London to Jell-O: STU shells out 20k in grants

STU awarded $20,000 to 10 professors to further their research in various subjects (Cara Smith/AQ)
STU awarded $20,000 to 10 professors to further their research in various subjects (Cara Smith/AQ)

Professor Robin Vose is headed to the British Library in London soon thanks to a $3,625 research grant from St. Thomas University’s Research Committee. Vose will continue the research he began with his friend who worked at the University of Notre Dame.

“[He] managed to secure the purchase of a major, never-before studied collection of inquisition materials. I was invited to help organize the collection and together we decided to create a web-based display for students,” Vose said.

Vose’s friend, Scott Van Jacob, passed away from cancer in 2009. In memory of his friend, Vose decided to keep working on the project. He also decided to examine texts outside of the Notre Dame collection. The STU history professor has examined texts in the U.S., Spain, Mexico, and Chile.

Studying these texts will allow Vose to “provide new insights into how the Inquisition itself changed over time and how it adapted its practices to deal with new circumstances, such as the emergence of Protestant churches, globalization and encounters with previously unknown peoples in the Americas,” Vose said.

“This STU Research Grant will allow me to continue the project later this year at the British Library in London—one of the world’s biggest and most important libraries but one I have never had the chance to visit. My student research assistant and I are currently putting together a full list of inquisition manuals there, but I already know it contains rare manuscripts composed by Bernard Gui among others. I will examine these and compare them to others, significantly building my knowledge both of Gui’s work and of the genre as a whole,” said Vose.

Gayle MacDonald, chair of the STU Research Committee, said they gave Vose the biggest award because they thought it was the most well-articulated, feasible, and worthy project of the eight that applied. However, said MacDonald, “all of the major grants were interesting and worthy projects.”

MacDonald says Vose is intelligent and knows how to give his research purpose.

“All of his research is directed to teaching students how to do research…his research and teaching is seamless.”
The research committee consists of six faculties from different disciplines. Two members are nominated each year with three-year rotations. When the committee chooses applicants they look for the quality of research presented. MacDonald says most faculty are more accustomed to writing academically and writing for funding is a different type of writing.

The Research Committee has created workshops on how to write for funding because getting funding is strategic.

“Research is the life blood of a university,” MacDonald said.

“Research drives ideas, critical thinking, good teaching, policy…etc.”

This year eight people applied for the major award. MacDonald says the numbers are increasing every year because the cost of research is going up. In the past, there have normally been two or three applicants.

“Funding gives the professor the motivation, the assistance, and the support needed to do the project,” said MacDonald.

The Committee holds two competitions per year. The major research grant (MRG) is only awarded to one faculty member, this year it was Vose. There are also general research grants (GRG), which are awarded to many applicants. One recipient is history professor Michael Dawson.

Would you take a class on the history of Jell-O? Dr. Dawson hopes students will. Dawson plans to invent a course at STU on junk food. The class will be a stepping-stone to a book he is co-writing with his partner, Catherine Gidney, called Junk Food and In-Digestible Food. One of the chapters will be on Jell-O.

Dawson describes himself as a historian on popular culture. He’s interested in the industrialization of food. He’s also intrigued by the idea of Jell-O as a non-food food.

Dawson will be using his grant money this summer to visit a Jell-O Museum in Le Roy, NY. At the museum, he will have access to commercials, old packaging, and most importantly how it was marketed. He also plans to visit the library at the University of Guelph in Ontario. This library is full of recipes and cookbooks. There are about 25 recipe books produced by the Jell-O Corporation.

“With the use of these recipe books I will be able to see the corporate view point of how to use the product,” Dawson said.

However, the course and the book will not just be about Jell-O. Some other foods he has been researching are pizza, Happy Meals, Twinkies, and soft drinks.

In Dawson’s studies so far he has learned about how Jell-O’s marketing has changed over time.

“For example, during the depression Jell-O was marketed as a food stretcher. It was something to add to things to stretch the food’s use and to feed more people. In the 1950s and 60s when women were entering the workforce and had less time to cook, Jell-O was marketed as a time saver,” Dawson said.

STU psychology professor, David Korotkov, was also awarded a research grant. He will be continuing his research he presented in 2012 to the Annual International Society for Humor Studies Conference in Kracow, Poland. In this new research, he will look at several other different roles that humour takes in relation to human behaviour and health.

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