Today, Faculty of Extension interim dean Maria Mayan receives the prestigious Killam Annual Professorship, recognizing her scholarly activities and service to the community.
“I’ve spent most of my career leading community-engaged research addressing poverty and its root causes,” said Mayan. “I’m incredibly thankful to all my partners for their support as we work together to tackle social, health and economic inequities.”
Over the past few years, Mayan has been active in fostering initiatives that address food insecurity while reducing food waste. Together with the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative, she started up the Grocery Run food rescue to help migrant families who were in crisis, lacking “same-day food.”
In 2018, the Grocery Run team partnered with the Leftovers Foundation to expand food distribution, and most recently, they worked together with several community partners to launch the Fresh Routes Mobile Grocery Store to provide healthy, affordable food to communities. What began as a small-scale, emergency food program has now grown into a city-wide food rescue network.
“I work with community members to develop solutions and translate knowledge to policy or practice. That may sound simple, but it takes time and investing in relationships. My work involves innumerable hours with stakeholders in meetings and at other events to support each other, bring the best, most strategic thinking to complex issues, and take action to address social, health and economic issues.”
As a teacher and mentor, Mayan has taught students from a variety of disciplines about qualitative research methods and the art of engaging communities.
“Teaching in an interdisciplinary setting has not only pushed me to be creative and work with students to advance their own disciplines, but also to think critically and appreciatively about others.”
Mayan is thoughtful in cultivating learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom. She ensures her students have opportunities to be hands-on and engage with members of the community from different sectors and backgrounds.
“I involve students in all that I do. I take them to stakeholder and community meetings. I challenge them to take the complexity of partners’ experiences and write. I promote active learning where students talk, write and apply their learning to daily life.”
Not only is Mayan’s scholarly work known internationally but she has also taught and supervised graduate students in Hong Kong, Korea, Italy, Sweden and South Africa.
A new chapter
In July 2019, Mayan began her term as interim dean of Extension, which meant regrettably lightening her teaching and research commitments to take on administrative responsibilities for the next two years.
She brings strong leadership experience to the new role from serving as the associate director of the Community-University Partnership (CUP) for the Study of Children, Youth, and Families, as academic lead of engaged scholarship for the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI) and from her previous position as Extension’s associate dean of research.
Over the past few months, Mayan has embraced the role of interim dean with the same leadership, enthusiasm, innovative thinking and drive that have made her a successful engaged scholar.
With the community being at the heart of all of Extension’s programming and research, Mayan is just the person to guide Extension during the quest for a new dean.