New dean for Environmental Studies

Celebrated environmentalist, feminist and academic Joni Seager has been appointed the next dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University. Appointed effective July 1 for a five-year term, she will succeed Dean David Morley, who returned to York from an early retirement to assume the role of dean in 2001.

Right: Joni Seager 

Seager has achieved international acclaim for her work in feminist environmentalism and on the environmental costs of militaries and militarism. She has received numerous accolades for her work on the global condition of women and her books on the environment and feminist topics. She is the author of the Penguin Atlas of Women in the World (2003), a widely praised update of her previous editions which won national and international awards, including the American Library Association’s “Outstanding Reference Book of the Year” award, and the Chicago Geographical Society’s Publications Award.

Seager is also the author of nine other books, including Putting Women in Place: Feminist Geographers Make Sense of the World (with Mona Domosh, 2001), and Earth Follies: Coming to Feminist Terms With the Global Environmental Crisis (1993). A believer in “writing without borders”, she often produces articles for popular outlets such as Ms. Magazine and The New York Times at the same time as she publishes in academic journals such as Environment and Planning or Gender, Place & Culture.

The Canadian-born Seager comes to York University from the University of Vermont (UVM) where she is a professor of geography and holds affiliate appointments in Women’s Studies, Race & Ethnic Studies and Canadian Studies. As Chair of the Department of Geography for six years at UVM, she oversaw the growth and transformation of the department. While at UVM, Seager received two of the university’s highest awards for excellence in teaching and research. She was named University Scholar in 2002.

Prior to UVM, she held positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maine. Seager earned a BA from the University of Toronto, and an MA and a PhD from Clark University in Massachusetts.

“The scholarly reputation and administrative experience combine in Joni Seager with a wonderful personality,” said Lorna R. Marsden, York University’s president and vice-chancellor. “We all look forward to working with her as FES moves into its next stage building on the work of Dean Morley and his predecessors and the entire Faculty. And repatriating a Canadian is an added bonus!”

“The Faculty is very fortunate to have attracted such a strong international scholar and administrator as its new dean,” said Morley. “All members of the Faculty look forward to welcoming Joni Seager and working with her in the next phase in the life of York’s distinctive and renowned Faculty of Environmental Studies.”

Seager believes that academic work in feminism and environmental studies is enriched when it remains in conversation with its activist roots. In her own public and personal life, she bridges these commitments. For example, Seager is a director and co-founder of the Center for New Words, a Boston-based organization committed to expanding opportunities for women’s engagement with the written word – “wedging open cultural space,” Seager says, “for women to become more fully enfranchised participants in civil society.”

She is also a co-founder of the Committee on Women, Population & the Environment, an international non-governmental organization of scholars and activists committed to developing and supporting feminist analyses in environmental politics and policies.

“Communicating across communities is one of the many strengths of environmental studies, a field that, more than many others, engages people in understanding the material conditions of their daily lives,” says Seager. “I am very pleased to be coming to the Faculty of Environmental Studies, which, in my view, is the standard-bearer of environmental education in Canada.

“The importance of environmental literacy has seldom been greater than it is now,” she adds. “The great challenge of our time is to come to terms with the rapid changes in the built and natural environments around us, and to understand these changes in order to craft more sustainable, equitable and healthy outcomes.”