York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies celebrates donors and students

The Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) celebrated student achievement, community involvement and the generosity of donors at its fourth annual awards gala on Nov. 18. The gala, held at the Brazen Head Irish Pub, formally honoured student award winners and the donors who make the awards possible.

The evening of fellowship, with music provided by the Roland Hunter Trio, opened with words of welcome from Faculty of Environmental Studies Dean Barbara Rahder and York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. 

Innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship is a mark of the work undertaken by the faculty and students of York University, said Shoukri, and the efforts of students in the Faculty of Environmental Studies are an ideal example of the “interface of disciplines” for which the University is known. Rahder pointed out that in addition to this event being especially meaningful for community members, celebrating the work done in FES is particularly timely. “Not only is society at large growing increasingly attentive to environmental issues,” she said, “but the recent establishment of the President’s task force on sustainability – headed by environmental studies Professor Jennifer Foster – has highlighted the importance of sustainable practices on campus as essential to York’s responsible engagement with the local and international communities.”

Left: Environmental studies Prof. Bonnie Kettel (left), the event’s MC, shares a joke with Dean Barbara Rahder

Environmental studies Professor Bonnie Kettel acted as the MC for the event. She explained to the gathered crowd that this fourth gala adopted a different format than in past years, featuring research presentations from four award recipients in order to highlight the work made possible by the donations supporting Faculty of Environmental Studies awards.

Fatima Khan, recipient of the Unilever Canada Undergraduate Entrance Award in Environmental Studies, expressed her passion for sustainability and how she sees her bachelor in environmental studies (BES) degree as the starting point to a career embracing politics, law and human rights. Khan was congratulated by Catherine McVitty, manager of environmental & corporate affairs, Unilever Canada.

Right: Catherine McVitty (left), Fatima Khan and Barbara Rahder

Graduate student Chris Saker, recipient of the John A. Livingston Ecological Conscience & Nature Advocacy Award, spoke with enthusiasm about the academic freedom in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. This freedom, he explained, allowed him to pursue knowledge of a rare bird, the ivory billed woodpecker – believed to be extinct, rediscovered in 2004, then lost again (see YFile, June 15, 2007).

Saker’s research will be undertaken, in part, at the Las Nubes Centre for Neotropical Conservation & Research, Costa Rica, under the supervision of Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Howard Daugherty – but, through this award and other intellectual connections, he said he feels a close affiliation with his award’s namesake. Speaking directly to the Livingston family members, Saker said: “Livingston’s voice comes through in my work."

Left: Sally Livingston (left), Chris Saker and Barbara Rahder

Master in environmental studies (MES) student Tanya Chung Tiam Fook spoke about the research she has been able to undertake as a result of being honoured with the Adrienne Pocock Memorial Award. Established in honour of the late Adrienne Pocock, a conscientious environmentalist devoted to grassroots care and concern for her world, this award is aimed at providing students resources and/or travel related to fieldwork. Chung Tiam Fook explained how the award supports her research into fostering a collaborative community approach toward wildlife conservation in Guyana. Members of the Pocock family, who also host an annual summer dinner in recognition of their award winners, joined in the formal presentation and celebration.

MES student Kendra Fitzrandolph, recipient of the Honourable George & Helen Vari Foundation Entrance Award, has focused her research interest on urban planning. She explained that her approach could be summarized by the phrase: “If you build for the old you include the young.” Fitzrandolph hopes to apply the principles of Smart Growth in fostering community development to her study of Asian communities in Canada, and Toronto in particular.


Above: From left, Donna Pocock, Adrienne Pocock Memorial Award recipients Tanya Chung Tiam Fook, Brianna Mersey, Zita Nyarady and Elizabeth Hartnett, Don Pocock and Aaron Pocock

Kettel concluded the formal presentation by announcing the entire list of award winners – and congratulating every one. “The work of these four students, four representing many others,” said Kettel, “aptly illustrates that research in FES can take many forms – and is made possible by the generous donations of benefactors who we can never thank enough.”