March 26, 2013 - 6:43am

Shannon Bence, who is in VIU's MA in Sustainable Leisure Management program, has been chosen as one of the top 25 finalists in a national competition organized by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

The competition called ‘Research for a Better Life: the Storyteller’s Challenge’, tasked participants with creating a three-minute video describing how their SSHRC-funded research project is making an impact. Their challenge was describing their research in such a way that everyone, not just academics in the field, could understand it.

“My research supervisor Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, encouraged me to enter the competition in February,” says Bence. “I knew they were going to announce the winners this past week and I was so nervous, checking my email constantly.” When she found out she had been shortlisted, Bence couldn’t contain her excitement.

“I was with a friend and we both started screaming and jumping up and down,” she says. “I worked really hard on this project and to be recognized for that is so great.”

Bence’s research is examining young adult attraction and retention to rural communities.

“There has been research done in this area,” says Bence, “but I realized that not many researchers have talked directly to young people about why they’re attracted to living in rural communities and/or what is keeping them from doing so.”

Bence opened her video with a close-up of the phrase ‘Research for a Better Life’ inscribed in the sand on one of Vancouver Island’s beaches, before having the camera pan out to capture her doing cartwheels along the beach.

“It sounds silly but the idea was to grab people’s attention and demonstrate that my research is focusing on youth.” Other parts of the film included her talking to young adults who are addressing her research question.

Bence’s supervisor, Vaugeois, who holds the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development, was thrilled to hear Bence had won.

“I’m a supporter of the transformation happening in academia where researchers are shifting the ways that they communicate their work with the public. It gives me great pride to see our new generation of scholars, like Shannon, embrace the multitude of ways that they can communicate their work,” said Vaugeois.

“Bence’s research is extremely important and I have no doubt that she’ll use different forms of technology to make sure her research gets out to those who can benefit from it.”

In fact, Bence’s research methodology is also on the cutting-edge as she’s using Facebook as her core data collection method.

“I learned from Nicole that the research question should drive the research methodology. With more than one billion people on Facebook the majority whom are young adults, I felt this would be a great way to collect data.”

Bence’s video will be featured on the SSHRC website in the next few weeks (details will be posted on VIU’s website). She was also awarded $3,000, part of which will be used to cover travel costs to an exclusive research communications workshop at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, in Victoria on June 2 & 3.

There Bence will take part in ‘Showcase’, a three-minute thesis-style presentation after which five final winners will be awarded a trip to Montreal in October to give a featured presentation at the World Social Sciences Forum.

For more information visit the [SSHRC's website.](

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