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Engaging Religion at 4th Space

Scholars and faculty of Concordia’s department of Religions and Cultures discuss the discipline.

Concordia University’s 4th Space hosted a panel discussion with participating graduate students and faculty from the department of Religions and Cultures to address what it means to choose religion as a field of study. The panellists included PhD Candidate Ellen Dobrowolski, Dr. Sowparnika Balaswaminathan, Dr. Naftali Cohn, PhD student Jordan Molot, and MA graduate Katrina Kardash, and was moderated by PhD Candidate Arwa Hussain. While each participant brought a unique background and perspective to the table, they were united in their passion for a department that holds space for interdisciplinary research interests and methods. Each panellist maintained that their curiosity gradually pulled them through twists and turns toward religious studies.

The study of religion can open up opportunities to engage with difficult cross-disciplinary questions. For example, Dobrowolski’s PhD research discusses how a person’s religious identity might reinforce or undermine their ethnic identity. As a scholar with both Métis and Brazilian heritage, Dobrowolski observed that their Catholic upbringing tended to complicate the acceptance of their indigeneity, while simultaneously strengthening that of their Latin background. This experience informs their research onthe life and work of Sara Riel, the first Métis Grey Nun missionary. 

As seen through Dobrowolski’s research, the department of Religions and Cultures fosters a breadth of study that is at once deeply personal and widely relevant within secular academia.  Each project is unique. Dr. Balaswaminathan’s work investigates how a community of artisans in her home country of India struggle to honour the integrity of their traditional crafts in a world that increasingly commodifies the artistic production of the Global South. Meanwhile, Dr. Cohn examines the representation of diverse cultures and the performance of religious rituals in the media. Second year PhD student Jordan Molot, on the other hand, studies the history of Jewish settlers in Canada and their entanglements with the transatlantic slave trade. Recent MA graduate Katrina Kardash unearths the intimate lives of evangelical Christian communities in order to understand the dynamics of gender within their domestic spaces. All of these projects draw from personal experience and demonstrate how our personal trajectories can deeply inform our academic endeavours. 

After sharing their own research and experience within the department, the panellists wrapped up with some advice to prospective graduate students who may be seeking to join the program. The group was unanimous on how the study of religion opens the doors to diverse experiences with people and places you may never have otherwise encountered, and anyone who is fueled by the desire to learn new languages, travel, and discover new perspectives ought to consider religious studies. In a more practical sense, prospective students should begin to flesh out exactly what questions they would like to investigate and reach out to professors to build connections, setting them on a path toward success. 


Concordia’s EPIC Used Book Fair returns for the first time since 2019

Concordia’s annual book fair aimed to beat their goal of raising $30,000 for student scholarships through volunteer events

Concordia’s annual EPIC Used Book Fair made its grand return with over 1000 books to sell. The event took place in the EV building atrium on March 28-29. The fair aims to raise funds for student scholarships and give a second life to used books. 

This year, the fair received 30 pallets, with each pallet containing over 20 boxes of books. The books were donated by faculty members, alumni, students and people from the community. Event coordinator Luke Quin said they were accepting donations year-round. 

The book fair’s purpose is to raise funds for students. It is a charity event where all proceeds go towards student scholarships.

“Some of us are also passionate about used books and giving a second home to used books, so that’s an added incentive to running this fair,” said Quin, who would rather see a book go home with a new friend than see it end up in a landfill.

Students and members of the public can find books of all types, from science and math textbooks to books on performing arts. 

Giordano Imola is a student in the performance creation program of Concordia’s theatre department who stumbled upon the book fair. “I came looking for plays […] and I found a bunch that I’m just looking forward to reading. I’m just deciding what to keep now,” said Imola.

The pricing was one of the main selling points of the book fair. Book prices began at $3 and went up to $10. In previous years, the book fair had made up to $30,000 dollars. This year they hoped to raise more. 

The fair was entirely volunteer-run. The Concordian spoke with volunteer Ginette Leduc, who said that by 2 p.m. on the first day, her cash register alone had made around 150 sales, and she estimated that her partners had made similar sales.

It was Leduc’s first time working the cash register, which she found quite stressful albeit enjoyable. “People understand, there’s big lineups sometimes, but it’s for a good cause so that’s OK,” she said.

The book fair has been running for 20 years. Before Quin took over in 2016, it was run by Susan Hawke and a small core group of volunteers. Since then, they’ve been able to recruit new volunteers, accept electronic payment and get more book donations. Quin says they’ve had some support from Concordia’s University Advancement community and fundraising program to promote the book fair on social media, and a ton of support from the services and sustainability sector of the university.


Concordia professor Nadia Chaudhri dies at 43, leaving a historic legacy

Amid her fight against ovarian cancer, the neuroscientist inspired hundreds of thousands on the internet

Dr. Nadia Chaudhri, an award-winning neuroscientist, Concordia professor, and beloved mother and wife, passed away on Oct. 5 due to ovarian cancer. While dealing with a terminal diagnosis during the pandemic, Chaudhri demonstrated nothing but courage and inspiration to an audience of over 150,000 on Twitter.

Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Chaudhri attended Franklin & Marshall College in the U.S. from the age of 17, where she was recognized for outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements. With a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, Chaudhri has taught at Concordia University since 2010.

The professor had become a role model for the representation of women and minorities in neuroscience research — a cause for which she raised over $630,000 from thousands of donors, setting a record-breaking fundraiser at Concordia. Much of this support had emerged from Chaudhri’s popularity on social media, achieved by inspiring thousands with her personal stories about her fight against cancer, including the highs and lows of her difficult journey.

“Truth time! I can’t get out of bed without help anymore. But I’m gathering my strength for one more Shuffle down the palliative care floor tomorrow. I know I’ve got one more in me,” Chaudhri tweeted on Sept. 11 in an effort to raise funds for the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award.

“I am not afraid,” Chaudhri added two days later, while spending her final weeks of life at the McGill University Health Centre.

For Dr. Alexandra Chisholm, now a postdoctoral fellow at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Chaudhri played a key motivational role in the early stages of her career.

Chisholm shared with The Concordian that Chaudhri provided exemplary guidance and support when she began teaching the fundamentals of animal learning to undergraduate students in the Department of Psychology at Concordia. The neuroscientist also sent a warm congratulations email to Chisholm for her PhD thesis defense in experimental psychology — which Chaudhri could not attend as cancer complications had already begun.

“She was always the first to volunteer her help and expertise because she genuinely cared about her students’ development, wanted us to feel supported and wanted to push the limits of our critical thinking skills,” said Chisholm. “She helped me to build the confidence I now have today as a course instructor.”

Besides inspiring and funding her students for their success in neuroscience, Chaudhri also raised awareness about ovarian cancer through Twitter. She shared her early symptoms, which were not diagnosed correctly until six months later, in order to help her followers detect any potential complications of their own sooner rather than later. She highlighted how crucial it is to listen to one’s own body, while also stressing the need to fund cancer research as current chemotherapy treatments do not always manage to save lives.

“[Dr. Chaudhri] enriched us. Our entire community grieves her death and offers deeply heartfelt condolences to her son, Reza, and husband, Moni — whom she lovingly called her Sun and Moon — her family, friends, colleagues and the thousands of supporters to the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award who embraced her cause,” said Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr for a Concordia article.

On Oct. 7, the University lowered its flags to half-mast to commemorate Chaudhri. Despite an early end to her inspiring journey, Chaudhri’s contributions to neuroscience and cancer awareness will not be forgotten by the Concordia community and her international supporters.


Photo courtesy of Nadia Chaudhri’s six-year-old son.

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