Class of 2019: The Royal Society of Canada Induct Two of VIU’s Own

VIU’s Dr. Ralph Nilson and Dr. Pam Shaw
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A VIU press release disclosed that two members of VIU’s faculty are being recognized by their peers and nationally for their outstanding work.

Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU President Emeritus, and Dr. Pam Shaw, Director of VIU’s Masters of Community Planning (MCP) program, were elected by their peers to, and have been accepted into, the Royal Society of Canada’s (RSC’s) Class of 2019 for their efforts in developing a positive influence in their community and the world. They are the third and fourth scholars based out of VIU to be admitted into the RSC.

The RSC was established as Canada’s National Academy, built from the academies of Science, Arts, and Humanities, under an Act of Parliament in 1883.

According to the RSC’s website, “the RSC exists to promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment in both of Canada’s official languages, to mentor young scholars and artists, to recognize academic and artistic excellence, and to advise governments, non-governmental organizations, and Canadians generally on matters of public interest.”

Nilson is being credited this honour for his efforts in developing transformative opportunities of education for all, and especially for some of British Columbia’s at-risk demographics. In 2013, Nilson launched British Columbia’s first tuition waiver program for former youth in care. Since then, over 200 students have had access to post-secondary education at VIU because of this resource. 

“I am humbled and honoured to be invited to engage and contribute to the collective efforts of the distinguished scholars and advocates in the Royal Society of Canada,” Nilson said. “This is an opportunity for me to work with some of the best minds in the country on some of the most important public policy challenges in Canada.”

In his twelve-and-a-half year tenure as VIU’s President and Vice-Chancellor, VIU has been granted full university status and Nilson has demonstrated constant support for the process of reconciliation through speaking at various First Nations events, ensuring accessibility and relevant academic opportunities for First Nations students.

Shaw is being acknowledged for engaging students in applied, experiential learning through the Master of Community Planning program. The MCP program focuses on small city and town planning, First Nations planning, with attention to issues relevant to the First Nations people of Vancouver Island and Coastal British Columbia, and sustainable economic issues, like tourism and climate change. The program offers students skills and techniques that translate to ‘real world’ problems and issues. 

“It is an incredible honour and very much unexpected,” Shaw said.

Both Shaw and Nilson have made significant contributions to the pursuit of education and the academic community. However, they have yet to conclude their efforts. 

“Being part of a network of knowledge, contributing to other people’s learning and to learn from them is what I am excited about. Having that tie to what I imagine is a very illustrious group of individuals,” Shaw said.

Nilson said he “will continue working towards regional and national solutions for sustainable social change that will enhance the lives of individuals and communities.”