2019 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award nominee: Maureen Reed


Maureen ReedMaureen Reed, UNESCO Chair in Biocultural Diversity, Sustainability, Reconciliation and Renewal, University of Saskatchewan (PhD 1991, Geography)

Maureen Reed earned her PhD in Geography from the University of Waterloo in 1991 and began her academic career that same year at the University of British Columbia. Maureen came to Waterloo after meeting Professor Emeritus Dr. Bruce Mitchell. “After completing my master’s I was determined to seek a supervisor who had both academic status and a personal interest in my success. Frankly, I was tentative about doing a PhD, but I was so impressed by Dr. Mitchell as a person I was drawn into the program. He has been a lifelong mentor and role model. I am so grateful for his insights and his friendship. But even more importantly, I also gained a community.”

In 2000, she moved to the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) where she is the assistant director of the School of Environment and Sustainability (a program she helped found). Since 2010, Maureen has worked on a national advisory committee (Canada-MAB) that provides guidance to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO on managing World Biosphere Reserves in the country, and in 2018 became the UNESCO Chair in Biocultural Diversity, Sustainability, Reconciliation and Renewal at the University of Saskatchewan.

Maureen is internationally recognized for her work on social dimensions of sustainability, environmental governance, and gender-based analysis with 131 academic papers to her name. In one of her present projects, she is investigating how gender and culture affect the capacity of rural and Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to respond to climate hazards. Maureen discovered feminist geography after being asked to lead a discussion on the topic during a seminar at Waterloo. “I guess I got hooked…although I did not return to doing any work related to gender until some years after I completed my dissertation when I began studying the perspectives of women in forest-based communities who were in support of industrial forestry. My husband told me that the resulting book from that project would define my career; he was right.” For her work on gender and forestry, she was appointed to the National Steering Committee on “Gender Equity in Forestry” in 2018 – one of only three academics in Canada.

Maureen heads the PROGRESS lab at the University of Saskatchewan where PROGRESS stands for “PRactices Of Governance for Resilience, Environmental and Social Sustainability. Her lab group to address the question: What models of governance and action can help communities become resilient and make progress toward environmental and social sustainability? Maureen’s research group works primarily with rural and Indigenous communities to learn how they confront interconnected environmental, social, economic, political and cultural changes. Some of these changes happen rapidly, such as flash flooding, or can be extended over generations, such as expectations about gender or indigenous-settler relations. An increasing focus is on shared governance arrangements between not-for-profit organizations such as model forests, UNESCO biosphere reserves, and Indigenous communities where they share common goals and territories.

In 2015, Maureen received the U of S Distinguished Graduate Supervisor Award and in 2016, the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Lifetime Achievement for her extraordinary contributions to the Saskatchewan community. In 2017, she received the U of S Distinguished Researcher Award and in 2019, the Award for Scholarly Distinction from the Canadian Association of Geographers.