Social Science PhD students receive Vanier Canada graduate scholarships

November 28, 2022

Joseph Rovetti and Luis Meléndez Guerrero

Three PhD students connected to the Faculty of Social Science have received Vanier Canada graduate scholarships. Joseph Rovetti, in the Department of Psychology, Luis Meléndez Guerrero in the Department of Anthropology, and Sohini Chatterjee in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies are among the 2022 class of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships.

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (VCGS) program aims to attract and retain world-class doctoral students by supporting students who demonstrate both superior leadership skills and an outstanding record of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and/or humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health. International and domestic candidates are eligible to be nominated for a Vanier CGS.

Joseph Rovetti

Joseph Rovetti is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology. He studies speech perception and listening effort.

“Many people who report having trouble hearing don’t seem to have hearing loss in the way that it’s typically diagnosed,” said Rovetti. Hearing loss is often diagnosed by asking people to indicate when they can hear very quiet tones.

“People with hearing difficulties may not have an issue hearing quiet tones, but they may instead have trouble understanding speech in the real world, especially in noise” he said. “If we had a way to measure a person’s mental effort during listening, we could diagnose hearing loss earlier and provide more support.”

Rovetti became interested in this field as an undergraduate while working on a project involving choir singing for older adults. Through this project, he had a chance to talk to many older adults about the experience of having hearing loss.

“It helped me understand how hard it was on both a perceptual and social level. It’s not just harder to hear, but also to communicate and maintain relationships,” he said. “Hearing loss can lead to withdrawal from social situations. Participating might take too much effort, or you may not be able to participate at all.”

Rovetti is hopeful that his work can be applied beyond research. He is confident that the funding provided by the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship will allow him to do more outreach related to hearing loss, including collaborations with industry.

“I’m very excited to work toward solving this problem,” Rovetti said.

Luis Meléndez Guerrero

Luis Meléndez Guerrero is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology. He studies the cultural and political transformations in the governance of mineral resources in the northern Peruvian Andes.

His research focuses on conflicts and disputes between different types of mining groups – informal artisanal miners, and large-scale Canadian mining companies, which have been granted legal rights over mining concessions by the Peruvian state.

“Most research on mining issues in Latin America focuses on conflicts between mining projects and grassroots movements but not on conflicts between different types of mining actors,” Meléndez said. “My research project analyzes the processes underlying the shifting tensions, alignments, and agreements between these various mining actors regarding the use and exploitation of mineral resources.”

Meléndez had personal experience in the field before starting his academic research, working in the resolution and mediation of mining conflicts in rural communities in Peru, and in other countries such as Ecuador and Mexico.

“It is relevant that about half of all Canadian mining investments abroad are in Latin America,” he said. “I plan to find alternatives to reconcile Canadian mining with local livelihoods under principles of sustainable and responsible development, applicable to Peru but also to other parts of the world.”

As a student at Western, Meléndez declares being grateful for having “the opportunity of working with and being supervised by Kim Clark, who is a specialist in political anthropology in the Andes, my main field of interest”.

“Furthermore, I have the opportunity and luck to meet and spend valuable time with other great graduate students with similar research interests in Latin America and other regions of the globe”, he adds.

Meléndez is also a member of the Instituto de Estudios Políticos Andinos, a research center based in Lima that promotes young scholars' work and links academic inquiry and debates to pressing public issues.

Sohini Chatterjee

Sohini Chatterjee is a PhD student in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.

She studies the lived experiences of variously marginalized queer and trans people. Her research is specifically focused on trans and queer communities who are also neurodivergent and/or disabled in West Bengal, India and exploring their experiences of in/security. The project draws on critical disability studies, studies on caste and sexuality, and resistance movements in India.

“I am interested in questions of care, resistance, community-building (and sustaining), political organizing, kinship, and how neurodivergent and/or disabled, trans and queer people—primarily those without caste and class privileges—are making meaning, caring, and organizing in their everyday,” Chatterjee said.

In 2018, the Supreme Court of India said that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code — a colonial era sodomy law — criminalized consensual homosexual intercourse and was therefore unconstitutional. 

Although this was celebrated as the undoing of a historical wrong in national and international media and was marked as a progressive verdict, trans and queer people without class, caste, and non-disabled privileges continued to experience various forms of violence and discrimination.   

Before coming to Western, Chatterjee studied International Relation and Political Science, developing cross-disciplinary interests, an approach strengthened by her studies at Western.

“One of the primary reasons behind choosing Western was the interdisciplinary environment provided by the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies—which now serves as my intellectual home—where I have been, and continue to be, supported by incredible mentors,” she said. “The department has made me believe in the value of interdisciplinary research and introduced me to a variety of critical intellectual traditions and has opened new horizons for me.”

Chatterjee is “deeply moved and incredibly honoured” to have received the scholarship. “Thanks to this award, I can invest in projects that truly interest and inspire me,” she said.