The world of academia is alive and flourishing with new and exciting research projects, as well as enthusiastic and passionate researchers looking to leave their mark on their respective fields. From creating multimedia portraits of refugees by analyzing data collections to studying the relationship between celebrity culture and periodicals, professors at UTM are exploring a variety of different topics. The Connaught Fund supports the development of this research even further. 

The Connaught Fund is an internal funding program specific to the University of Toronto. It allows U of T researchers to apply for awards that will help kickstart their careers in academia and research. Currently, the five awards that can be won include the Global Challenge Award, the New Researcher Award, the Innovation Award, the McLean Award, and the International Doctoral Scholarship.  

The fund was first founded in 1972 when the U of T decided to sell the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories for $29 million. The lab itself was founded in 1914 for the research and production of diphtheria antitoxin. Once insulin was discovered in 1921 by U of T researchers, the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories began to produce more vaccines and antitoxins. Once the lab was sold, the University of Toronto was able to acquire $29 million, now worth over $120 million. 

Every year, scholars can apply for the Connaught Fund. The fund’s website states, “the Connaught programs are open to emerging and established scholars across disciplinary, career stage, geographic, and sectoral bounds.” 

The New Researcher Awards, one of the grants available, is specifically designed for emerging researchers entering the academic research scene. One such researcher is Dr. Negin Dahya.  Dr. Dayha is a researcher and professor in the field of digital media production. She plans to use the Connaught Fund for her ongoing research in creating multimedia portraits of refugees in Dzaleka. 

Dr. Dayha’s research began with her interest in refugeehood and “the ways in which technology and education intersect to help or hinder their migration journeys.” Before she applied for the Connaught Fund, Dr. Dayha already had her project set in motion. However, the fund will be able to expand the project further. “The research project was already established but really needed funding to take off. This fund seemed like a great fit,” says Dr. Dayha. 

The Connaught Fund is an empowering way for researchers to pursue what they are passionate about. Even those who may not be new to research but are new to the U of T community can utilize the Connaught Fund to distinguish themselves among their peers. Dr. Adrien Rannaud is a French scholar who began his studies in France and fell in love with the world of academia. 

“I did a student exchange in Québec City, and it changed my life,” says Dr. Rannaud. “I read a lot on Québec history and literature. I followed some courses on the subject and I decided to start a Ph.D. at Laval University.” 

With the Connaught Fund’s help, Dr. Rannaud will be analyzing celebrity culture in the media and press. He argues that there is a much more complicated relationship “between culture and its actors where journalistic poetics and media imaginaries are not only witnesses and broadcast channels for celebrities, [but narrators as well] create a way of thinking about it.”

Dr. Rannaud’s project is also funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for a five-year term, from 2020 to 2025. The addition of the Connaught Fund allows Dr. Rannaud to take his research even further and hire a research assistant. “This is a great addition to my fund portfolio […] It’s a good start for me at U of T.”  

Another researcher new to Canada and U of T is Dr. Anjuli Raza Kolb. As a recipient of the New Researcher award, Dr. Raza Kolb says  the fund is “a huge honour and an immense boost for a weird little book project.” 

Dr. Raza Kolb’s research is paving new grounds in the realm of literature. Her research looks at the “framing of literary and Indigenous languages” and the way literature education can familiarize readers “with ‘hard’ commodities like sugar, and semi-soft commodities like water.” With help from the Connaught Fund, Dr. Raza Kolb hopes to bring attention to the “labour and the racial encoding in those words.”

While Dr. Raza Kolb states the application process for the fund can be taxing and time-consuming, she believes that awards such as these can “demonstrate a [university’s] commitment to experimental work.” As a queer woman of colour, Dr. Raza Kolb hopes research grants like the Connaught Fund will encourage more students from many backgrounds to go into research. 

“Even this interview is an opportunity for me to say: there are many of us who want and need your voices in academia, and we are here to support you,” Dr. Raza Kolb adds. 

The Connaught Fund is an excellent source of funding at U of T to promote scholarship and academia. Funds such as these allow scholars to hire research assistants, travel abroad to collect data, and create work that leaves a substantial impact. Professors who received funding from the Connaught Fund had a unique view of how the fund encouraged them to pursue their respective projects. 

 Dr. Rannaud reflected on how the fund inspired his junior faculty members “to start thinking [about] their research and what they really want to do at U of T. The Connaught Fund represents a leverage for more research and outcomes.”  

The fund also helps one reflect upon their academic work and research. “The [application] was very straightforward and thoughtful in its questions about impacts, which was a good experience,” says Dr. Dahya. “The process of writing can often help further your own thinking about the project, and this was no exception.” 

The Connaught Fund also reminds academics and scholars that their fields are of value and must be represented.  Dr. Raza Kolb describes how she felt recognized by the committee when she won the award, and the availability of the fund further encourages her to pursue her research. 

It is also essential to remember that many scholars apply for many more funds than just those presented as awards. Dr. Raza Kolb encourages any readers working toward recognition in academia to “reach out for help, talk to people, and keep on making your beautiful work, even if it isn’t recognized every time by every committee.”

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