People

The RFRC is directed by Dr. Karen Foster and is housed in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology (SOSA) at Dalhousie University. It has employed and/or trained dozens of undergraduate and graduate students in and outside the SOSA department.

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Karen Foster

Dr. Karen Foster

Associate Professor; Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Futures for Atlantic Canada
Phone icon 902-494-6751

Dr. Foster is a sociologist whose research and writing spans the sociology of work, rural sociology, political economy and historical sociology. She has drawn on both qualitative and quantitative methods to study economic issues from a sociological perspective: occupational succession in rural family businesses, housing desires among rural and urban young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, local economic development, the history of productivity as a statistic and a concept, generational divisions at work, young peoples’ experiences on social assistance, and youth outmigration from rural communities. 

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Hannah Main

Hannah Main

PhD Student, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology

Coming from a background in economics and economic development, Hannah does work around rural development in the Atlantic Canadian context. Her PhD research focuses on the role of rural schools and the impact of rural school closures on communities, and she has interest in agriculture, tourism, and rural youth.

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Rachel McLay

Rachel McLay

PhD Student, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology

As a member of the Perceptions of Change Project research team, Rachel is studying social, economic, and political change in Atlantic Canada. She conducted a survey on the political views and practices of Atlantic Canadians through the RFRC in January 2019 for her MA thesis, and has now begun a PhD in Sociology.

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Headshot of Ray Bollman

Ray Bollman

Research Associate

Ray Bollman retired from Statistics Canada in 2011 where he was the founding editor of Statistics Canada’s Rural and Small Town Canada Analysis Bulletins. There are 65 bulletins available at the Statistics Canada website. He is also a past-chair of the OECD Working Party on Territorial Indicators.

He is now a Research Affiliate with the Rural Development Institute at Brandon University, a Professional Associate, Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, Memorial University, and a Research Associate with the RFRC.

In the past few years, he has written a series of “Focus on Rural Ontario” FactSheets for the Rural Ontario Institute. He has also authored a series of FactSheets on Rural Manitoba for the Rural Development Institute, Brandon University; a report on Rural Canada and summary FactSheets for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and quarterly reports on job vacancies for the Canadian Agriculture Human Resources Council.

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photo of Alyssa Gerhardt in front of a tree

Alyssa Gerhardt

PhD Student, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology

Alyssa is interested in economic sociology. Her PhD research focuses on personal debt in Atlantic Canada. and how it shapes peoples' livelihoods and economic wellbeing. She also examines how personal debt is socially experienced in peoples' everyday lives. Alyssa has been a supervisor on a number of surveys conducted through the RRFC since its opening in 2019.

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Gillian Kerr

Gillian Kerr

Post-doctoral fellow

Dr. Gillian Kerr joined the Dalhousie team in August 2020. She will be coordinating the work of the Rural Futures Research Centre, training and mentoring students, and working with the ‘Perceptions of Climate Change and Social Futures’ project. She is also adjunct faculty at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC where she teaches environmental and ecological economics for decision-making. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at McGill University in the RESNET research group on ecosystem service research and application across Canada. Her doctoral thesis, “Market-Based Approaches for Environmental Governance: Exploring the Implementation Gap in Alberta” explored governance issues that have impeded that application of MBIs for environmental objectives in Alberta. Her research interests include ecosystem services theory and application for sustainable communities, and the application of ecological economics to enhance sustainable futures. She has recently moved to Halifax from Edmonton, Alberta.