Nov. 25, 2020

UCalgary Political Science Interviews: Dr. Roberta Rice!

On the influence of Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, from Indigenous peoples’ political parties in S. America to Indigenous Rights in Canada, and being Undergraduate Program Director!
Dr. Roberta Rice
Dr. Roberta Rice

Dr. Roberta Rice is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary


Your work is broadly on Indigenous politics. How did you become interested in this area?

When I was an undergraduate student in Environmental Studies at York University, I took a course on international development. As part of that course we read the biography of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Indigenous rights activist, Rigoberta Menchú of Guatemala. After I learned of her struggle for Indigenous rights, I became hooked on Latin America and fascinated with Indigenous movements. In 1997, I participated in an international seminar to Peru with World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and my interest in the Andean region of South America was born.

Can you tell us about the research projects you have been working on?

My doctoral research examined the formation and success of Indigenous peoples’ political parties in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. I spent almost a year conducting field research in the region and interviewed over 100 Indigenous politicians, activists and academics. Frequently, my interviewees would ask me about Indigenous politics in Canada. After completing my doctoral work, I was awarded a research grant to do a comparative project on Indigenous rights and representation in Canada (with a focus on Nunavut and Yukon) and Latin America (with a focus on Bolivia and Ecuador). I am currently writing a book on this research project.

Dr. Roberta Rice

Apart from your teaching and research, you are also the Undergraduate Program Director (UPD). Can you tell us what a typical week as UPD looks like?

As the Undergraduate Program Director, I have the privilege of advising students on course decisions and encouraging them to apply to graduate school to follow their research interests. A typical week as UPD involves answering numerous e-mails from current, future and international students about our program and course offerings and trying my best to make their student experience the best that it can be. Some weeks, I get to host orientation sessions for new students or open houses for future students. Other weeks, I attend committee meetings to work on our department’s academic calendar submission for the next year.

Finally, what’s the next big thing you are hoping to work on?

Recently, I was awarded a new research grant to work on the topic of Indigenous rights and extractive industry in Bolivia, Ecuador and the Philippines. In addition to field research in the next few years, I am hoping to develop a qualitative dataset on resource conflicts in the three countries to demonstrate the positive impact of social movements on policy and political change.


Thanks to Dr. Roberta Rice for sharing with us!


To learn more, visit Dr. Roberta Rice’s profile.