From the Chair

Greetings from all of us at SFU Geography. Through the craziness of the past year, we remain fortunate to work on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) & kwikwəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) nations, and are grateful for it.

In some ways, however, this good fortune is the one thing that has not been turned upside down by the pandemic. Research and teaching continue, but there is little in our everyday work lives that the pandemic has not affected, sometimes substantially. The department, which I visit once a week, feels a little like a ghost town. Only our fearless department manager, Anke Baker, is there regularly. With only one exception—Geography 310, our physical geography field studies course that had to be radically rejigged by Andrew Perkins—all our teaching is remote for the time being. Virtually all our interactions with our colleagues are virtual, even the rare coffee shop meeting cancelled for now. Undergraduate enrollments are as high or higher than they have ever been, but what the semesters to come will look like, no one quite knows. We are hopeful we will have some in-person classes on campus in Fall 2021, but it as yet uncertain.

There is, though, lots of good news. We welcomed two new faculty in the Summer of 2020: Bing Lu (remote sensing), and May Farrales (urban social change), who is cross-appointed to the Dept. of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies. In addition, students and faculty—with the absolutely essential support of our staff, who have been amazing through this whole upheaval—have still managed to get some remarkable things done in and for the community, even on top of teaching and scholarly research. To point to just few examples: PhD student Andrew Longhurst & Associate faculty member Kendra Strauss (SFU Labour Studies) published a widely-circulated policy paper on the privatization of senior’s care in BC; and Rosemary Collard published Animal Traffic: Lively Capital in the Global Exotic Pet Trade with Duke University Press, and (with Jessica Dempsey of UBC Geography) contributed a key piece to the Progressive International, arguing for a feminist response to COVID-19. Nick Hedley was involved in “Between Worlds: Greek Civilization—An Extended Reality Experience” at the Museum of Vancouver; Dr. Jesse Hahm won a John R. Evans Leaders grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to support research quantifying forest and stream water sources and their sensitivity to a shifting climate; Lecturer Leanne Roderick was appointed to the Squamish Economic Leadership Team; and the Landscapes of Injustice project, in which Nick Blomley and several of his students have been very involved, had a public exhibition at the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre.

Several of our students and faculty have been recognized for their achievements over the last year. Kirsten Zickfeld was appointed an SFU Distinguished Professor for her work on global climate change; and recently-retired Alison Gill received the 2020 President's Award for Outstanding Service to the Canadian Association of Geographers. Chris Mitchell, who just graduated with a B.A., received the SFU Service Award for his contribution to campus and community; PhD student Katie Gravestock won the 2020 New Voices Prize from the Canadian Association of Work & Labour Studies; and undergraduate Bradley Sarandi was awarded the 2020 Warren Gill Memorial Prize.

On top of all that, Max Hurson, Liam Kennedy-Slaney Andrew Longhurst, Leah Rosenkrantz, and Alysha Van Duynhoven all received tri-council doctoral awards; PhD student Tsatia Adzich was awarded a prestigious Indigenous Graduate Entrance Scholarship; Rachel Chimuka won the Canadian Pacific/Teck Resources Award; Tingan Li won the Simons Foundation Graduate Award; and Kendra Munn and Rachel Singleton-Polster both received tri-council Master’s awards. Lots to be thankful for and to celebrate.

I hope you are all as well as can be, and that the coming year brings not only some reprieve from the pandemic but lots more good news for us all.


Geoff Mann
Professor and Chair, Department of Geography