Waterloo Engineering professors Dr. David Fortin and Dr. Tizazu Mekonnen have been named to a list of leading innovators by a national anti-racism organization.
The inaugural edition of Canada’s Top 20 Aspiring Innovators of the Year, released by the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism (CILAR), recognizes Black, Indigenous and People of Colour winners who are positively impacting their communities, the world and future generations through the innovation ecosystem.
Championing Indigenous community-led design
Fortin, a professor in the School of Architecture, champions several local, national and international projects that strengthen profound relations with one another and the land.
Combining his lived experience as a citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario with his expertise in architecture, Fortin works with several First Nations communities across Canada to address their unique housing needs through award-winning, community-led design processes.
His multi-year research project into Red River Métis contributions to architectural thinking has been central to Canada’s evolving discussions about Métis historical and contemporary architecture.
Bringing inclusion and diversity into STEM education
Mekonnen, a chemical engineering professor, is leading the way in increasing the presence of Black and Indigenous scholars in STEM faculties in Canada.
As the inaugural director of the Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology (IBET) PhD Project, Mekonnen has helped it emerge as the most effective recruiting tool in Canada for bringing Indigenous and Black people into academia at the PhD level.
With 30 IBET Momentum Fellows at 16 universities, the initiative’s inaugural cohort represents the largest influx ever of Black and Indigenous PhD students into Canadian STEM faculties. It is estimated that by 2026, close to 200 Black and Indigenous PhD fellows will be undertaking pursuing PhDs through the IBET project.