Dr. Gina Sylvestre has been a part of the University of Winnipeg community since before she was born. Her mother took an intro to sociology class at the U of W while she was pregnant with her in the ’60s.
Sylvestre got her undergraduate, masters and PhD degrees from the University of Manitoba. She taught for more than 11 years at the U of W’s Institute for Urban Studies, before accepting a faculty position in the U of W’s geography department four years ago.
“(Geography) is more about being on the ground, having that contact with the world itself, but also trying to make change. Of course I need to publish and that kind of thing, but I need to change policy. I’ve got my tentacles in many parts of the city with different policy makers,” Sylvestre says of her work.
She’s also part of the third generation in her family to teach. Her grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan and her mother taught nursing in Winnipeg.
At first, she tried to buck with tradition and traveled to Cancun, Mexico in her early 20s to work in the tourism industry. By age 27, she decided to come back to Winnipeg and continue her studies.
Now she teaches sustainable tourism, intro to human geography and health geography courses, on top of doing in-depth research projects on aging.
One of her current projects is a study on the link between aging and poverty in the North End. Another is a winter sidewalk survey she’s co-conducting with Dr. Nora Casson, another assistant professor in the geography department.
The sidewalk survey asks Winnipeggers to rate the outdoor walkways they travel on a five-point scale – from easy to walk, to treacherous and unable to walk.
Sylvestre hopes to get 10,000 survey respondents and present the survey findings to the city of Winnipeg to help them better prioritize which public walkways to plough and sand.
“What we need is a range of users of all age ranges, income levels and functional abilities, and then we need the whole range of Winnipeg as well, so the spatial perspective,” she says of the survey respondents.
To complete the winter sidewalk survey, visit geography.uwinnipeg.ca/winterwalk
AREA OF RESEARCH: Aging, mobility, urban and rural issues, inclusion and exclusion.
NUMBER OF PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLES PUBLISHED: Six.
LOWEST GRADE IN UNIVERSITY: B+.
FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF: I’m an introvert, but I can be outgoing – because that’s so important for the research I do.
WHAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER: My superpower is everyone who supports me. I’m spiritual and I know I have a lot of people looking out for me in other places.
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: I’m just reading Stefan Epp-Koop We’re Going to Run This City. It’s a history about the 1919 General Strike in Winnipeg.
Published in Volume 70, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 7, 2016)