From the Department Chair

June 26, 2020

I would like to begin by acknowledging, on behalf of the department, our continued thanks for working and teaching on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) & kwikwəƛ̓ əm (Kwikwetlem) nations.

Well, what a year! In the past year we have been joined by new faculty Jesse Hahm (hydrology) and Magie Ramírez (urban social change) and we are to soon welcome Bing Lu (remote sensing) and May Farrales (urban social change). Ivor Winton (Senior Lecturer) retired after 30 years of motivational teaching and service—we raise a glass to you, Ivor. Renovations to our physical geography-archive teaching labs are under way, but our new Departmental Meeting room became a makeshift computer lab following floods in our GIScience teaching labs. Several of our faculty members have received international recognition this past year. Nick Blomley was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and received the Award of Excellence from the Association of Law, Property and Society, Valorie Crooks’s Tier 2 CRC in Health Service Geographies was renewed, Geoff Mann was awarded the Centre for Advanced International Theory’s 2019 Sussex International Theory Prize, and Shiv Balram received teaching excellence awards from the Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG) and the Western Division CAG. Alongside these accolades, faculty have created significant media buzz commenting on issues ranging from climate change to foodscapes to homelessness to pandemic. All this work has contributed to our 2020 QS World University ranking: 4th of all Geography departments in Canada, and 1st amongst Canadian comprehensive universities.

We are also proud of our new graduands: 79 majors/honours, 9 minors, 23 certificate and 7 graduate students in 2019–20, and amongst them the Faculty of Environment Dean’s Silver Medal (Ruby Barnard) and Governor General’s Gold Medal (Taylor Anderson).  We congratulate you all on your achievements and wish you the very best for your future successes.

As I write, we are in the 11th week of online instruction, SFU’s part in combating the spread of coronavirus. It will be some time before the full cost of COVID-19—its direct and indirect effects on health and wellbeing—will be apparent. I feel proud of the creativity and resilience of our faculty and instructors who, at short notice, pivoted to deliver the distinctive qualities of an SFU education remotely this Spring. We aim for excellent and engaging Summer and Fall terms delivered remotely too. Our challenge is to ensure that our students, faculty, and staff, with their diverse backgrounds, brilliance, and curiosity, can still enjoy the unique qualities of our community at a time when, sadly, we cannot be together.

And that is, perhaps, where you can help. If you are on social media, why not send a message of support to current students and alumni colleagues (LinkedIn; Facebook). Let them know they are part of a social and professional network connecting SFU geographers through time and space.

I hope you are safe and well, and that your life is not touched by this tragedy. I send warm wishes to you all.

Tracy Brennand, Chair