Renaissance Award winners to study perception of disability, gender identity

By Matt Terry , March 17, 2017

Two McMaster students will spend the summer learning about the relationship between culture and identity in five different countries around the world.

Medical student Kira Gossack-Keenan will travel to India, Cambodia and Vietnam to find out how the region’s inhabitants relate to and interact with those with physical disabilities. She’ll also study the relationship between disability and art, while producing some artistic works of her own along the way.

“We’re not perfect in Canada, but we try to incorporate accommodation into many of the things we do,” says Gossack-Keenan. “In many countries, access to the physical environment continues to be less accessible to those with disabilities, and I'd like to explore this issue.”

Tai Jacob, in Arts & Science, will produce a podcast – tentatively titled “Gender Blender” – on the experiences of those going through gender transition. Jacob plans to travel to Toronto, Montreal, New York and Chicago to interview members of those cities’ trans communities for the show, which will be available on iTunes.

“I want to explore the concept of gender,” says Jacob, “and the types of journeys people take as they explore the complexity of gender, and as they identify or reject with the concept of gender.”

The projects were made possible thanks to the  Drs. Jolie Ringash and Glen Bandiera Renaissance Award, which gives students up to $25,000 to pursue interests outside of their area of study.

The alumni-funded award provides students with the opportunity to take time away from their normal studies to explore outside interests while conducting their own learning.

Past award winners have studied sustainable farming along North America’s west coast, visited the Japanese island of Okinawa, which hosts one of the longest-lived populations in the world, trekked across Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail and traveled across the world to study eastern religion and philosophy.

The Renaissance Award is open to all full-time students. You can learn more about it here.