MAIS News: Student Awards

MAIS Students Win SSHRCC Awards

We are pleased to announce that two of our MAIS students, Greg Elison and Alyssa M. J. Gillespie, are receiving awards from last year’s Canada Graduate Scholarships Master’s Program Competition from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC)!

Congratulations, Alyssa and Greg!

Greg Elison: MAIS Thesis Student. Thesis title “The Path to Carbon Neutrality – Community Based Renewable Energy on Prince Edward Island”

Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Greg received his Bachelor of Arts with Honours from Mount Allison University in International Relations and a double minor in Economics and History.

As a thesis student in the MAIS program, he has chosen to focus his research on regional development, economic decarbonization, and Islandness with the hopes of utilizing this interdisciplinary approach to explore the socio-economic factors that facilitate community renewable energy expansion on Prince Edward Island.

Alyssa M. J. Gillespie: MAIS Thesis student. Thesis title “Roots, Routes, and Rural Youth Retention on Prince Edward Island”.

Alyssa is a born and raised P.E.Islander with an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and English from the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). As a Master of Arts in Island Studies thesis student, she is applying her degree to the study of rural youth on Prince Edward Island and their migratory habits.

Alyssa’s scholarly pursuits are anchored in her passion for child and youth studies, culture, and relation to place, and she has a particular interest in creative writing, specifically poetry. She has worked with the L.M. Montgomery Institute, housed in the Robertson Library of UPEI, since the fall of 2019 as an editorial assistant for the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies.

[Press Release] Future Prosperity Scholarships awarded to UPEI Island Studies students

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (May 4, 2021) —

The Master of Arts in Island Studies (MAIS) program at the University of Prince Edward Island is pleased to announce the recipients of the Future Prosperity Scholarships. The winners for 2020 are Greg Ellison, Eliza MacLauchlan, and Alyssa Gillespie. They join Joyce Ferguson and Sarah Davison who received the awards in 2019.

The Future Prosperity Scholarships are generously funded by Dr. Regis and Mrs. Joan Duffy and the Province of Prince Edward Island’s Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture. The awards were created two years ago to support students whose thesis research focuses on a topic related to the future prosperity of Prince Edward Island, ranging from entrepreneurship and tourism to renewable energy and migration.

“Congratulations to all the recipients of the Future Prosperity Scholarships,” said Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Matthew MacKay. “Thank you for your dedication and extensive research in exploring how we can make Prince Edward Island a better place for generations to come.”

“These are exceptional researchers and scholars helping us better understand the unique challenges and opportunities of life on islands,” said Dr. Katherine Gottschall-Pass, interim vice-president academic and research at UPEI. “The Future Prosperity Scholarships are crucial to ensuring these students are able explore this knowledge, which will have far-reaching impacts on Island life and policy.”

More about the winners

Greg Ellison is interested in climate change and reducing carbon emissions in both island and non-island societies. His research will focus on the factors, particularly “islandness,” that can facilitate energy democracy and enable smoother transitions towards renewable energy systems. Through examining island societies in the North Atlantic region, Ellison is hoping to uncover factors that can lead to increased social acceptance of renewable energy expansion, with the goal of bringing these lessons back to Prince Edward Island.

Alyssa Gillespie is undertaking research on the issue of youth retention and migration in rural Prince Edward Island communities, focusing on systemic issues and the individual experiences of those who make the decision to leave. By examining factors that keep youth in their island communities and what communities and youth identify as the “pull factors” to attract new people, Gillespie hopes to provide meaningful opportunities for youth to stay within their communities and to attract new people.

Eliza MacLauchlan is looking at the experience of tenants on small islands, such as the process of gentrification and displacement, and the impact this has on tenants. Through a comparative study with islands that are similar to Prince Edward Island, she will aim to understand the experience of tenants and look at the larger implications for housing policy on Prince Edward Island and other small islands.

Sarah Davison is a rural Island resident and an entrepreneur who is interested in the stories and visual representations of entrepreneurs who work in PEI’s tourism industry, specifically within arts and culture. Her research explores how photographic images represent off-season tourism and how these might influence our local understandings of self and place. The study is relevant to the ongoing discussions of social entrepreneurship, seasonality, and concepts of “islandness” on PEI and other small islands.

Joyce Ferguson’s research interests revolve around the relationship between energy policy and community in an island setting. Ferguson has chosen to focus her thesis on the wind farm expansion controversy in eastern Kings County. Her work will highlight community acceptance/resistance to large-scale renewable energy initiatives.

Successful applicants for these awards receive up to $25,000 over two years.

There are currently 47 students registered in the Master of Arts in Island Studies program: 27 in the thesis stream and 20 in the three course/work-study streams (Island Tourism, Sustainable Island Communities, and International Relations and Island Public Policy). While many of the students come from Prince Edward Island, others are from Halifax, Ontario, the USA, England, the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sweden, Vietnam, Nigeria, Ghana, Turkey, and China.

For more information on the Master of Arts Island Studies program, or to apply for the next round of Future Prosperity Scholarships, contact Dr. Laurie Brinklow at

Media contact:
Bren Simmers Island Studies Press

NEWS: MAIS Thesis Student awarded national scholarship

April 28, 2021 —

Megan Lane MacDonald, a thesis student enrolled in the Master of Arts in Island Studies (MAIS) program at UPEI, was recently awarded the Canadian Federation of University Women Graduate Studies Scholarship in Arts or Education, offered to female UPEI graduates enrolled in or applying to a full-time Masters or PhD program at a Canadian university. Megan’s research is focused on the poetry of PEI Women throughout history, and analyses themes of nature, modernization, and gender roles.

Congratulations, Megan!

To learn more about the Master of Arts in Island Studies (MAIS) program, visit

MAIS News: Student Awards

March 30, 2021 —
MAIS Student wins UPEI Faculty Association Master’s Medal

Congratulations to Master of Arts in Island Studies (MAIS) student Joyce Ferguson for winning this year’s UPEI Faculty Association’s Master’s medal for her work on “Prince Edward Island and Renewable Energy: The Preconditions for a Sustainable Future.” The thesis, with co-supervisors Drs. Jean Mitchell and Udo Krautwurst, examines the relationship between energy policy and community in her home province of PEI through a case study of the wind farm expansion controversy in eastern Kings County.

Joyce Ferguson graduated from UPEI with an Honours BA in Sociology, where she was on the Dean’s Honours List, and received one the Ambrose Kwok-Yau Lee Awards for 2018-19, the Roderick Stirling MacDonald Scholarship, and the Dr. Satadal Dasgupta Memorial Award. She was awarded a Future Prosperity Scholarship when she entered the MAIS program and has since received a Canada Graduate Master’s Scholarship from SSHRC. Joyce and her family live in Rustico and she is the very proud mother of nine-year-old Leo.