King's faculty honoured for excellence in research
May 17, 2021
Congratulations to Dr. Robert Ventresca, ’93, Professor of History, on receiving the 2021 Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award and to Dr. Jordan Fairbairn, Assistant Professor of Sociology, on receiving the Early Career Excellence in Research Award.
Dr. Robert Ventresca, Professor of History, recipient of the 2021 Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award
In receiving the award, Dr. Ventresca said he was “moved and humbled”, especially because it served as an occasion to remember his good friend and cherished colleague, the late Dr. Hugh Mellon.
“I'm very grateful to the esteemed colleagues who advanced the nomination, and to the King's Research Activity Committee for their diligent evaluation of my work. Most important, I want to say how fortunate I was to have known Hugh Mellon, and to have benefited as a junior scholar from Hugh's constant encouragement, wise advice, and basic decency. An enduring part of Hugh's legacy is to have cultivated at King's an appreciation for the essential role that research plays in the work of the university college. It wasn't always this way. Hugh helped us to see that research and teaching were two sides of the same coin; both are vital to generating and transmitting knowledge and understanding. The fact that King's now boasts such an impressive array of impactful research across the disciplines is a testament to Hugh's legacy,” says Dr. Ventresca.
Dr. Ventresca is recognized for highly impactful scholarship on the history of the Catholic Church and authoritarian governing structures during the 20th century, the contested historical legacies of 20th century popes such as Pius XII, and the role of organized religion in genocide.
He is commended for his tireless commitment to academic rigor and truth while engaging in deeply complex and controversial topics, as was repeatedly noted by his nominators. His projects received funding through the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and he has received multiple prestigious honours for his academic work. As a testament to the depth of his scholarly impact, supporters of his nomination noted that serious academic scholarship on these topics is no longer possible without engaging with Dr. Ventresca’s work in these areas.
He also generously provides time to various organizations and media outlets seeking his expertise. Of particular note is the important relationship he has with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C as a member of its Committee on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust.
His strong advocacy for meaningful Jewish-Catholic collaboration and for scholarly engagement with the Catholic liberal arts intellectual tradition were noted for their lasting impact on King’s programs and culture. His nominators described him as “a deeply compassionate and thoughtful colleague whose commitment to fostering the collegial norms of the College have greatly enriched the life of faculty, staff and students at King’s.”
Dr. Ventresca was first appointed to King’s in 2000.
The Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award was established in 2015 in honour of Dr. Mellon, late Associate Professor of Political Science. It was a fitting tribute to a colleague and friend because of his strong and consistent advocacy for research and its dissemination at King’s. The award acknowledges scholars in various stages of their professional lives. It recognizes a colleague who has earned distinction for herself/himself and for King’s University College as a result of the outstanding characteristic and significance of their research.
“The quantity and quality of Dr. Ventresca’s work is outstanding and is the mark of an advanced top scholar working in his field. In many ways, (Dr. Ventresca) embodies the ideal of Hugh Mellon and the College, namely, original, top-quality research that impacts and connects to the real lives of people that aims to make people conscious of human feelings and triumphs, thereby inspiring them to work towards a more just and equitable world,” said one letter of support for Dr. Ventresca’s nomination.
Dr. Jordan Fairbairn, Assistant Professor of Sociology, recipient of the Early Career Excellence in Research Award
Through her research and advocacy, Dr. Fairbairn is a renowned scholar of feminist criminology, gender violence, and domestic homicide with a specific emphasis on media portrayals of these issues.
Dr. Fairbairn is exceptionally effective in disseminating her findings to both academic and non-academic audiences. Her record of academic publishing is impressive. Those supporting her nomination attribute this to her keen ability to identify important gaps in existing scholarship and her relentless dedication to seeing projects through to completion.
Dr. Fairbairn is actively engaged with various national and international collaborative networks, including membership on the Expert Advisory Council to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. She is committed to making her findings and insights accessible to non-academic audiences and, as a result, is having significant impact beyond academia. Policymakers, activists, and NGO’s have engaged with her work in their efforts to eliminate intimate partner violence.
Dr. Fairbairn is also recognized for her effective mentorship. Her nominators noted that her students have received prestigious honours for their undergraduate research projects. Her ability to inspire King’s students to realize their own academic potential and use it to improve society exemplifies King’s mission and culture.
“I am extremely honoured to receive this award, and very thankful to those who put their time and energy into the nomination and selection process. It is wonderful to see all the interesting and important research happening across King's and in partnership with various communities, and I am continually inspired by my colleagues' work in relation to important social issues of our times,” says Dr. Fairbairn.
“The letters of support for Dr. Fairbairn’s nomination were unequivocal in their profound respect for the reputation and impact of her research. As noted by several King’s faculty, her success as a researcher at this stage of her career, and in such an important area of femicide, is stunning. The committee noted that she is the Primary Investigator of the largest Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) award at King’s, as well as her stature in this field of research as a member of the expert advisory panel for the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability,” wrote Dr. Gillian Balfour, Vice Principal and Academic Dean.
Dr. Fairbairn was first appointed to King’s in 2017.
The Early Career Excellence in Research Award, established in 2019, recognizes outstanding scholarship and research significance for faculty members in the early stages of their careers.
In 2020, Dr. Renée Soulodre-La France, Professor and Chair of the Department of History, received the Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award and Dr. Bharati Sethi, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, received the Early Career Excellence in Research Award. (Please see the web story regarding the announcement here.) Because the usual recognition for these awards were not able to take place in 2020, plans are underway to properly recognize the achievements for all four faculty members (2020 and 2021 recipients).