Prof, Climate Change Research Featured in New Campaign

January 23, 2013 - Campus Bulletin

A University of Guelph geography professor appears in a provincial promotional campaign beginning today that highlights connections between teaching and research.

Barry Smit is one of five faculty spotlighted in the new initiative called “We Teach Ontario” by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). It celebrates how professors use research to enrich their students’ learning and strengthen the province.

“While truly impressive, our featured professors are not unique," says Constance Adamson, OCUFA president. "They exemplify the commitment to knowledge and student success shared by faculty across Ontario."

Linking teaching with research brings new ideas into the classroom, engages students in discovery, and ensures that students encounter new ideas and innovation, she says. “Ontario professors and academic librarians know how powerful the connection between teaching and research can be for students; they live it every day."

"We Teach Ontario tells this important story to the people of our province," she says.

It's a story that will be told through the videos, faculty profiles, student stories and social media, says Graeme Stewart, OCUFA's communications manager. The campaign will run in several phases – likely over two years -- with new content and functionality added along the way. Viewers are invited to share stories about inspiring professors.

Smit’s work is highlighted on a web page and in a video about his research and how he engages students in his studies, both in and outside the classroom. His section is called “I Teach Resilience.”

Asked how he felt about being selected for the campaign, Smit joked, “The redness on the cheeks wasn’t from the sun -- I was blushing from being chosen.”

He added: “I assume the producers sought to have a range of disciplines covered. I hope I was able to give some indication about what scholars in my field do in their teaching and research.

“With so many people seeming to see universities as job training facilities, there was a chance to say something about their roles as generators and disseminators of knowledge.”

In his video, Smit discusses how his research underpins his teaching and how he involves students. He and his graduate students often travel remote locations to study directly the impact of climate change. He uses case studies, photos and data from fieldwork in his undergraduate courses. “Otherwise, my students would not have access to this real-world context.”

As Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change, Smit studies social and economic implications of climate change and how to manage associated risks and opportunities. He has examined societal vulnerability and adaptation to climate change across Canada and in developed and developing countries, ranging from Vietnam to Vanuatu and from Chile to China.

Smit served on a provincial expert panel on climate change adaptation and co-authored the report “Adapting to Climate Change in Ontario’” for the provincial environment ministry.

He also served on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) beginning in 1998 and was lead author of the IPCC’s fourth assessment report issued in 2007. The IPCC team, including Smit, shared that year’s Nobel Peace Prize with environmental activist and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.

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