News

Taking strides in sustainability research

Mount Royal University’s Geological Rockscape showcases the power and beauty of the natural world, as well as the role that academia has in understanding and protecting it.

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Master of Ceremonies and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, Jeff Goldberg.
Building on that strong foundation of research and social engagement, there could be no better place on campus to celebrate Mount Royal’s next great research initiative — one that focuses on building knowledge and developing viable solutions to environmental issues in Alberta, Canada and the world.

Mount Royal faculty, staff and students joined media and members of Calgary’s business community for the announcement of the newly-created Talisman Chair for Sustainability and the Environment. The chairship, funded through a $1 million donation by Talisman Energy Inc., is combined with the previously announced Institute for Sustainability and the Environment to create the Centre of Excellence of the same name.

Speakers included Mount Royal President David Docherty, Provost and Vice-President Academic Robin Fisher, Executive Vice-President, Legal and General Counsel for Talisman Energy Bob Rooney, Bachelor of Science – General Science student Leagh Vermeylen and Master of Ceremonies Jeff Goldberg, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

“Mount Royal is the thriving University it is today in large part due to the support of our community – and partners like Talisman Energy – who appreciate what it takes to pursue post-secondary education and who stand behind our students with enthusiasm and encouragement,” said Docherty.

“It is exceptionally gratifying that this same community wholeheartedly supports our goal to be Canada’s premier undergraduate university, and subscribes to our vision of producing not only successful graduates, who will contribute to Alberta's and Canada's economic success, but also engaged citizens who will dedicate their time to making our city and the world a better place.”
 

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Event speakers, from left to right: Robin Fisher, Michael Quinn, Bob Rooney, Leagh Vermeylen, David Docherty and Jeff Goldberg. 

About the institute

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Roger Saint-Fort's research is focused on water quality and purification.
Building off Mount Royal’s existing strengths in the Department of Environmental Sciences and a holistic understanding of environmental issues and solutions, the Institute’s mission will be to improve environmental health and sustainability through scholarship that integrates diverse academic disciplines, student learning and community engagement.

With an interdisciplinary research focus, the Institute is looking to engage students and stakeholders both within the University and without.

“Environmental Science is by its very nature interdisciplinary,” said Goldberg. “As you drill down into any individual issue, aspects of chemistry, biology, geology, physics, communications and social sciences like economics play a role.

“To that end, we intend to leverage our own experts inside the university as primary members and principal investigators, conducting research under the umbrella of the Institute. There will also be associate members from outside Mount Royal; we want to cast a wide net of skills and expertise, including postdoctoral researchers, corporations, consultants, non-governmental organizations and environmental sciences practitioners.”

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Undergrad Leagh Vermelyen is the first recipient of the Talisman Energy Centennial Scholarship.

Like every Mount Royal initiative, the Institute is intended to be student-focused, involving undergraduates in research opportunities as well as a role in the planning and administration of the Institute’s activities around the campus. Potential activities include a monthly seminar series, immersive planning workshops, national symposia and an Institute-led Earth Day event, bringing in high-profile speakers, showcasing undergraduate research and networking opportunities for students and faculty.

Building on strengths in research and community

While the chairship is just announced, a major focus for the Centre of Excellence will be on the innovative environmental research already being done on campus.

“I don’t think there’s any question that one of our strengths is in water quality and treatment,” said Goldberg. “The ongoing commitment of Professor Roger Saint-Fort and his research in Canada, Cameroon and Mexico has delivered real results that have had a positive impact in the field.”

“Considering our location and the major industries in our province, we are looking to build on the research already being done by Roger and begin further investigation into the impact of hydraulic fracturing on water systems throughout Alberta. Donations like the ones made by Encana and Talisman show that they understand that they have a role to play in environmental stewardship. They are here to help build up our capacity — not control our outcomes. We want to expose more undergraduates to more research opportunities to make the classroom a place of both research and teaching — something I believe will contribute to Mount Royal’s integrated approach to teaching and learning and advance that crucial development of young minds into thoughtful, critical thinkers.”

A new chairship for a new centre

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Dr. Michael Quinn was announced as the first Talisman Chair for Sustainability and the Environment.
After a rigorous and competitive selection process, Goldberg was pleased to announce that the inaugural Talisman Chair for Sustainability and the Environment will be Dr. Michael Quinn, presently a professor in Environmental Systems Design at the University of Calgary and Director of Research and Chair of the Board for the Miistakis Institute for the Rockies.

Joining the Institute and Mount Royal beginning Jan. 1, 2013, Quinn’s academic history stretches across Canada, with time spent in research, education and field study in New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia and finally Alberta in 1997. Quinn’s focus is on a holistic model of the environment — one that takes into account all aspects of the natural world as well as the human forces that shape it.

“If we are interested in sustainability, we need to talk about what it is we are sustaining; both the physical world and the social systems that dictate how people interact with the natural world,” said Quinn. “By taking a systems view and not simply focusing on one individual component of the environment but understanding the connections between what it is we do and what it is we want we can make a significant impact.”

Speaking prior to the event, Goldberg was excited about the impact the new Chair will have on the Centre of Excellence as it begins operations. “Mike has already made a significant mark in terms of the environment and sustainability and has had extensive experience in research institutes. Being able to bring in someone who has his diverse skill set, but who also understands the local environment after 15 years of teaching in Calgary is an enormous asset to the Institute and the University.”

The Talisman Energy
Centennial Scholarship

Also announced at the event was a donation of $250,000 by Talisman Energy to support a new scholarship for Aboriginal students seeking science and technology degrees.

The Talisman Energy Centennial Scholarship for academic excellence helps fulfill Mount Royal’s mandate to increase the Aboriginal student population to 7% on campus, to reflect and represent Alberta’s Aboriginal population.

Congratulations to Bachelor of Science – General Science student Leagh Vermeylen as the first recipient of the new scholarship.

Mount Royal's current strategy — continuing to develop a more comprehensive research portfolio while maintaining a strong commitment to undergrad education — was a significant contribution to Quinn’s interest in the new role.

“What impressed me the most during the hiring process were the people at Mount Royal,” said Quinn. “Change can be difficult, but faculty, students and staff are genuinely enthusiastic about what is happening at the University.

"I think the Centre should really be an incubator for innovation. To move the field of Environmental Science forward, we need to concentrate on research that changes the way we do things as a society, not just tinkering with the small stuff.

“There's a gap in the field that we can fill, as a thought leader and an example of practical research with a student focus. I’m looking forward to including undergrads in a big way — in the faculty-led research programs, but also linking the research side with actual sustainability practices on campus. If industry or media are looking for answers, they know that they have a resource that combines real knowledge with practice.”

 — Colin Brandt, Sept. 27, 2012