Rethinking evolution

Each summer, U of L PhD candidate Shannon Digweed ventures deep into the woods where she looks and listens for clues that will help her uncover the origins of language.

Digweed is one of many graduate students seamlessly blending lab and fieldwork in the University's prestigious Behaviour and Evolution Research Group. She conducts her research in Alberta's Sheep River Provincial Park, where she is exploring the vocal calls of the red squirrel.

"What we learn about squirrel communication can be extrapolated to many other animals – including humans – to learn more about how and why language is created," says Digweed.

Digweed is part of vibrant and ever-increasing community of graduate students at the University of Lethbridge, which is undergoing an institutional evolution. While continuing to maintain its tradition in undergraduate liberal education, the U of L is emerging as a leading comprehensive academic and research institution.

This means that the U of L – like the universities of Alberta, Calgary and Athabasca – has a mandate to conduct research in every area it teaches and to increase its graduate programs.

Over the next 10 years, the number of graduate students at the U of L is expected to double – growth that will be made possible by new facilities, additional research space, expanded programming and increased funding opportunities combined with a steadfast commitment to providing all students with a personal, supportive learning environment.

As the U of L grows as a comprehensive academic and research institution, so will opportunities for graduate students like Digweed. She chose the U of L to pursue her doctorate based on the reputation, experience and excellence of her supervisor, Dr. Drew Rendall, as well as that of the Department of Psychology.

"The faculty at the U of L are extremely invested in the success of each and every graduate student," she says. "One only has to look at the successes of our graduate students who are publishing their research and winning national awards to see compelling evidence of this."

As the U of L continues to look ahead, the institution will keep its focus set on one sight – its students.