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Awards and recognition

SFU’s Chris Dagg Award honorees share passion for work to address global challenges

November 22, 2023

SFU International executive director Shaheen Nanji, and School of Sustainable Energy Engineering professor of professional practice Zafar Adeel are the 2023 recipients of the Chris Dagg Award for Impact in International Sustainable Development. The award recognizes and celebrates the achievements of SFU staff or faculty members who have made substantial contributions over many years to international sustainable development on behalf of the university. 

Dagg held key international cooperation posts for at SFU over three decades. The award honors the legacy of his longstanding service and many contributions to shaping and advancing international issues and activities at SFU.

In her role, Nanji coordinates international internships and over the years has championed various projects including collaborations with Global Affairs Canada and Scholars at Risk. She has nurtured key relationships globally, including one with Aga Khan University (AKU). The trust and reciprocity she cultivated resulted in the signing of an MOU with AKU in 2022.

SFU recently partnered with AKU on the Arusha Climate and Environmental Research Centre (ACER) in Tanzania. Nanji was part of an SFU delegation that visited the Arusha project near Mount Kilimanjaro. The site is designed to be a living laboratory for studies related to climate change, environmental stewardship, biodiversity, agriculture, community engagement and other fields.

“While being recognized for decades of work is an honor and a moment of pride, this award is particularly poignant for me because it recognizes the immense impact of the work of my colleague, friend and mentor, Chris Dagg,” says Nanji. “I also accept this award on behalf of immigrant women of color, many of whom experience barriers to attaining leadership roles and who go unrecognized for their tenacity and wisdom.”

Having led the development of SFU’s new Sustainable Development Goals Framework for Global Engagement, she is “excited about having the opportunity to apply it in ways that bring SFU into more equitable collaborations that result in greater learning and greater impact.”

Her advice to others looking to get involved and make an impact in regards to sustainable development is to “be open and conscientious, work transparently, and take time to build and nurture real relationships.”

Adeel is also being recognized for his ongoing work in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and was “pleasantly surprised” to hear the news that he would be receiving the award. 

“I was not expecting to receive this level of acknowledgement and appreciation,” he says. “It was also a humbling experience to find myself in a category in which remarkable academics and researchers have been recognized.”

Prior to joining SFU, he led the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health and was also the Chair of UN Water. Adeel currently serves as director pro tem for the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering at SFU and as executive director of the Pacific Water Research Centre (PWRC).

At PWRC, he has led a number of international projects focusing on water including the Gender, Water Security and Peacebuilding Nexus in the Arab Region project. The initiative led to an

international symposium in May 2018 co-organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), and led to policy papers on women as agents of change in conflict situations in the region.

“In a workshop organized under the PWRC banner in Beirut, we shared the stories of women refugees highlighting terrible living conditions in refugee camps on the one hand and remarkable resilience to overcome adversity on the other,” Adeel says. “I felt that bringing those stories to light and translating them into a plea to the national governments to do more was an impactful moment.”

A member of SFU’s Living Lab advisory committee he helped develop its concept by advising and guiding the research development process. With his expertise, the program has established a solid foundation to explore international collaboration opportunities.

Adeel has also led the Nutrition through Engagement and Agricultural Technologies (N-EAT) project to bring solutions to the remote Indigenous communities in British Columbia, including Klemtu and Old Massett village in Haida Gwaii, to help them address food and energy security issues.

Adeel, who is often sought as an expert and media commentator on water and sustainability issues, continues to work on water, food, and energy security for Indigenous communities in B.C., building on relationships initiated over the past five years and sharing his passion for making an impact.