University of Alberta ag faculty department celebrates 50 years

UNIQUE FOCUS Department of resource economics and environmental 
sociology is the only one of its kind in Canada

Alumni, faculty and students recently gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the department of resource economics and environmental sociology in the faculty of agriculture at the University of Alberta.

Originally known as agricultural economics and farm management, the department was rechristened as agricultural economics and rural sociology in 1969 and then rural economy in 1975 before being given its present title last year. More than 220 current and former faculty members, support staff, and students attended the three-day event. Attendees, who travelled from across Canada, also included some of the earliest graduates and first professors. Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson gave the opening keynote, and the event also featured a panel session, many of whom were former alumni.

The department focuses on three areas of research — agricultural economics, environmental sociology, and environmental economics. A keynote speaker spoke on each of these areas, and was then followed by a panel of experts discussing the Canadian and the local contexts, said John Parkins, associate professor with the department.

“I realized quickly that this was a very good idea,” said Brent Swallow, professor and current chair of the department. “We’re very happy with the turnout.”

The reunion weekend allowed alumni and support workers to reconnect with each other and to recognize each other’s achievements.

“We have quite a renowned group in environmental sociology and resource economics who are experts all over the world, and who came from our department,” said Swallow.

Panellist Tom Beckley, a professor at the University of New Brunswick, said the resource economics and environmental sociology program at the university is unique in Canada because of its focus on both sociology and economics.

The reunion will pay future dividends, said Parkins.

“We’re building the network of professionals within the department and to build connections so former students and former faculty members make more significant financial contributions to scholarships and such,” he said.

Notable alumni were honoured, including Murray Hawkins, the first student to graduate with a masters from the department in 1964.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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