fb pixel

RHET major writes her own ticket with internship opportunity

Sat. Feb. 25, 2023

Maddy Nowosad

Maddy Nowosad at the "Inuit Studies Conference 2022: Auviqsaqtut" in June 2022

Photo supplied


Maddy Nowosad is on the Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) website looking for examples of projects she can tell me about. She smiles and glances up at Dr. Jaqueline McLeod Rogers, clearly pleased, and says, “I’m on their website under ‘Team/Contact’.” When she started her internship with the ARF, a private not-for-profit organization concerned with creating research infrastructure in the Canadian Arctic, Nowosad was responsible for finding photographs taken in the Arctic. She would reach out to photographers - often hobby photographers - and request permission to share these on the ARF social media sites.

Fast forward 12 months and Nowosad is now running all of the social media for the ARF and feeling positive about the connections she has made through the internship. She has worked closely with Kaitlyn Van De Woestyne, Digital Editor for Arctic Focus, the online platform of the ARF. Van De Woestyne has extensive experience travelling around the world and working as a producer, photographer, and editor. Nowosad, Van De Woestyne, and McLeod Rogers attended the Inuit Studies Conference 2022: Auviqsaqtut, held at the University of Winnipeg and Quamajuq – Winnipeg Art Gallery in June 2022. The conference presentations provided a lot of knowledge, and Van De Woestyne helped Nowosad learn how to video record interviews as well.

How it started

Mitacs, an organization that builds links between the private sector and research in order to facilitate innovation in Canada, had reached out via the University of Winnipeg’s Research Office. The Research Office contacted Dr. Jaqueline McLeod Rogers, Professor and Chair of the Department of Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications. Through its Accelerate Program, Mitacs would provide up to $30K to fund an eighteen-month student research internship working in communications with ARF as the partner organization.  McLeod Rogers saw Nowosad as a good fit for the position. “Maddy already knew social media from work she had done to promote local skateboarding. I knew she had the right skillset, coupled with curiosity and self-reliance.” McLeod Rogers, Nowosad’s Academic Supervisor in the program, is quick to say that it is a good arrangement and one she would recommend to other faculty. “It stretches everyone,” she says, “and we each get to see how the other gets work done.”  Nowosad recognizes that the opportunity has provided important preparation both for future work in the field of communications and for her personal growth.

Nowosad is a full-time student in her third and final term of the internship. This spring, she will graduate with a 4-year Honours degree in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Nowosad has spent between 8 and 12 hours a week on the internship. She feels it has been time well spent, easing her transition from full-time studies to working in a career in communications. Nowosad sees what she has learned over the course of the internship “as being applicable to any communications position.” As for her future, Nowosad adds that she can see herself working for an organization focused on community work.  Maddy already volunteers in leadership roles with two community organizations as Executive Director for the Manitoba Skateboard Coalition and as a co-creator of The Other Skaters Zine, which publishes the original creative work of nontraditional skaters on the theme of skateboarding.   

Arctic research

arctic wildflowers against the skyline

The Arctic Research Foundation uses social media to share science information and research about the North.

Photo credit: Ashley Swinton


Nowosad explains how she has helped the ARF use its social media platforms to share science information and research about the North. It might be a photo of a bird, an animal, or flowers, as in the photo here by Ashley Swinton. After getting permission to use the photo, she’ll do some background research for information to share. For example, in the Facebook (FB) post, the caption reads, “Yukon is home to more than 1250 species of flowering plants! What's your favourite Yukon wildflower?”

Nowosad tells me about a FB post of a photo of polar bear tracks in the snow and how that photo sparked conversation on FB. In the photo, taken by Oolahnee Ziska near Grise Fiord, Nunavut, there are clear imprints of what appear to be six toes. This caught people’s interest because the bears have only five toes. Carey Harfst and Max Kullik, both of whom live in the North, weighed in on the exchange with their insight, noting that when polar bears run their tracks can overlap. So in fact it does look as though there are six toes. Nowosad points out that information shared in this way can be far reaching. As you can see, this post, which so beautifully captured a moment of life in the North, reached 85,079 viewers and 9,141 of these people engaged with it.

 polar bear prints in snow


Caption with Facebook post by Maddy Nowosad from March 31, 2022: “Check out these polar bear tracks, seen by Oolahnee Zisak during a morning of getting ptarmigan near Grise Fiord, Nunavut. The bear was later spotted by a seal’s den hunting for food.”

Photo supplied




Environmental discourse and Indigenous-led policy

Dani Nowosad (no relation to Maddy) is a UWinnipeg alumna and a PhD candidate in freshwater ecology at the University of Guelph. Like Van De Woestyne, Dani Nowosad has informed Maddy’s learning about the Arctic. Dani Nowosad, who is Indigenous, is in charge of leading policy regarding the environmental impacts Northern communities are facing. Maddy is aware that her own perspective has shifted over the course of her internship, something she attributes to reading stories on the Arctic Focus website and her conversation with Dani. Maddy explains that when she started out, she wanted to learn how science stories about research in the Arctic are circulated online. From Dani, Maddy has learned the importance of making the information available to those who are living and working in Northern communities, in what Dani refers to as “plain language summaries.” “Information shouldn’t be inaccessible to anyone without a PhD in freshwater ecology!” Maddy says emphatically. Dani also introduced Maddy to SIKU, The Indigenous Led Social Network. Maddy has learned about the important role not-for-profit social media networks play in prioritizing the protection of data and knowledge and in facilitating self-determination.

Twitter and Facebook

Nowosad explains that Twitter connects her directly with researchers. Not only has it enabled her to get advance notice of publications and research directly from those doing the work, it has been interesting, she says, to compare this to the mainstream coverage of the same information.

Nowosad helped create a Facebook group with 44 members as a means to relay information to communities about ARF’s work contracted by the Kativik Regional Government in Ungava Bay, where fiberoptic cables are being laid. The Facebook Group advises communities of the progress of the work and helps communities in planning. “Transparency is important,” Maddy says, “because of the history of colonialization and ongoing colonialization.” She adds that they had posters made up in three of the local languages, as well, to communicate with those in the communities affected by the work.

Nowosad brings our conversation back to the FB posts about Arctic life to note that it is important to be mindful of the language used in the area where a photo is taken. For example, Nowosad explains that she included both the Inuktitut term “pualunnguat” and the English term “Arctic cotton grass” to describe one photo. She adds that, “as people are realizing why places are named as they are, we need to take care that we learn the terms determined by northern communities now and going forward.”

 pualunnguat or arctic cotton grass

Nowosad explains that she included both the Inuktitut term “pualunnguat” and the English term “Arctic cotton grass” to describe this photo. (Photo supplied)

In the course of our hour-long interview, Nowosad speaks about a number of ARF’s projects. Care and concern for the people and the plant and animal life in Northern communities is threaded through all she says - from the inaccessibility of technology in the North (“the digital divide”) to being “mindful of the lands in research.” As we wrap up, McLeod Rogers says “It’s reassuring to meet students like Maddy. It makes you feel like we are all driving in the same direction.” And it is. It is also reassuring to hear about leaders like Kaitlyn Van De Woestyne and Dani Nowosad, who have been so generous in inspiring and guiding Maddy. No doubt, leadership is a role that Maddy Nowosad will continue to embrace. Come June 2023 - Convocation 2023, I’ll be watching for her name in bylines.

Lisa Michelle McLean
Office Manager and Program Officer
Faculty of Arts: Deans' Office