New faculty

Prof hopeful we can fix our ecological mistakes

The school of environmental studies has a new director.
     Dr. Eric Higgs comes to UVic from Edmonton, where he’s spent the last 11 years teaching in the University of Alberta’s departments of philosophy and anthropology. Much of his work is in ecological restoration — the repair and sustainable maintenance of ecosystems.
     “The idea that we can work to heal some of the wounds that we’ve created on land and in water provides me with tremendous hope,” he says. “It means that we can fix not only physical damage, but that we can also restore the spirit. In fact, ecological restoration seems to be a salutary activity in every way.”
     Trained as a philosopher and ecological planner, Higgs is interested in the ethical issues involved in restoring ecosystems. He also looks at how humans relate to the environment and how the environment changes over time.
     One of his current projects looks at Jasper National Park, replicating photos taken 80 years ago to create the park’s first topographic map. The new photos from the same locations will provide a comprehensive portrait of how the landscape has changed. “In order to restore the park we need to know where it has come from,” he says. “How have things changed both culturally and ecologically? How do human activities affect the park?”
     Another major interest for Higgs is the effect of technology. He and University of Alberta doctoral student Claudio Aporta are studying how technology affects Inuit hunters in the Igloolik region of Nunavut. As a practical component, Higgs and Aporta are interested in helping reduce the number of life-threatening instances of loss and disorientation, especially among young hunters.
     In the fall of 2000 Higgs and co-editors Andrew Light and David Strong published Technology and the Good Life, a book of critical essays on the work of Albert Borgmann, a major figure in the philosophy of technology. His book on ecological restoration, Nature by Design, will be published by MIT Press early next year.
     This is Higgs’ second appointment at UVic; in September 2000 he visited the school as a Lansdowne lecturer for five months. “I loved being at UVic,” he recalls. “The work I did here was truly interdisciplinary and I had some of the best conversations with people. As well, I spent my childhood in B.C. and the West Coast really left its mark on me. So when this director position came up I jumped at the chance.”


Well-used passport an asset for business prof

A wall-sized world map and numerous Lonely Planet travel guides are the first clues that Dr. Saul Klein, Landsdowne professor of international business, has travelled and lived in many parts of the world.
     Born in Zimbabwe, Klein has visited over 40 countries and spent a significant time in many of them. After earning his BA in economics from the Hebrew University of Jeruselum, Klein moved to Canada for his MA and PhD in marketing and international business from the University of Toronto. Since then he’s taught in South Africa, Australia, France, the U.S. and Singapore before ending up at UVic last August.
     Having so many stamps in his passport is a distinct asset in Klein’s line of work. He studies how businesses in developing economies can become more efficient.
     “My area of interest for the last 10 years has been international business with a strong focus on emerging markets,” he says. “I look at what’s happening in the fast-growing regions of the world.” Countries such as China, Poland, South Africa and Mexico have emerging markets with strong competitive elements, he says.
     Klein’s frequent travels and global connections have helped him become a recognized and internationally published researcher. And in the classroom, students benefit from his first-hand experience with economic trends and conflicts in many countries. This semester, he’s teaching a course on international marketing and emerging markets.
     Klein’s latest research focuses on economic restructuring in China, specifically on the effects of business restructuring and government. “Unless government reforms and the practices of the organizations in China catch up to other countries, it could ultimately retard the success of their economy.”
     The decision to base his young family in Victoria brings Klein a sense of security and peace. He’ll continue to monitor international economic trends, but from afar. For now, his travel books are taking a well-deserved rest.


Ukrainian cultural historian finds home at UVic

It was a circuitous route that brought Dr. Serhy Yekelchyk from his native Ukraine to UVic, where last September he assumed a joint appointment in the departments of history and Germanic and Russian studies.
     Yekelchyk had earned his BA and MA and was conducting research on the construction of national identities in late imperial Russia in 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved and Ukraine was plunged into bankruptcy.
     “It was not a good time to be a university researcher,” says Yekelchyk. “But my life changed overnight when I received a fellowship to continue my research at Monash University in Australia.”
     From 1995 to 2000 Yekelchyk attended the University of Alberta, where he earned his PhD. He spent the next year on a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, where he taught Russian history and pursued research on the construction of cultural and historical memory in Ukraine during the Stalinist era.
     “I feel I have found a unique fit at UVic,” says Yekelchyk, “I am amazed at the strong student interest in Russian history here. Perhaps it has something to do with our geographical and historical closeness. Many students are interested in Russian exploration of the region and the Russian history of Alaska.”
     Yekelchyk studies nationalism as a cultural phenomenon, drawing from a wide variety of sources including novels, opera, and paintings to illuminate how the past was represented and how those representations were received by people.
     He’s just completed a book manuscript on historical memory under Stalin examining how Stalinist authorities manipulated representations of the past.
     “For example, there was a very popular historical novel set in the 17th century which was edited many times by the authorities in order to portray Ukraine as a junior friend of the Great Russian people,” he explains. “It was supposed to create a feeling of solidarity with Russia. It was popular with Ukrainian readers, but they ignored the intended ideological message and enjoyed it as a portrayal of their own glorious past.”