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PURE Award winners 2016: Lise Rajewicz

BA Honours student’s research part of a larger collaborative project with the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute


Lise Rajewicz is researching what kind of influence the biggest fossil fuel companies in Alberta may have on the creation of Alberta´s new Climate Leadership Plan that was unveiled by the provincial NDP government in November 2015. Photo by Dymphny Dronyk, University of Calgary

By Jennifer Robitaille
August 10, 2016

The University of Calgary’s Eyes High strategic statement reads “students will thrive in programs made rich by research and hands-on experiences”. The integration of teaching and research is a priority in this vision and the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience — also known as PURE — is an important initiative that reflects this commitment.

Each year undergraduates can apply for the prestigious PURE Awards, which provide financial research support to some of the university’s most promising students over the spring and summer months.

The program is designed to give undergraduate students the opportunity to learn how to develop research projects, undertake independent research and contribute to knowledge in their respective fields.

In this Q&A series, we hear from the 2016 PURE Award winners from the Faculty of Arts.


 Name: Lise Rajewicz

Degree sought: BA Honours in Human Geography, Minor in Spanish

What is your research topic?

I am contributing to a larger research project called the Corporate Mapping Project. It’s a six year project being undertaken collaboratively between the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute which is conducting a systematic mapping of corporate power and influence with a focus on the fossil fuel industry in Western Canada.

For my project specifically, I am researching what kind of influence the biggest fossil fuel companies in Alberta may have on the creation of Alberta´s new Climate Leadership Plan that was unveiled by the provincial NDP government in November 2015. Corporate influence over the government may, in turn, have direct bearing on the kinds of climate policies that will shape our collective future here in Alberta and in Canada as a whole.

The concentration of power held by the fossil fuel industry could mean that some climate policies, while beneficial to business, do not really represent the interests of society as a whole.

What attracted you to this particular research project?

I was interested in pursuing research that is relevant to us here in Alberta. Our province, and Canada as a whole, is at an interesting political crossroads. Our new federal and provincial governments recognize that climate change is an issue that can no longer be ignored in favour of economic growth at all costs. Alberta's Climate Leadership Plan is unprecedented in this province and it is exciting to see important first steps being taken to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed upon at COP21. Nevertheless, it is important that we don't just sit back and assume that these policies are in our best interests. This project takes a critical eye to some of the deep-seated societal power structures that could undermine our democracy.

As an undergraduate student, the chance to work collaboratively with my supervisor Gwendolyn Blue as well as researchers and academics from a broad range of backgrounds is very rare. I feel extremely fortunate to have the chance to learn from this experience and to get a taste for what real-world research in a professional team environment is all about.

Why is this research important and what do you hope to achieve? 

While it is definitely promising to see that the provincial government has taken the first steps in the right direction in terms of climate action, that isn’t always enough. I feel it is important that we, as civil society, play an active and unrelenting role in shaping the policies that affect our environment and us.  I think that scrutinizing the role played by powerful corporations in Alberta will help to show which interests are really being represented.  Though my research is just a small part of a much broader undertaking, I hope it will help to widen the discussion about democratic alternatives to the status quo.

What do you like most about your field of study?

I think the fact that I’m a Geography major doing research on climate policy really speaks to the broad, inter-disciplinary nature of my program. Almost anything on Earth can be seen through a geographical lens, because the focus is on spatial relations and interactions between people, places and things on the planet. To me, climate change is kind of the quintessentially geographical issue of our time because it causes us to confront urgent issues from the local to the global scales.

What advice would you give to other students considering applying for PURE awards next year?

If you have a question that you want to answer and you want to have dedicated time to devote to research, this is an amazing opportunity. Get to know your professors- they are experts in their fields. Having the chance to work one-on-one with them will no doubt be a rich and rewarding experience.”