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Undergraduate arts student Chimwemwe Undi with linguistics prof Veronica Loureiro-Rodriguez.

Varieties of research: Hip-hop and spoken word and “code-switching”

January 22, 2015 — 

Undergraduate arts student Chimwemwe Undi was fascinated by the work on code-switching being done by linguistics prof Veronica Loureiro-Rodriguez in the Faculty of Arts. Undi said that as someone who grew up “as a member of a minority language community in southern Africa and moved to Canada, where the role of Indigenous languages has been similarly compromised by colonialism and globalization,” she wanted to learn more about the relationship between language use and power.

Loureiro-Rodríguez’s research focuses on the social and practical reasons for code-switching in minority language communities. “Code-switching” refers to a speaker’s alternation between two or more languages within the context of a single conversation, in cases where speakers are fluent in both languages. Undi, who is also a spoken word poet who has twice been named Winnipeg Youth Slam champion, was equally interested in Loureiro-Rodríguez’s work with hip-hop — she says hip-hop has been a huge influence on her experience and understanding of language and culture.

Undi had the opportunity to research with Loureiro-Rodriguez for the entire summer last year through a U of M program called the Undergraduate Research Awards. The awards are given annually to ambitious undergraduate students in the arts and sciences. With mentorship from professors, the students spend 16 weeks carrying out their research before returning to their regular studies in the fall. Students present the results of their research, scholarly work or creative activity at the annual Undergraduate Student Research Poster Competition.

The Research Office emphasizes that the research experience awards are not limited to science-related topics that might perhaps be thought of as more typical research, but is offered across all disciplines, including social sciences, humanities and creative works, in addition to the other categories.

Chimwemwe Undi.

Chimwemwe Undi.

UM Today had the opportunity to speak with Chimwemwe Undi, now a third-year linguistics student with a minor in sociology, about this work.

UMT: What kind of research did you do with Dr. Loureiro-Rodriguez during last summer as part of your undergraduate research award placement?

CU: Dr. Loureiro-Rodriguez supervised a project in which I examined how Aboriginal rappers used rap, the musical aspect of hip-hop, to navigate their indigenous identities. I analyzed the lyrics and any available media from eight Aboriginal rappers (comprising four musical acts), taking a look at whether artists identified strongly with their cultural heritage, what issues they addressed and, of course, how language was used in their music. Authenticity is important in hip-hop culture, and I was interested in how being Canadian and Aboriginal affected rappers’ ability to keep it real.

UMT: What were the benefits of being able to conduct this kind of research or of having this kind of opportunity.

CU: The URA gave me the opportunity to do research I find fascinating and am passionate about, under the guidance of a professor who I respect and admire. I was interested in the topic itself, but also wanted to experience research to help determine whether I wanted to continue doing this kind of work at a graduate and professional level. Research of this kind is so different from researching for a class, which might seem obvious, but I’m glad I was able to determine that from first hand experience. Additionally, to apply for the award, I had to interview professors in my department about their research, and it was such a valuable experience to learn about the great research that produced the great minds that teach me.

UMT: What are you doing now?

CU: The Aboriginal rap project is ongoing, and we’re hoping to continue working on it this summer, and to present the work at a conference. Dr. Loureiro-Rodriguez is incredibly generous with her time and energy, and is supervising an additional project about emoticons in text messaging, which I am working on with two other undergraduate students, Rheana Baril-Bissett and Brianne Süss. We presented part of that project at the Linguistic Association of the Southwest (LASSO) conference in San Diego last fall, and it continues to be surprising and challenging research. In addition to that, I’m excited about the classes I’m taking this semester, and I will be traveling to Victoria, BC in February as a member of this year’s Victoria Spoken Word Festival ensemble.


Undi’s poster won first place in the social sciences category in last year’s poster competition on Oct. 30, 2014.



Interested in pursuing this avenue as a faculty member or student? Here’s more information about the annual program.

About the Award

Last year, undergraduate students were eligible to compete for 1 of up to 82 awards. Students have the opportunity to be mentored full-time with a professor of their choice for 16 weeks, to receive a $6,000 award and to gain valuable experience in their field of interest. There were 150 applications received.

Who is eligible?

  • Full-time U of M students (must be enrolled in 24 credit hours at the March 19th voluntary withdrawal date)
  • Have completed a minimum 24 credit hours at the University of Manitoba
  • Minimum degree GPA of 3.0 based on all credits completed at the time of application
  • Cannot be held in conjunction with other competitive awards such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Undergraduate Research Summer Award
  • Students who will be graduating in the Spring (May convocation) in which this award is tenable will not be eligible for the award
  • This award cannot be held more than twice by any recipient during their undergraduate program(s) at the University of Manitoba

New for 2015:

  • Students must notify our office in advance of any travel off campus that relates to this award. Please indicate any off-campus activity on acceptance form. If you become aware of any off-campus activity as a part of this award after the acceptance has been submitted, please notify office by email before activity occurs.
  • Students must receive approval from our office for any changes to their award experience. For example, if you are no longer able to be supervised by the professor listed on your application you must receive approval for any changes.



1. Interview two professors (must be full-time university professors, not adjuncts or Instructors) to find out more about their areas of research, scholarly work or creative activity.

2. Write two 150-word summaries based on the two professors you have interviewed on their research, scholarly work or creative activities.

3. Choose one of the professors and write a 250-word rationale for your choice, indicating how this research, scholarly work or creative activity fits with your own long-term career aspirations.

4. Submit your paragraphs along with a completed application form to Lindsey Troschuk, lindsey [dot] troschuk [at] umanitoba [dot] ca

5. You are encouraged to present the results of your research, scholarly work or creative activity at the annual Undergraduate Research Poster Competition to be held on October 29, 2015.

How do you apply?

Deadline to submit an application is February 15, 2015; applications should contain:

1. Completed URA application form

2. Electronic scan or pdf of current Aurora online transcript

3. Three summary paragraphs mentioned in #2 and #3 above.

4. Email these to: Lindsey Troschuk lindsey [dot] troschuk [at] umanitoba [dot] ca  We look forward to receiving your application material. Good luck!

When will you hear about the decision?

All applicants for the University of Manitoba Undergraduate Research Award will be notified by the first week of April 2014. Submissions will be adjudicated by a committee appointed by the Vice-President (Research and International).

Successful Awardees

After receiving notification, each award recipient should contact their chosen professor to provide a 250 word (maximum) abstract of the research program, specifying how you will fit with and augment their research program. In cases where a student’s work is not directly linked to the professor’s research, scholarly work or creative activity the professor must indicate how they will ensure that you are being mentored in the area and discipline as an undergraduate researcher. Please fill in the URA Acceptance Form providing all required information, sign it and have your professor sign it. The signed form must be submitted to Lindsey Troschuk (290 Brodie Centre, 727 McDermot Ave, R3E 3P5) by April 15, 2015 to release your award.

The deadline is Feb. 15.


Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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