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Feb. 27, 2018
For Immediate Release

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Waterloo - Faculty members Bree Akesson, Stephanie DeWitte-Orr and Ivona Hideg are the recipients of Wilfrid Laurier University's inaugural Early Career Researcher Awards. The new award program is a university-wide recognition of exceptional early career faculty members who have made significant contributions to research or creative activities in their area of expertise and toward the training of students. The award recipients will be recognized at an event on March 14 at 2:45 p.m. in the Paul Martin Centre on Laurier's Waterloo campus.

"This new award is to recognize excellence and the exceptional talent of the emerging scholars at Laurier," said Rob Gordon, vice-president: research. "Bree, Stephanie and Ivona have already established themselves as leading researchers in their respective fields, and this award will further position them for future success."

Akesson, assistant professor in the Social Work and Social Justice and Community Engagement programs on the Brantford campus, examines international social work issues ranging from the experiences of war-affected families to supporting and strengthening social work and mental health systems in countries around the world. Since her appointment in 2014, Akesson has amassed an exceptional research record and frequently disseminates her work to academic and non-academic audiences.

Akesson is currently working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, using innovative methods such as collaborative family interviews and geographic information systems (GIS) to learn more about their everyday experiences of displacement. She is also working with two universities in Afghanistan to strengthen the mental health system by supporting faculty in their counselling psychology academic program. Akesson hopes that by helping to improve the curriculum and enhancing faculty members' teaching and learning skills, the faculty members will contribute to the development of a new generation of counselling psychologists to address the mental health concerns of the Afghan population.

"I am absolutely thrilled to be a recipient of Laurier's Early Career Researcher Award and honoured that Laurier is recognizing the research that I do," said Akesson. "As a recently appointed faculty member, I am grateful for the tremendous support that Laurier has provided to me in the course of my career here. This award shows the value that Laurier places on faculty members working with marginalized populations around the world."

Read more about Akesson's research.

DeWitte-Orr, associate professor in the departments of Health Sciences and Biology, is an expert in innate immune responses. Her research focuses on double-stranded RNA, a potent stimulator of cell protection mechanisms in humans and animals, and how to design therapies to protect animals from virus infections.

DeWitte-Orr is one of a handful of researchers exploring double-stranded RNA and believes there are powerful implications for the betterment of health of humans and animals. An exceptional emerging scholar, DeWitte-Orr is a strong mentor to students in her research lab, empowering students to have input and ownership over their research, regularly publishing their work.

"This award is incredibly important to me, because it shows that my peers and colleagues appreciate my research and believe what I am doing is valuable and important," said DeWitte-Orr. "I look forward to continuing to use my expertise to train the next generation of research experts."

Read more about DeWitte-Orr's research.

Hideg, assistant professor of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, addresses the leadership challenges of promoting, supporting and leveraging diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace. Her research provides insights on how to effectively leverage diversity in the workplace, how to attract and retain a diverse workforce, and how to promote greater equality and inclusion of traditionally disadvantaged groups. Hideg consistently publishes in top-tier journals in her field, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and The New York Times.

Hideg sees her research as a way to tackle the most important challenges of the 21st century. She hopes through research she may garner additional knowledge that will be helpful to fight inequality and better prepare organizations for diverse and equitable global workforces.

"I think this award is important because it signals Laurier's dedication to research excellence and it showcases cutting-edge work conducted at Laurier," said Hideg. "This award is meaningful to me because it supports my work on inequality and diversity and as such is supporting the training of students, who will become future experts and thought leaders in this area. This award further attests to Laurier's dedication as a leader in enabling diversity and removing systematic barriers. I feel very honoured to be presented with this award."

Read more about Hideg's research.

DeWitte-Orr and Hideg were also the recipients of the 2016 Early Career Researcher Awards from Ontario's Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science.

About the Laurier Early Career Researcher Award

The Laurier Early Career Researcher Award is an internal award administered by the Office of Research Services. Annually, up to three awards will be awarded to full-time faculty who are within the first five years of their academic career (and within 10 years of completing their highest degree) and have made outstanding contributions to scholarly, research or creative activity in their field.

Faculty and staff will receive an invitation to the award ceremony in the coming days. Brantford faculty and staff will be able to join the event via video conference in Room RCW324 on Laurier's Brantford campus. Members of the media are welcome to attend.

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Robert Gordon, Vice-President
Wilfrid Laurier University

T: 519.884.0710 x3601


Kevin Crowley, Director
Communications & Public Affairs
Wilfrid Laurier University

T: 519.884.0710 x3070



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