sherilee harper

EcoHealth Research with Indigenous Communities

Inaugural Harper Lab Retreat!

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Written by Carlee Wright & Manpreet Saini

LabRetreat1On Thursday August 13th and Friday August 14th, members of Dr. Harper’s lab went to Creiff Hills Community Retreat and Conference Centre for a 2-day overnight retreat. Thursday morning we left bright and early to the place that would be our residence- the House of Ruth. Our day started with a yoga session. We completed stretches and exercises to prepare us for the activities and events to come. Following the relaxing yoga session, we participated in a teleconference with Dr. James Ford from McGill University. He discussed topics such as writing, productivity, and grant proposals. He addressed questions we had in regards to graduate student work as well as building a strong CV.

During the lunch period we took advantage of the beautiful weather to sit outside. The afternoon activities started with a walk along the Red Trail on the property and participating in an adaptation of a water walk. This activity involved stopping at various points along the walk and reflecting on how we are affected by the immediate natural and/or built environment. We discussed how these spaces made us feel as well as different topics of discussion that were coming up as we spent time walking with one another. The trail covered a wide range of scenery as we moved between forested areas and cornfields. The views were breath-taking, and a fresh change from the sights and sounds of the city we are so used to. The opportunities to stop and reflect also gave us the chance to share things about one another and learn new things about each other. Making our way back, we participated in a sharing circle that covered topics such as being non-Indigenous but working with Indigenous populations. As always, the sharing circle provided us with a safe space to express thoughts, share stories and state what was on our minds.

On Thursday afternoon we had Natalie Carter, a soon-to-be PhD graduate, speak to the group. Natalie joined us to talk about gender-related research, and some of the opportunities and challenges related to conducting gender research in different countries and cultures. This was a great opportunity to learn and share experiences that students have faced in their own research. After the planned sessions, we enjoyed a chilli dinner and had a campfire complete with hot dogs and s’mores. Several of us even saw meteors from the Perseid meteor shower!

Friday morning started off with another sharing circle that covered topics such as staying motivated and time management tips. PhD candidate Warren Dodd then did a great session that covered concepts that we are exposed to in research with Indigenous populations, methods that we use within research, and values that we hold as researchers. Throughout his session we were able to reflect on these various components of research and discuss what our thoughts and perceptions were of each. Furthermore, we were given the opportunity to reflect on our most important values within ourselves and how the concepts and methods align with and impact our work. It was a very interesting session that really got us thinking of how our values intertwine with the research that we do, and hope to do in the future.

The retreat ended with an amazing pizza lunch and a final opportunity to mingle. The retreat was a great opportunity to spend time with each other, as we are not always able to when at the university. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience and I’m sure all of us cannot wait for the chance to repeat it next year.

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