York alumna named professor of the year by German association

York alumna Heather Cameron (MA ’94, PhD ’02) has been named professor of the year by the German Association of University Professors & Lecturers. She graduated from York’s Graduate Program in Social & Political Thought in 2002 and now teaches educational science at the Freie Universität Berlin, one of Germany’s leading research universities.

Right: Heather Cameron

The award carries a prize of $12,000 Canadian (7,500 euros) and will be awarded in March in Hamburg.

The award honours professors "who through their extraordinary commitment make an outstanding contribution toward promoting the reputation of professors in the eyes of the general public." Cameron, who is both a British and Canadian citizen, is the first non-German scholar to receive this award.

The jury selected Cameron as a personality whose commitment is reflected in her work both on and off the job. In 2005, in addition to her teaching and research activities, Cameron, who has been a professor of inclusive education at Freie Universität Berlin since 2008, started a boxing initiative called Boxgirls in the Berlin inner-city district of Kreuzberg. Boxgirls has now expanded to include projects in Nairobi, Kenya, and in Capetown, South Africa.

Through sports training, Boxgirls aims to improve the physical and mental fitness of girls and young women and to enhance their self-esteem. With Boxgirls, Cameron hopes to encourage girls and young women to actively stand up as multipliers for more social participation and for the rights of women, and to be accountable for social change. So far in Berlin, more than 500 girls have directly benefited from Boxgirls, says Cameron.

In 1999, the Berlin Parliament awarded Cameron a research scholarship, one of 18 presented annually to scholars from all over the world, to pursue further studies in Berlin. At the time of the award, Cameron was only the second Canadian to have won it. She had gone to Berlin in 1997 as the inaugural student on the York/Freie University exchange program and liked the city enough to stay there to finish her dissertation on French philosopher Michel Foucault’s concept of care of the self.

Professor Christine Keitel-Kreidt, vice-president of Freie Universität Berlin, said she was pleased about the award for her young colleague. "Freie Universität Berlin is very proud to have Heather on its faculty. She always manages to be a source of inspiration in getting the most varied individuals to support her projects. Students from various disciplines are attracted by her innovative approach to teaching, and they contribute to her research and projects with enthusiasm."

Cameron’s dedicated team of young and highly motivated volunteers have already won numerous awards, from the Berlin sport authorities up to the United Nations. Cameron has also won over the German Children & Youth Foundation, the Berlin Family & Children’s Foundation and the international sports foundation Women Win as collaboration partners for her projects.