PRofile: Alan Diduck

Community engagement is a common theme that pops up throughout environmental studies and sciences professor Alan Diduck’s career.

Diduck started his career as a lawyer but returned to school to get his master’s degree in National Resource Management and a PhD in geography.

In 2002, he became the director of the environmental studies program at the University of Winnipeg, which then became the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences.

His most recent community-based research project focused on FortWhyte Alive’s Naturescape program, which encourages gardening for biodiversity in one’s own backyard. He worked on the project with Christopher Raymond, a colleague from Sweden.

“I’ve been doing work on community gardening for a couple of years, and my interest in that area was led by students,” Diduck says. “More and more students are interested in sustainable food production and community engagement and building better relations in communities.”

The study followed 50 gardeners, some in the Naturescape program and some not, who were interested in alternative types of gardening. Diduck says the results regarding why people garden were really surprising.

“(The results) reinforce this sort of wide array of motivations that people derive from the gardens – everything from trying to advance an environmental goal or idea like biodiversity protection or conservation, to a deeply spiritual satisfaction that they derive from being in the garden and observing the fruits or their labour. Those results were interesting,” he says.

Diduck is working on two papers as he continues to go through the results of the study.

He’s also working on developing a new class proposal.

“In 2015, I taught campus sustainability, which is a fourth year course ... So now we’re going to take steps to turn that into a permanent course,” he says. “It ran once, and now I’m working on a proposal to make it into an experimental course as a first step and then a permanent course, because that course attracted a lot of attention, and people seemed to like it.”

What courses do you teach?: Right now I’m teaching one course this term, Human Environmental Interactions, which is our introductory course. And then I teach Environment and Law, which is next term. From time to time, I’ll take on Business and the Environment.

What have you learned from your students?: I have learned or relearned innumeral times in my interactions with my students an enthusiasm and a passion for life and an enthusiasm and passion for trying to make a positive contribution to society. That’s an ongoing type of inspiration that I receive from a lot of my students. I really view most of relationships with students as a mutual learning event.

What’s something you like to do in your spare time?: I run, I ride my bicycle, I read a lot, and I watch tennis, which is a guilty pleasure of mine.

Published in Volume 72, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 28, 2017)

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