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Innovator Profile: Janet Moore

Innovator Profiles highlight extraordinary community members that are making a difference.

How does a marine biologist evolve into a visionary teacher who uses experiential learning and dialogue to help Vancouver become one of the world’s greenest cities?

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Janet Moore, associate professor with SFU's Centre for Dialogue and co-founder of the CityStudio program, made the shift when she moved from Montreal to Halifax in her third year of university.

Moore had been studying marine biology at McGill, but the Saint Lawrence River didn't provide the same ecosystems as the Atlantic Ocean so Moore elected to transfer to Dalhousie. It turned out to be a transformative experience.

“I went from failing a class at McGill, to getting an A at Dalhousie, moving from a bio-chem class that had 800 people, to a class that had only 25 students,” says Moore, a 2012 YWCA Women of Distinction nominee.

“I learned that if instructors were super-engaged with the material, students could be as well.”

That experience sparked Moore’s commitment to engagement, and her graduate training added fuel to the fire.

“While I was finishing my PhD, I began to wander through disciplines,” she says.

“I started to look at how a university is structured, and ask questions about how we end up with separate departments which are studying different components of the same issue, but which aren’t communicating with each other.”

Enter CityStudio, a space that brings together students from six partner institutions (SFU, UBC, Emily Carr, BCIT, LangaraCollege & Vancouver Community College), to collaborate on projects as part of the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 challenge.

“When you bring people together, with different backgrounds and educations, it creates this whole new beautiful conversation," says Moore.

“With CityStudio, we are taking the inter-faculty work being done by the Centre for Dialogue, and having those conversations at an inter-institutional level. And we are working on real-world projects.”

In its first semester, the program put the concept of sustainability into action, producing a 10m-table from a Douglas fir scheduled for removal by the parks board. The table is now being used for the Long Table series of talks about greenest-city goals.

In the spring of 2012, CityStudio held its first open house, where more than 200 interdisciplinary students showcased their work to a full house, including Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson.

How does Moore know her work is having an impact?

“When students show up two weeks after the final class to keep working on a project, I think it’s a pretty good sign.

“We are doing work that needs to be done. It’s not for an exam, or a paper that will sit on the shelf. You become engaged when you can see real results.”

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