Brock University has been awarded a UNESCO Chair that will help to build capacity in sustainability science research and its practical transfer to society.
The chair, which will operate under the theme “Community Sustainability: From Local to Global,” is one of more than 811 UNESCO Chairs worldwide and a network of 18 in Canada facilitated by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. The Brock chair is the only one in Canada located at an institution situated within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The main focus of the chair is to strengthen initiatives in sustainable agriculture and community-based natural resource management in Canada, China and other countries such as Ecuador, in order to develop concrete actions and best practices transferable to various countries around the world.
The first person to fill this new role is biologist Liette Vasseur, a member of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC).
The Biological Sciences professor is Thematic Leader for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change Group; Vice-President of the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists; and President of the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Sciences, Trade and Technology. She is also a Minjiang Scholar at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China.
“I am excited to be able to be part of a large network of UNESCO Chairs who all work in helping their communities and countries around the world in sustaining the mission of UNESCO in sustainable development, gender equality and education for all,” said Vasseur. “This new position will help to enhance the collaborative activities of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre in communities in Niagara and beyond.”
The position will also support Brock’s new Sustainability Science and Society graduate program, which welcomes its first cohort of students this September.
Long-term objectives of the new Brock UNESCO Chair include examining and developing innovative approaches, models and techniques that can be readily adopted by rural communities. These goals will be undertaken through applied research, support training and connecting with communities on crucial components of sustainability.
“The future of humanity and the world depends not only on economic capital and natural resources,” said Pauline Dugré, acting manager at the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, “but on our collective ability to understand and anticipate change, and address the human and social dimensions of development.”
“The chair is wonderful example of Brock’s move towards transdisciplinarity,” said Gary Libben, Vice-President Research, Brock University. “Deans from different faculties - the Social Sciences, and Mathematics and Science - collaborated along with the Vice-President, Research, making possible the support that was required for the chair.”
Today’s announcement came about as a result of a long-term relationship with UNESCO, Brock’s location within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve - considered “learning sites for sustainable development” - and the University’s decision to raise a UNESCO flag on its campus in 2011.
The application was initiated by Richard Mitchell, associate professor of Child and Youth Studies at Brock, and was made possible by the work of several members from the ESRC, where the chair will be housed.