Colleen Anne Dell (PhD) was appointed the Centennial Enhancement Chair in One Health and Wellness at the University of Saskatchewan in 2016 for a five year term, with a focus on addiction and mental health. Her position was renewed for a second five year term in 2021.
Dr. Dell is a Professor in the Department of Sociology, with an Associate appointment in the School of Public Health. She is also a Senior Research Associate with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Canada’s national non-governmental addictions agency. Dr. Dell is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University and a past Research Associate with the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre. She is a 2013 graduate of the Canine Behaviour Psychology Academy, Extreme K-9 Professional Dog Training school, in Illinois, USA and completed a certificate course in animal assisted therapy and activities at Harcum College in 2014. In 2020 she completed the Nonhuman Nature Research Methods course at the Kerulos Centre for Nonviolence. She has thousands of hours of practice providing community-based animal assisted intervention (AAI) services since 2013.
Dr. Dell's research program is grounded in an empowering, community-based and patient-oriented participatory approach, with both humans and animals. She has worked alongside a St. John Ambulance and PAWSitive Support registered therapy bulldog named Anna-Belle (2011-2021), and various community and academic partners, in studies examining how the human-animal bond can help enrich wellness among individuals and communities. This ranges from addictions treatment facilities through to university and criminal justice institutions. The often unacknowledged welfare of animals is of particular interest to Dr. Dell. She has also worked Therapy Dog Kisbey (2007-2021) (Boxer), who enjoyed doing community presentations. Dr. Dell is also training a service dog by the name of E-Jay (3 year old Boxer) with AUDEAMUS for a Health Canada funded research project involving veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a substance use disorder. She originally trained and worked with Service and Therapy Dog Subie in this project, prior to his passing in 2019. Subie had a significant role in Dr. Dell's work, travelling throughout Saskatchewan and elsewhere in Canada to serve communities in times of need, including the Humbolt, SK bus crash in 2018. You can follow these therapy dogs and service dog in training on Facebook. Dr. Dell has also worked with horses in a research capacity. And she recently inherited a cat...so stay tuned for her upcoming adventures!
Prior to her appointment as the Centennial Enhancement Chair in One Health and Wellness, Dr. Dell held the provincial Research Chair in Substance Abuse at the University of Saskatchewan. Funded by the Government of Saskatchewan from 2007-2016, her work concentrated on research, community outreach and training. During this appointment, Dr. Dell secured nearly 4 million in external funding for her community engaged research program as a Principal Investigator and more than double that amount in her roles as a co-applicant and collaborator. In this work she addressed innovative areas in problematic substance use, ranging from horse assisted therapy for youth in addictions treatment to knowledge translation efforts addressing the role of identity and stigma in the healing journeys of Indigenous women from problematic substance use. Her work was successfully translated into over two dozen accessible creative and artistic forms, including music videos, paintings and fact sheets. In this position, she also published over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, with lead authorship on over half, and over a dozen book chapters. She co-edited a Special Edition of the Substance Use & Misuse journal, which included 20 articles representing 12 countries. She also published over 25 technical reports over her 9 tenure as the Chair. A promotional video and products catalogue of this work is available. You can also learn more about her annual activities here. Dr. Dell continues to contribute to and lead studies in the addictions field, including as a co-Principal Investigator of the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse, Prairie (CRISM) Node. Dr. Dell explains CRISM in a brief video here.
Dr. Dell’s teaching and student supervision is concentrated in the general area of health and wellness. Her classroom assignments frequently translate into community action, ranging from informing an animal assisted intervention in a federal penitentiary through to a student-driven binge drinking prevention initiative—What’s Your Cap?—on the University of Saskatchewan Campus. In 2020, Dr. Dell offered the first Animals and/in Society course in the Department of Sociology. She currently works with two post-doctoral fellows in her office: Dr. Holly McKenzie, a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, and Dr. Linzi Williamson, a CIHR Patient-Oriented Research Transition to Leadership Postdoctoral Fellow.
Dr. Dell contributes to a large number of academic and community-based committees, including the Western College of Veterinary Medicine & University of Regina School of Social Work joint Veterinary Social Work Initiative Committee and the University of Saskatchewan One Health Leadership Experience. She is also the founder and co-Chair, with Student Health Services, of the campus PAWS Your Stress, visiting therapy dog program.
In addition to a large number and wide range of academic and community talks and presentations, Dr. Dell is a member of the U of S Speakers Bureau, with a talk titled—The Health Benefits of Having a Dog in Your Life.
Underlying Dr. Dell’s work is a belief in bringing together different ways of knowing into a shared and transformative space, with an emphasis on lived experience and Indigenous knowledge. For example, her research with the Sturgeon Lake First Nation on equine assisted learning hosted a community ceremonial horse dance in each year of a four year project. Her commitment to facilitating such exchange of understanding was recognized in 2010 when she was awarded the YWCA Saskatoon Women of Distinction Award with a colleague from the First Nations University of Canada in the category of Research, Science and Technology. Dr. Dell was also appointed as Member (Investiture Recipient) to The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (The Order of St. John) for her humanitarian work in the animal assisted intervention field. This honour was officially sanctioned by His Excellency, the Governor General of Canada on September 7, 2016. In 2018 Dr. Dell was recognized with Dr. Darlene Chalmers as the Prairie Region Nominee for the Correctional Service Canada National Taylor Award for Outstanding Dedication and Volunteer Efforts with therapy dogs at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (SK) and Dumheller prison (AB). And in 2019 she was awarded the Lady Justice Award by the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan. And in 2021 Dr. Dell was issued the St. John Ambulance, Chancellor’s Pandemic Coin, as a special Thank You for the comfort and smiles brought to the people of Saskatchewan through the Therapy Dog program on behalf of St. John. It was the first coin issued in Western Canada, and among the few issued in Canada. You can read more highlights of Dr. Dell's academic and community recognitions here and the varied teams she works alongside and that inform her work here.
Prior to her arrival in Saskatoon, Dr. Dell was an Associate Professor at Carleton University, Department of Sociology & Anthropology and had also taught classes at the University of Ottawa, Departments of Criminology and Communications. Before this, Dr. Dell worked extensively at the community and national levels, including with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba, Correctional Service Canada and the Senate of Canada.
Dr. Dell received her Sociology Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree from the University of Winnipeg (1992) [Neo-Rehabilitation], her Master of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba (1996) [Offending Women: Gender and Sentencing], and her Doctor of Philosophy from Carleton University (2001) [Correctional Service Canada Ideology and "Violent" Aboriginal Female Offenders]. Starting her university education in the late 1980s, attention to race, class and gender intersectionality was foundational to her academic education, with a specific interest in gender and race inequality, (in)justice and criminalization with mentorship by Drs. Sandra Kirby, Cathy Fillmore and Colin Goff. Dr. Dell continued this interest with attention to structure and agency at the Maters level, influenced by Drs. Elizabeth Comack, Wayne Taylor, Russell Smandych and Rick Linden. At the PhD level, Dr. Dell focused her related attention on power, diversity and social change, shaped by Drs. Colette Parent, Alan Hunt, Walter DeKeseredy, Janet Siltanen and Dennis Forcese. After graduation, her attention remained within the sociology and criminology fields, with a shift towards addiction, recovery and health and wellness.
Based on her academic growth and lived experiences, over time Dr. Dell’s hope has become to contribute understanding and awareness about more-than-human animals, within a holistic environment, to Sociology specifically and society generally. Her natural and longstanding commitment to reconciliation informs and guides her hope. She values the words daily of Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: "Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts".
I stand in solidarity, as an ally, with Indigenous peoples across this country and express my repulsion, grief and sadness at the discovery of 215 Indigenous children in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School, and with many more unmarked graves being identified across the country. The horrific legacy of residential schools is ongoing. I ask you to join me in turning our collective emotions into committed action. One way I attempt to support my Indigenous and non-Indigenous colleagues is by educating myself, and when appropriate, others. We are very fortunate and gifted in the One Health and Wellness office, at the University of Saskatchewan, to have many of our projects involve the guidance and support of Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and colleagues. To offer our support back, I am committed to offering space to Indigenous communities and to listen to what support needs to be, and to make a personal commitment to further educating myself and turning this knowledge, and that I already hold, into action. That is, action that can help to dismantle our colonial present and acknowledge our shared histories, including the atrocities of residential schools in Canada. We must do better. Please have an educated conversation.
With all my heart, Colleen Anne Dell (Buffalo Circle Member; June 3, Revised August 16, October 27, 2021)