2021 Faculty of Environment Alumni Awards announced

Collectively, the 2021 Faculty of Environment alumni award recipients have advanced critical research and social causes, protected sensitive lands, promoted knowledge translation and supported countless students through mentorship. Everything they have accomplished has relied to some degree on the partnerships they’ve forged along the way. 

Established in 2008, Environment’s alumni awards honour and recognize the impact and accomplishments of graduates who stand out amongst the rest; individuals who are making a difference in the world, demonstrating just how far an Environment degree, a heart full of passion, and a lot of hard work can take you.  

We are pleased to introduce you to this year’s five alumni award recipients from a very competitive field of incredibly talented and dedicated nominees. 

Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award 

maureen reedDr. Maureen Reed (PhD ‘91)

The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award is given out annually to an alumnus who has demonstrated outstanding professional or academic achievement, proven community impact and significant contributions to sustainability. 

Dr. Maureen Reed (PhD ‘91) is a distinguished scholar internationally recognized for her work on the social dimensions of sustainability, environmental governance, the sustainability of local ecosystems, prosperity, and gender-based analysis. 

Maureen first became interested in how women were represented in forestry activism while studying the economic transition of a B.C. logging community in the early 1990s. Since then, she has pioneered research at the intersection of gender and forestry in the global north. Her work increases understanding of the social and cultural issues involved in sustainability and builds bridges for the transition to more sustainable forms of resource use.  

After moving from B.C. to Saskatchewan in 2000, a newspaper article sparked an interest that would shape the next chapter in Maureen’s career. A nearby watershed was being designated a UNESCO biosphere region because of its international significance for migratory birds and because of the commitment of local people to conservation and sustainability. She became curious about the relative capabilities and capacities of biosphere reserves and started working with biosphere reserve practitioners. To her, it was like “coming home.”  

Today, Maureen holds the UNESCO Chair in Biocultural Diversity, Sustainability, Reconciliation & Renewal at the University of Saskatchewan, where she is Assistant Director, Academic, of the School of Environment and Sustainability. She also heads the PROGRESS Lab (PRactices Of Governance for Resilience, Environmental and Social Sustainability), which focuses on learning how rural and Indigenous communities confront interconnected environmental, social, economic, political, and cultural changes. 

Currently on sabbatical, Maureen is working to develop an international research training partnership supporting academics and practitioners, UNESCO biosphere regions and Indigenous communities in Canada, Germany and South Africa who are pursuing transdisciplinary work in sustainability science.  

“I can’t imagine doing things in isolation,” she says. “Partnerships are just a rich way to work.” To this day, Maureen draws on the connections she made while she was studying at the University of Waterl00. She credits her supervisor and friend, professor emeritus Bruce Mitchell, for helping to keep her stay connected to classmates and colleagues and fostering a community of collaboration and information-sharing. “I never realized the friendships that I would make at the university would be ones that lasted a lifetime.” 

Derek Coleman (PhD' 74)

derek colemanDerek Coleman (PhD' 74) is a pioneer in environmental policy in Ontario Planning, with more than 1,000 projects in seven provinces over five decades, to his name. 

In the competitive world of consulting, a track record like that is only achieved by knowing how to put together quality teams that meet the requirements of the job. Such is the importance, Derek explains, of building successful partnerships and maintaining your professional network. "You can't do it in isolation."  

With success comes the opportunity to give back. Derek and his wife have become essential and valued partners to many non-profit organizations, from local food banks to animal welfare organizations to environmental NGOs and universities. "Our family is our community," he explains.  

Through their Ages Foundation, Derek and Kathleen support many organizations, including the rare Charitable Research Reserve, the Cambridge stewardship initiative, and the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) Planning Student Trust Fund, which provides Travel Awards for students to attend a national conference.  

"These bright young students get to meet other bright young students, and they get to network and present their work to the best planners in the country," which, Derek says, can open the door to bright, young futures.  

Still serving as one of Ontario's oldest active planners and considering retirement in the near future, Derek remains passionate about the planning profession. He has authored more than 20 articles in conference proceedings & professional journals and has given guest lectures at U of T, Guelph, and the University of Waterloo. 

Other future plans? Competing in the Canadian Master's Track & Field Association's over-80 category. Having participated in 2015 and medaling in the shot put and long jump events, he figured his odds are good. "I certainly won't have any competition," he jokes. Having done the Terry Fox run 39 times in 40 years, he was named a Terry Fox Hero of the week. He says it is important to stay active and try new things.  

Friend of the Faculty Award 

anne marieAnne-Marie Marais (BES ’95)

The Faculty of Environment Friend of the Faculty Award was established in 2019 to recognize individuals, companies or organizations who have supported the faculty’s mission and goals through volunteerism, promotion, philanthropic leadership, collaboration, or active participation. 

Friend of the Faculty Impact Award recipient 

As the Faculty of Environment’s first official class champion, Anne-Marie Marais (BES ’95) has made being an active and engaged alumnus a rewarding part of her life.

Since graduating from the School of Planning, Anne-Marie has helped keep her classmates connected, organizing their ten and twenty-year reunions. In addition, she served as the blueprint for the faculty’s now successful Class Champion program. This initiative empowers alumni to act as official class representatives, working with the university to bring their class together to celebrate milestone reunions.  

While the Covid-19 pandemic put a hamper on plans for Anne-Marie’s 25-year class reunion, she remained busy, helping to launch the university’s most significant alumni chapter in Toronto. Having served two years as chapter co-lead, she has now graduated to the role of leadership advisor.  

Anne-Marie’s dedication to volunteerism started as a child and decades later extends far beyond Ring Road. In the fourth grade, she remembers giving up her recess breaks to volunteer in the kindergarten class. Giving back was a value instilled by her mother, a mother-helper in her own junior kindergarten class. Today, Anne-Marie is a Welcome Team volunteer at Toronto Pearson Airport and a mentor for Futurpreneur Canada. She has also volunteered for the Girl Guides of Canada, the Toronto Pan/Parapan American Games and Ovarian Cancer Canada. If that weren’t enough, she bravely participates in an annual dip in Lake Ontario on January 1st to raise funds for Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre. 

Despite her busy career running her independent digital media company Long Legs Media, Anne-Marie always has time to partner with the University of Waterloo. “I was only there four years,” she says, “but they were four very important years.” She credits the lasting friendships and rich experiences she had, both in and out of the classroom, for making her the person she is today. Wanting to support future students coming into the program to have similar life-changing experiences, Anne-Marie championed the faculty’s inaugural peer-to-peer class fundraising campaign, raising more than $20,000 for student scholarships. This fall, the first Planning Class of 1995 Entrance Scholarship will be awarded to an incoming planning student.  

Ian MacNaughton (BA '68 | MA '71)

Founded by planning alumnus Ian MacNaughton (BA '68 | MA '71) in 1973, MHBC Planning Urban Design & Landscape Architecture (MHBC) has supported the School of Planning for nearly 50 years.  

Starting as a one-person operation, MHBC has grown to one of the region's largest and most respected firms, with more than 100 employees working in six offices across Ontario. It provides urban planning, resource management, urban design, and landscape architecture services.  

Since its inception, MHBC and its employees have continued to partner with the University of Waterloo, Faculty of Environment, and the School of Planning in many ways, including hiring hundreds of coop students and inviting numerous undergraduate and graduate students to join the firm.  

brian zeman“MHBC is proud of its partnership with the University. We have a strong legacy of hiring coop and graduate students from the University of Waterloo. Over 70% of our partners and associates are University of Waterloo graduates and some of them started with the firm as coop students.”  - Brian Zeman – President, MHBC 

MHBC staff volunteer their time to sit on University, Faculty, and School of Planning committees. They engage with students as mentors and provide guest lectures to apply industry knowledge into the classroom. In addition, they have served as Planners in Residence and members of the Pragma Council. 

The firm and its members have a long-standing history of supporting the school through the annual University of Waterloo Planning of Toronto gala and financial contributions of scholarships and awards.  This year, MHBC members took their support to the next level, creating the first scholarships for Black and Indigenous students at the School of Planning. The first MHBC Award for Black and Indigenous Students will be awarded this fall. 

“At the core of MHBC's objectives, continually cultivating and promoting a culture rich in diversity, equity, and inclusion is of superior importance. With all of the social justice movements that occurred in 2020, we realized that as an organization, we have a responsibility of modeling our commitment to systemic change by taking collective accountability. We are proud of these efforts in providing opportunities for continued education to the Black and Indigenous community at the University of Waterloo.” – Brian Zeman - President, MHBC

Young Alumni Inspiration Award 

eric kennedyEric Kennedy (BKI '12)

The Faculty of Environment Young Alumni Inspiration Award was established in 2013 to celebrate alumni who graduated less than 10 years ago and whose early professional or academic success, contribution to the community and contribution to sustainability inspire the next generation of environment graduates. 

Since graduating as part of the inaugural Knowledge Integration (KI) class in 2012, Eric Kennedy (BKI '12) has advanced research on disaster management, wildfires and, most recently, the social and human impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The seeds of Eric's research interests were planted even before he came to the University of Waterloo. As a child, he was interested in political science, governance, environmental policy, climate change. KI allowed him to find the connections and linkages amongst his interests and taught him the multiplicative advantage of bringing those lenses together. As part of the campus response team, he thrived as a student, benefiting from mentorship with Professor Katie Plaisance and finding a rich community.  

After graduating as the 2012 Alumni Gold Medal winner, Eric completed his master’s and PhD at Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University, where a series of natural disasters in the world sharpened his focus on disaster studies and emergency management.  

Today, he is Assistant Professor of Disaster & Emergency Management at York University, where he leads the Collaboration on Emergency Management, Preparedness, and Policy Research (the CEMPPR Lab). The lab trains students in community-engaged and collaborative research methods that support real-world outcomes.  

Since 2020, Eric has also been the lead investigator on a national Covid-19 monitoring program tracking social and human impacts and advising federal and provincial government policy. Like everything he has been involved with throughout his career, it's a cross-disciplinary effort reliant on solid partnerships. "If you want your work to matter, for it to have an impact," he explains, "it depends on having trusted relationships and partnerships."  

With restrictions to in-person gatherings easing, Eric is looking forward to resuming science Outside the Lab training, an experiential education program he founded that introduces grad students from across Canada to the policy environment. Its two-fold mission is to help those who do not want to remain in academia find purposeful, productive careers, and to help those who want to stay in the research world learn how to build partnerships and relationships with government scientists, decision-makers, journalists, and others to make a difference in the world.