Philosophy prof to lead Faculty of Environment
Environmental decision-making and philosophical understanding are akin to two peas in a pod when it comes to cultivating sustainable community development says Ingrid Leman Stefanovic.
Simon Fraser University’s incoming dean of the Faculty of Environment says that outlook has always characterized her interdisciplinary approach to teaching, learning, conducting research and developing programs in environmental studies.
Stefanovic begins her SFU appointment on Sept. 1, 2014.
“Even while I was completing a PhD in philosophy in the 1970s, I was working in parallel in a family urban and environmental consulting firm,” says the University of Toronto philosophy and environment professor.
“To my mind, understanding both built and natural environments meant understanding something about human values and philosophical beliefs. So my philosophical training was always accompanied, from an early age, by an interdisciplinary commitment to the study of environment.”
That commitment has driven her to undertake many research projects that investigate how people’s values influence their perceptions of environmental challenges and opportunities.
Among these projects are two that are funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grants, which Stefanovic will now pursue at SFU.
In Interpreting Interdisciplinarity: The Case of Environmental Studies, she will travel Canada to explore with university leaders how paradigms of interdisciplinarity are best translated into curriculum and planning scenarios.
Her project Water Ethics and Environmental Policy investigates how philosophy can best contribute to the development of public policy, specifically regarding issues surrounding water, the ‘new oil’.
A theme resonating throughout Stefanovic’s numerous published works, including her recent book Safeguarding Our Common Future: Rethinking Sustainable Development, is how taken-for-granted worldviews, values and perceptions affect environmental decision-making.
“Understanding the human dimensions of environmental decision-making is an important part of helping to shift behaviour towards more sustainable policies and programs,” says the founding director of U of T’s Centre for Environment.
The centre has since become a school. The development of an internationally recognized professional development program is among the school’s many accomplishments. It has also created new partnerships with Environment Canada and the Jane Goodall Institute.
As a co-creator of U of T’s Sustainability Office, Stefanovic helped the office collaborate with the university’s then Centre for Environment to encourage student engagement in campus-related research and course work. Stefanovic currently serves on U of T’s Sustainability Advisory Board, which coordinates sustainability initiatives linking operational and academic initiatives across three campuses.
Jon Driver, VP Academic, says: “Under Dr. Stefanovic’s leadership the unique mix of disciplines and research interests in our Faculty of Environment will stimulate new opportunities to attract students and build expert knowledge.”
John Pierce, the outgoing SFU FENV dean, says: “I believe we have established significant momentum that my successor will be able to build on and take to the next level.” Under Pierce’s leadership FENV has developed a Bachelor of Environment, which is awaiting provincial government approval, and a Master of Ecological Restoration, awaiting SFU approval.
Coming from a family of teachers, Stefanovic says enhancing the student experience will be one of her key goals at SFU. “I aim to help the FENV gain international recognition and prominence as a leading teaching and research unit, dedicated to interdisciplinary, as well as discipline-based understanding of the complexities of environmental challenges that face us today.”
Backgrounder on Ingrid Leman Stefanovic:
Highlighted current professional associations:
- Senior Scholar, Centre for Humans and Nature, Chicago and New York
- Environmental Studies Association of Canada
- International Association for Environmental Philosophy
- Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA)
Highlighted books and reports:
- The Natural City: Re-Envisioning the Built Environment, co-edited with Stephen Scharper, University of Toronto Press
- Canadians at Risk: Our Exposure to Natural Hazards, contributing author, ICLR Research Paper Series—Number 47
- Assessment of Post-Secondary Education and Training in Relation to Health and the Environment with a Specific Focus on Children’s Health and Environment, co-author of report prepared for Health Canada
- Safeguarding Our Common Future: Rethinking Sustainable Development, State University of New York Press (SUNY)
Recipient of the Dean’s Excellence Award in Scholarship and Teaching, U of T
Q: Why did you want to become dean of SFU’s FENV?
A: The challenge of contributing to significant institution building in the field of environment is, for me, my biggest inspiration. Canada hasn’t had an interdisciplinary FENV established in many years. SFU has taken this courageous step forward, and its creation of a faculty of this stature presents a huge opportunity to advance environmental awareness and sustainability initiatives in an important way.
Q: What should FENV’s role be in encouraging sustainability among students?
A: There is no doubt in my mind that a culture of sustainability should permeate the student experience, so that every graduate has understood and internalized values of environmental care. Whether that means taking courses dedicated to the study of environment or whether the campus serves as an exemplar of green living, students will hopefully leave SFU as informed individuals who naturally know how to protect the environment that sustains us all.
Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.
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