Rebeccah Nelems

Scholars
2015
Mentor(s): 
Study program:
Sociology and Cultural, Social and Political Thought
Current affiliation:
University of Victoria

Rebeccah Nelems (sociology and cultural, social and political thought, University of Victoria) is studying empathy in young people and how it affects their concept of responsible citizenship, their civic engagement, and their social interactions.

Doctoral research

Connection in the Digital Age: A Participatory Study of Youth in Canada and Ecuador

By conducting participatory research with a cross-section of Canadian and Ecuadorian youth, Rebeccah’s doctoral research asks to what young people feel connected in this Age of Connection? Amidst the proliferation of reports that empathy has sharply declined amongst youth, Rebeccah’s study will engage a cross-section of upper high school aged Canadian and Ecuadorian youth to critically explore their sense of connection, through understanding their experiences and conceptions of empathy, belonging, relationality, citizenship and sense of responsibility. The study aims to provide insights on how young people are relating to two seemingly incompatible worldviews in our contemporary world – an individualist and competitive orientation, and an Indigenous, ecological interdependent orientation to the world. Their sense of connection will be explored through the lenses of belonging, responsibility to the Other, citizenship, relationality and empathy. Study findings will contribute to public dialogue about evolving conceptions of social responsibility and citizenship have relevance for educational practice and policy, and provide insights into how the globalized, digitalized world opens up, limits, and/or transforms social interactions , placing youth at the centre of the conversation.

With the generous support of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW), Rebeccah Nelems is pursuing a doctorate in sociology with a designation in cultural, social and political thought at the University of Victoria.

Rebeccah’s academic work draws on her interdisciplinary academic background and over 15 years of experience managing and evaluating human rights, children’s rights, and international and community development projects. Equally at home working with small NGOs and United Nations agencies, Rebeccah has consulted for a wide range of local, national, and international NGOs, research agencies, governments, and multilateral agencies on monitoring and evaluation, youth participatory engagement, strategic thinking, theories of change, and evidence-based planning. Rebeccah is passionate about using innovative methods to create space for children, youth, and community voices to influence change in practice, capacity, and policy at the organizational, community, national, and international levels. She is also committed to the value of multisectoral engagement and interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.

By conducting participatory research with a cross-section of Canadian and Ecuadorian youth, Rebeccah’s doctoral research asks to what young people feel connected in this Age of Connection? She explores this question by examining how young people are relating to the increased presence of two seemingly disparate and incommensurate worldviews – an individualist and competitive way of thinking and being, and an Indigenous, ecological interdependent view of the world. Connection will be examined through the lenses of belonging, responsibility to the Other, citizenship, relationality and empathy.

Rebeccah’s recent academic work has been on the topic of empathy, including having proposed a new typology of empathy, presenting at several international conferences on empathy, and co-editing and contributing to an interdisciplinary dialogical volume Exploring Empathy, forthcoming (2017) by Brill. Rebeccah also continues to be actively engaged in the local and international children’s rights sector on issues of child/youth accountability and the promotion of youth voices.

Rebeccah received a joint (honours) BA in literary studies and philosophy at the University of Trinity College, University of Toronto, and a MA in social and political thought at York University.

Internal publications