Transforming community spaces 

Dr. Troy Glover (PhD ’00) has dedicated his career to exploring transformative placemaking, which he describes as the aspirational efforts to convert urban spaces into meaningful places. These initiatives aim to encourage positive social interactions and enhance the quality of community life. 

A lack of connectedness and loneliness can severely affect people’s health. “Research reveals the mortality impact on lonely and disconnected individuals is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” Glover said. 

Viewing transformative placemaking as a crucial strategy, he believes inviting spaces that encourage positive social interaction are pivotal in fostering healthier relationships and overall happiness. 

“Positive interactions, even among strangers, can create a stronger sense of belonging through shared experiences.”

While acknowledging the significance of quality of life for individuals, he also underscored the importance of the “quality of community life” in recognizing the intertwined relationship between individual well-being and the health and vitality of communities. 

Troy Glover sitting on a bench outdoors

Dr. Troy Glover (PhD ’00)

Glover’s research has identified several animation strategies people can employ in their neighbourhoods to enhance social connection. Some of these strategies include naturalizing (greening), activating (encouraging physical activity) and aestheticizing (using various forms of art). 

In collaboration with the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, Glover belongs to a team that recently launched the website Activate Your Neighbourhood, which offers a tactical guide for Canadians seeking ideas to engage in transformative placemaking themselves. 

Glover is concluding a research project on neighbourhood walking and social connectedness, emphasizing how simple everyday gestures like exchanging smiles can create a sense of happiness among neighbours. 

Feeding our spirit in later life  

“Happiness is a by-product of making someone else happy” is one of many thoughtful comments Dr. Jane Kuepfer (BA ’92) has heard from older adults reflecting on happiness. As we age, our bodies need attention and quickly become the focus of care, but Kuepfer’s research explores what happens to our spirit and how spiritual well-being can be supported.   

What sustains people through the changes and losses of later life? What should we be aiming for? How do we reach the end whole? These questions informed Kuepfer’s doctoral research, which entailed interviewing leading-edge baby boomers (those who were turning 70 at the time) by asking them to imagine themselves forward into old age.  

Jane Kuepfer speaking to senior residents

Dr. Jane Kuepfer (BA ’92) with residents at Schlegel Villages.

At the time, Kuepfer was serving older adults as a chaplain, counsellor and spiritual director, and she still does. Through this work, she has learned that spirituality is important to many older adults as they seek love, hope, peace and joy. 

“Some speak of aging as a spiritual journey, marked by a letting go of ego, shifting focus to others, transcending suffering and loss and a sense of connectedness to all of life, often mediated through a relationship with God,” she said.  

Religion often serves as a vehicle for spiritual life because it gives us stories, spiritual practices, a community of belonging and a sense of purpose and meaning.

“For people living out their golden years, a grounding in faith and spiritual practices can significantly contribute to well-being and happiness,” Kuepfer said. 

She continually discovers new opportunities for exploring happiness in later life by opening conversations about meaning and connection and advocating integrating spirituality into residential care.  

Finding the right work-life balance 

For more than 30 years, Dr. Linda Duxbury (BSc ’75, MASc ’77, PhD ’83) has studied work- and family-life balance in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. It started in 1991 with her curiosity about the emerging concept of telework. 

Duxbury wanted to explore the impact of working from home, computers and the effects of overwork on work-life balance and mental well-being. The first study garnered more than 33,000 respondents from across Canada and revealed that many participants didn’t have a work-life balance, which ultimately left them feeling stressed, depressed and anxious. 

Duxbury has since repeated the study three times — a decade between each — with sample sizes between 25,000 and 30,000. The results of her research highlight the negative impacts on people’s well-being due to work-role overload and provide data that is often used to influence policy changes that help create supportive work environments so people can lead healthier, balanced lives.  

Linda and John Duxbury

Dr. Linda Duxbury (BSc ’75, MASc ’77, PhD ’83) with husband Dr. John Chinneck (BASc ’77, MASc ’78, PhD ’83)


“Since I started doing this work, I have been saying to employers, ‘Hey, your people are unhappy, they're stressed and they have no balance. If you do not address these issues, it will negatively impact your bottom line,’” she said. Duxbury’s research has uncovered that for most institutions, the “ideal worker” is available 24/7. Unfortunately, while those ideal employees may get a promotion or salary raise, they tend to suffer from higher levels of stress and lower levels of well-being. 

“I see that it is my job to be a voice, to use data to show companies that while they’re making money in the short term, it is going to cost them a lot in the long term as employees who are unhappy, stressed and overloaded are not as productive and engaged.” 

Uncovering new pathways to well-being 

Growing up in South Africa during apartheid and witnessing the disparities of injustice and poverty, Dr. Bruce Frayne was motivated to pursue a career in urban planning and development to try to do something about what was unfolding in his country.   

Dr. Bruce Frayne

Dr. Bruce Frayne

“I went into urban planning because I have a strong interest in society. Every time I have a meal, I think about the extent to which some people don't have, and I'm motivated by the human side of what it is that I do,” Frayne said. 

His work focuses on migration and food security in the Global South and the diverse factors impacting them. His research takes a broad look at the food system and narrows it down to the household and individual levels. 

Dr. Prateep Nayak grew up in India and researched the interconnectedness of society and ecology, recognizing through his work that one cannot be disconnected from the other. Nayak spent his early career years working with development NGOs, focusing on how small resource-dependent communities make a living and survive in adverse circumstances, relying on their natural resources. 

“My work with them was dedicated to institution building, advocating for their rights and the creation of policies that can ensure access, entitlements and tenure security in favour of historically marginalized communities,” he said. “Ultimately, I wanted to ensure justice, equity and the kinds of community engagement needed for collective and collaborative natural resource management.” 

Dr. Prateep Nayak

Dr. Prateep Nayak

Together, their work is connected to and concentrated on uncovering pathways to socio-ecological well-being and futurity. They also use their knowledge to drive “happy classrooms” and other initiatives in the Faculty of Environment through a memorandum of understanding with the Rekhi Foundation for Happiness. 

When asked what brings happiness, Nayak responded, “My happiness as a human being is linked to other human beings, but also to non-human beings in the ecosystem itself. So, to me, happiness is when you feel good for others and with others.”