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MSC faculty and team awarded $119,000 federal grant

An instructor from Canadian Mennonite University's Menno Simons College (MSC) and a team of other professors are the recipients of a prestigious federal grant.

Karen Ridd, Instructor in Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, received a three-year Partnership Development Grant worth $119,000 through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

She joins a team of University of Winnipeg professors as co-applicants on the grant: Judith Harris (Urban and Inner-City Studies), Heather Snell (English), Helen Lepp Friesen (Rhetoric, Writing and Communications), and primary applicant Kevin Walby (Criminal Justice).

"I'm quite thrilled about being involved in receiving this grant," Ridd says. "My role at MSC is primarily a teaching position, so being involved in this collaborative research project is something that is new and exciting to me."

The grant will be used to create a Centre for Prison Education and Research. The team will research prison education, community-based and experiential learning techniques, and prisoner re-entry using collaborative methods that will engage the community.

They will also form a network of researchers, educators, and community groups across institutions and disciplines who will pursue further work in this field and create partnerships between these groups and government agencies to improve education and support for prisoners.

"The co-applicants have recognized that Winnipeg is uniquely placed to be a Centre for Prison Education and Research," Ridd says. "We have a strong tradition of solid and innovative restorative justice programs, as well as significant community support."

Ridd's primary ways of participating in the grant will be teaching Walls to Bridges (W2B) courses and participating in the W2B Think Tank.

W2B is a program that teaches university courses inside prisons to equal numbers of incarcerated students and campus-enrolled students. Ridd says there is a growing number of professors in Manitoba who are trained to teach courses in this format.

This spring she will be teaching Restorative Justice, her first W2B course, at the Women's Correctional Centre in Headingley, MB.

"CMU as a community cares deeply about justice and reconciliation, and to me, this is an opportunity for our faculty and students to engage directly in that risky, transformative work," says Dr. Jonathan Dueck, Vice-President Academic and Academic Dean at CMU.

Ridd says she's grateful for the leadership of the other applicants, the grant-writing assistance from Maureen Epp, Research Grants Consultant at CMU, and the enthusiastic support from Dueck and Neil Funk-Unrau, Associate Dean at MSC.

"Karen's reflective teaching, as well as her work in thinking through this pedagogy with other faculty at CMU and other institutions, is helping us to understand teaching and the "classroom," wherever it's located, in new ways," Dueck says.

Ridd holds an MA in Peace and Justice and a BA Honours in English, both from the University of Winnipeg. She has been teaching at MSC since 1997 and joined the faculty in a full time permanent position in 2017. She is a well-recognized mediator, teacher, public speaker, and conflict resolution practitioner with extensive international experience.

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