranormal investigation cultures, such as ghost investigators, that aim to give clients peace of mind— and UFO and Sasquatch conferences that resemble conventional academic sites of learning and teaching."

Throughout her career, Ardiles has used innovative and collaborative approaches to promote health research, policy and practice, with a particular focus on youth engagement and leadership. The founder of Bridge for Health, a global network to promote social innovation and community health, she was recognized in 2017 as a “social trailblazer” by the Surrey Board of Trade.

Two years ago, she launched a successful social media campaign for youth and with youth to determine how to best include them in global health policy development. She also co-leads SFU’s Health Change Lab, which connects a cohort of SFU students with community health leaders in Surrey.

“I teach about the importance of empowerment and engagement to community health,” says Ardiles. “Social media is a mechanism that give youth a voice and space to share their ideas and insights about creating wellbeing.”

Ardilles, noted for her ability to incorporate her students' learning journeys into social media posts, tweets and posts frequently about health promotion research, and about the innovative and entrepreneurial community health work of her students.

In her short 19 months at SFU, O’Grady has taken communications work to new heights for SFU research and for the university. Her colleagues commend her work as strategic, creative and metrics driven.

O’Grady’s communication strategies have set the success for several launch events and university-wide initiatives, including Supercomputer Cedar, the 2017 #BCTECH Summit, KEY, SFU’s Big Data Initiative, and she has continued to further the university’s innovation strategy—SFU Innovates—by developing a new communications plan.

She is praised for her approach to communicating the value of strategy across the VPR Office’s portfolio and for her goal of achieving objectives with measurable results.

O’Grady’s work in collaboration with SFU’s Communications and Marketing team has directly contributed to strengthening SFU’s brand and reputation around excellence in research and innovation.

“I’ve been very fortunate with my previous work in marketing and communications for corporate, technology, and non-profit environments,” says O’Grady. “The variety of workplaces has strengthened my focus on strategic thinking, because I have learned that regardless of the industry, the need for strategy never fails.

“At SFU, I feel as though I’ve found a community where I belong. I was instantly motivated to align and collaborate with Communications and Marketing, so that we could achieve more together—in unison—driven by results. I feel it has been quite a natural process, and we have accomplished a great deal in strategically communicating about the impactful research that is happening at the university. 

"There is certainly only more to come and share with the world about SFU research. This is just the start. And that’s thrilling for me.”