UNBC recognizes eight distinguished Professors Emeriti

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Dr. Mike Rutherford, Dr. Sylvia Barton, Dr. Paul Sanborn, Dr. Karin Beeler and Dr. Phil Burton were recognized for their longstanding dedication to UNBC at the event. Dr. Ted Binnema, Dr. Jonathan Swainger and Dr. Pamela Wright were also honoured, but unable to attend.

Prince George, B.C. - Members of the University community gathered to pay tribute to eight distinguished Professors Emeriti at a Faculty Recognition Event on May 23. 

In bestowing the retiring faculty members with the honorary titles of Professor Emeritus/Emerita, each was acknowledged for their unique and exceptional contributions to the University, the broader academic community and to society. 

Congratulations to Dr. Sylvia Barton (Nursing), Dr. Karin Beeler (English), Dr. Ted Binnema (History), Dr. Phil Burton (Ecosystem Science and Management), Dr. Mike Rutherford (Geography, Earth, and Environmental Science), Dr. Paul Sanborn (Ecosystem and Science Management), Dr. Jonathan Swainger (History), and Dr. Pamela Wright (Ecosystem and Science Management)! 

Read below for highlights of their numerous accomplishments and achievements:

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Dr. Sylvia Barton (Nursing)

Dr. Sylvia Barton has an extensive history with the UNBC School of Nursing and has contributed significantly to the growth and ongoing development of the School in a multitude of ways. 

She was first hired as an Assistant Professor in 1997, after completing 16 years of clinical nursing practice. She became Acting Chair for a one-year period (2000-2001), was awarded tenure in 2004, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2006. 

Dr. Barton departed UNBC for another university during the period 2007-2016 and held various leadership positions during those years. 

In January 2017, Dr. Barton returned to UNBC to assume the role of Chair of the School of Nursing, as a Tenured Associate Professor. In 2020, she was promoted to Professor and remained in the Chair role until 2021. Since then, Dr. Barton has retained Adjunct appointment status with the School and has continued her active and dedicated engagement.

Dr. Barton is a prolific academic and an internationally recognized scholar with a long history of engaging with issues that are critical to the School of Nursing. Her research portfolio is multi-pronged, with a focus on rural health service delivery to high-risk and vulnerable populations, as well as the development of quality clinical learning environments. From the outset of her time with UNBC, Dr. Barton has been a strong advocate for culturally competent instruction in clinical, lab and classroom settings. The School of Nursing will continue to benefit and learn from her leadership on these issues.

Dr. Barton also has a strong research focus on global health and has held multiple international leadership roles in this area. A significant proportion of her many successful grant applications have pertained to global health, and she has led important research teams whose work broadened the understanding we now have of many global health initiatives. 

Dr. Barton received research funding from many leading Canadian funders, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and the Humanities Research Council, along with provincial agencies, including the B.C. Ministry of Children and Families. Over the course of her career, Dr. Barton garnered more than $600,000 in research funding as Principal Investigator, and $1.7 million as Co-Investigator. She also acted as a collaborator/expert and advisory group member in research focused on global and Indigenous healthcare implementation and knowledge translation, totaling $1.1 million in grant funding. Her passion for this work was clearly demonstrated when, during her time as UNBC School of Nursing Chair, Dr. Barton envisioned and developed a field school opportunity that allowed  upper division nursing students to experience nursing practice in Zambia – a truly life-changing experience for all those who participated.

Dr. Barton was also a highly respected and dedicated course instructor. She taught a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses and successfully used a range of teaching modalities. Her students regularly reported that her teaching inspired them and made them want to continue their education journeys. Many of the graduate students she supervised went on to co-author scholarly publications with Dr. Barton and participate in various other knowledge mobilization opportunities alongside her. Since receiving Adjunct appointment status, Dr. Barton has continued to work with numerous UNBC graduate students and offer her subject-matter expertise on various supervisory committees.

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Dr. Karin Beeler (English)

Dr. Karin Beeler became one of the founding faculty members of the English Department when she joined UNBC in 1993. Over the course of her career, she has made a deep imprint on the University through her generous service, dedicated teaching, and wide-ranging scholarship. 

Dr. Beeler attained the rank of Full Professor in 2010. During her time at UNBC, she published two peer-reviewed books, three peer-reviewed edited collections, one guest-edited special issue of a journal, 15 peer-reviewed essays, and 15 peer-reviewed book chapters. In addition, Dr. Beeler has served on advisory boards for three international journals, as president of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association, and is currently Vice-President of the Canadian Association of Chairs of English. She has been Visiting Professor in three universities in Germany (Gottingen, Hildesheim, and Saarlandes), two in Canada (the University of British Columbia and University of Alberta), and organized the National Conference for the Canadian Comparative Literature Association twice.

Dr. Beeler has taught courses in the fields of Canadian Literature, Comparative Literature, and Film/Television/Media Studies. She has regularly taught the large first-year English 104 course (Introduction to Film), has supervised seven graduate students to completion in English, Gender Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies, has been a member of 10 Master of Arts thesis committees, and has mentored five Research Assistants.

Dr. Beeler’s outstanding service to the University and as a Professor was recognized in 2018 with a University Excellence Award in Service. She has been English Department Chair for eight years. She has also served as chair of the Anthropology Department, First Nations Studies Department and Gender Studies program. In 2009-2010, Dr. Beeler was the Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. Beyond this, she has served the University on committees at every level and has engaged in distinguished service to the profession and to the community. Her service to the broader community has included serving as Vice President of the Canadian Association of Chairs of English, President of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association, a Board representative on the Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium, and an editorial board member for multiple journals.

Her first book, Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film and Television, is a widely cited, foundational study that laid the groundwork for a now-booming area of inquiry in Cultural Studies. Her research focus over the past decade has been in Television and Media Studies, to which she has made distinguished contributions in the areas of Youth and Gender Studies.

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Dr. Ted Binnema (History)

Dr. Ted Binnema has been a dedicated and outstanding faculty member at UNBC since 2000 and reached the rank of full professor in July 2008. He is an exceptional scholar who provided significant service to the discipline of history and higher education in Canada. 

Dr. Binnema is a nationally and internationally recognized scholar of Indigenous and Environmental History, as well as the history of science. He has published two books, three scholarly editions of primary sources, two edited collections, and 19 journal articles. In addition, he has another two books accepted for publication. His work explores land treaties and Indigenous Title, Indigenous maps and map-making, scientific networks, and the study of humans and their environment from a comparative perspective. 

Dr. Binnema has won four book prizes, including the Canadian Historical Association’s Clio Prize twice (2002 and 2015). His books, articles, and book chapters have been published in American, Canadian and British journals, academic presses and trade paper presses. Dr. Binnema’s first book, Common and Contested Ground, as well as a journal article were translated into Chinese and published by a Chinese academic press. 

Alongside his academic publications, Dr. Binnema has completed 13 expert witness reports attesting to his recognized expertise in Indigenous land claims. He has also served on journal editorial boards, acted as a referee for tenure and promotion applications, served as a peer-reviewer of books and journal articles, and as Director and then President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers Defence Fund.

Dr. Binnema is an exemplary teacher who has taught courses at all levels of instruction, including graduate seminars and independent studies. He has supervised 14 graduate theses in History and served as a committee member for five additional students. Dr. Binnema has provided opportunities for many graduate and undergraduate students to work as Research Assistants on several of his projects, providing them with expert guidance. He was awarded the University Excellence in Teaching Award in 2011. 

Dr. Binnema served as Chair of the History Department for five years. Other significant highlights of his service record at UNBC include two terms on the University Senate and related committees, as well as a decade of service as Chief Negotiator for the UNBC Faculty Association. 

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Dr. Phil Burton (Ecosystem Science and Management)

Dr. Phil Burton’s association with UNBC began more than 30 years ago when he was appointed by the Canadian Forest Service to lead the Northern Projects, Pacific Forestry Centre in 2003. As part of the CFS contingent, Dr. Burton helped to integrate ties between UNBC’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management’s (ESM) Forest Ecology and Management degree and forest research with government policy on forest management. 

He became Chair of Northwest Region (Terrace) in 2012 and has been a regular faculty member in ESM since that time. Dr. Burton has been actively involved in UNBC’s Forest Ecology and Management degree, helping to broaden the degree’s focus from the perspective of managing forestry within the wider context of competing/complimentary demands of larger ecosystems. The shift helped UNBC’s program be recognized as one of the most innovative in Canada. 

Dr. Burton’s service profile, particularly in roles with the Canadian Institute of Forestry and his editorial leadership of the Canadian Journal of Forest Research (ranked in the top 10 of more than 60 international forestry journals) from 2011 to 2021 have brought national and international recognition to UNBC.

Dr. Burton has also contributed significantly to graduate studies at the University, having supervised 19 graduate students within Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (NRES) Graduate Program, and been on the advisory committees of many other students. He has taught two courses in the PhD program (NRES 801 and 802), has been a regular instructor in the Master of Science program (NRES 730 on ten occasions, NRES 703 twice, and multiple NRES 799 courses) and been a significant contributor to helping foster the success of this graduate degree program at UNBC. In addition, Dr. Burton has also contributed to the NRES Institute, serving on the Steering Committee (2007- 2009) and being a regular contributor in the NRESI colloquium series.

Dr. Burton’s contribution to advancing research on post-disturbance forest regeneration, succession and remediation, and how this can shape forest policy particularly in light of climate change, is well known nationally and internationally. He has published 77 journal articles, 24 edited book chapters, four books, four major technical reports and more than 50 non-peer reviewed articles in his career. He is consistently one of the top five cited researchers at UNBC on Google Scholar—his work has been cited nearly 9,000 times, and currently averages about 500 citations per year. 

Dr. Burton has been Principal Investigator or a partner on grants securing more than $3 million over the past 30 years. He has had an impressive 44 invitations to present his work professionally and has also given more than 100 public presentations on aspects of forestry and forest regeneration. Dr. Burton’s contributions to forest research have been recognized with a University Excellence Award in Research (2021), an NRES Institute Distinguished Scholar Award (2021), and a Recognition Award from the Canadian Forest Service (2015).

Dr. Burton has been the key developer of the Coast Mountain College degree completion program through the Bachelor of Science (Integrated), and a valued member of the Forest Ecology and Management Curriculum Committee. His commitment to maintaining connections between the Terrace and Prince George campuses has involved innovation in distance course delivery for more than a decade and hosting faculty and courses at the Terrace campus. He has been a passionate advocate for UNBC, and the NRES Graduate Program and Institute, having taught both graduate courses and served on the institute’s steering committee.

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Dr. Mike Rutherford (Geography, Earth, and Environmental Science)

Dr. Mike Rutherford retired from UNBC on July 1, 2022, after 21 years of exceptional service to UNBC and the larger academic community at the ranks of Associate Professor and Professor (since 2014). 

An exceptional researcher, scholar, teacher, and colleague, Dr. Rutherford became a leading Canadian soil scientist whose research at UNBC initially focused on the chemistry, biology, toxicity, and bioremediation of petroleum-hydrocarbons in soils. His research evolved to work on projects related to mining such as copper extraction and reclamation of mine residuals as well as reclamation and revegetation of liquid natural gas right of ways. 

His recent work examined the use of biochar and bioenergy residuals—such as those from the UNBC Bioenergy Plant—in soils, as well as projects examining contaminants in First Nations traditional territories affecting country food supplies and considering metal ion contamination affecting health. His contributions have informed research in diverse disciplines such as environmental sciences, soil science, environmental engineering through water resources, analytical chemistry, ecology, chemical engineering, nuclear science technology, microbiology and public environmental occupational health.

Dr. Rutherford’s work has been cited more than 1,200 times in more than 1,000 articles – the vast majority of which are in international journals by international scholars. Seven of his publications have more than 50 citations, and one has 349 citations. He has published numerous articles in the leading journals in his field, including Biological Reviews, Environmental Science and Technology, and Science of the Total Environment. As an example, Dr. Rutherford participated in a major global collaboration with colleagues from 15 countries resulting in an important publication with a global scope. Dr. Rutherford has also published journal articles with more than 14 UNBC faculty, in addition to numerous graduate students and postdoctoral research associates, which speaks to his collaborative and generous approach to research and mentorship.

Dr. Rutherford supervised to completion 13 graduate students, including three PhD candidates, contributed to another 26 supervisory committees, and supervised 18 undergraduate student projects and theses. In addition to his active research program and student supervisory duties, Dr. Rutherford carried a staggering teaching load, having taught 13 unique courses at UNBC, including two in Natural Resource and Environmental Studies - NRES 704 and NRES 804.

Dr. Rutherford has sought excellence in all his endeavours, and nowhere was that more evident than in his approach to students and to teaching. His approach was at the forefront of experiential learning. One example was his Environmental Science (ENSC) 418/618 project-based lab course. Dr. Rutherford provided the project problem focus; sourced materials and locations of environmental samples for students to do the sampling; critically assessed their project proposals, experimental design, and laboratory methods; provided field and laboratory supplies – often using his research equipment, and access to instruments and chemicals; assessed interim reports, in-class presentations, and final reports. Students often stated that this course was one of the best and most valuable courses they took at UNBC. 

Dr. Rutherford’s service work, informed by his research, has benefited teaching and overall functioning of UNBC, and progress within his professional and scholarly discipline nationally and internationally. For example, he was Chair of the Environmental Science Curriculum Committee and was instrumental in developing several key aspects of the ENSC curriculum, such as the Minor in Soils and the Environment. Dr. Rutherford brought his scholarly background, and later his status as a Professional Agrologist, to his position as the UNBC Lead on the application to the B.C. Ministry of Environment for a discharge permit to allow long-term, ongoing application of UNBC bioenergy ash to Aleza Lake Research Forest, and operational-scale application of UNBC bioenergy ash to pasture lands at October Farm in Red Rock, B.C. His professional and scholarly input saved UNBC over $20,000 in consulting fees.

Nationally, he contributed to the B.C. Technical and Research Committee on (mine) Reclamation, the Canadian Society of Soil Science and the Soil Science Society of America. Internationally, in addition to providing countless reviews of national and international manuscript submissions and research proposals, he served on the Emil Truog Soil Science Award Committee of the Soil Science Society of America. Dr. Rutherford has been a willing contributor to scholarly endeavours, and a positive supportive colleague to his many colleagues across Canada and abroad.

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Dr. Paul Sanborn (Ecosystem and Science Management)

Dr. Paul Sanborn retired from the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in September 2023 after 21 years at UNBC. 

Prior to starting at the University, Dr. Sanborn was a Research Soil Scientist with the B.C. Ministry of Forests in the Prince George Region. His time at the Ministry (1991-2002) spanned the origins of UNBC, and he was actively involved in the early foundations of UNBC’s Forestry program. 

Dr. Sanborn’s move to a faculty position helped establish expertise in soil science and ecology at UNBC that bridges the Forest Ecology and Management program with Environmental Science. He was instrumental in creating the Minor in Soils and the Environment offered as part of UNBC’s Environmental Science programs. 

Incorporating his experience and enthusiasm for field work into his curriculum, students have often remarked on how much they’ve enjoyed the field excursions that were part of Dr. Sanborn’s courses, with some finding their passion for soil science. Dr. Sanborn supervised eight graduate and six undergraduate theses and was a committee member on an additional 19 graduate theses during his time at UNBC. The Minor in Soils and the Environment has grown in popularity within the Forest Ecology and Management program over the past few years. This increase in popularity is largely due to the outreach and enthusiasm for the subject that Dr. Sanborn brings in his mentoring of students.

Dr. Sanborn has divided his research between field-oriented study on forest soil productivity, rehabilitation, nitrogen fixation and nutrient cycling, and multidisciplinary research focused on soils and Quaternary environments in northwestern Canada. In particular, he has been instrumental in advancing understanding of soil pedology in understudied regions of B.C. and Yukon. This has yielded more than 75 peer-reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings, book chapters and major technical reports over his career, most of which were produced since joining UNBC. He has published another 26 non peer-reviewed articles introducing a broader audience to the field of soil sciences. 

Dr. Sanborn has been an active Executive Member of the Canadian Society of Soil Science and Pacific Regional Society of Soil Science throughout his tenure at UNBC, and organized the 2008 CSSS annual meeting held at UNBC. He has also served as an instructor for the annual Field Soil Description Course PRSSS six times since 2010. He co-wrote the Field Handbook of Western Canadian Soils for the Canadian Society of Soil Science and served a six-year appointment as Associate Editor for the Canadian Journal of Soil Science. He is a frequent presenter and organizer of soil science meetings, and widely regarded as a national expert on forest soils, particularly those of western Canada. This has led to multiple invitations for him to present or be a panelist on discussions and policy-making decisions about the state of soils and forest management.

Throughout his time at UNBC, Dr. Sanborn has been a strong advocate for both interdisciplinary research and soil science and ecology. He has served on numerous bodies within the University, helping secure several new faculty positions to ensure that the strength in soil research within the Faculty of Environment continues. He is generous with resources and mentoring new faculty. He has been a staunch supporter of the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (NRES) Institute, serving on the steering committee from 2014-2016. 

During his time at UNBC, he has also contributed significantly to the administration of the institution, serving on the UNBC Senate, the University’s Board of Governors, the Aleza Lake Research Forest Board, and the Executive of the UNBC Faculty Association. 

He has been a strong advocate in helping to identify and preserve areas around campus that contain soil profiles used in teaching, which not only benefits the researchers and instructors who come after him, but also provides learning grounds for future generations of scientists.

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Dr. Jonathan Swainger (History)

Dr. Jonathan Swainger was the first academic hired by UNBC. 

Over the past 31 years, he has provided outstanding service and dedication to the University, working at campuses in Terrace and Fort St. John before moving to the Prince George campus in 1994. 

Appointed Professor in July 2008, Dr. Swainger is a nationally recognized legal historian of modern Canada. He has published three books, three edited collections, along with 15 articles and book chapters. His work explores community identity, policing, judicial procedure and legal culture in northern B.C. and across Canada. He also published Aspiration, a history of UNBC for its 25th Anniversary. 

Dr. Swainger has received research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He has served as a research consultant for four legal cases and has acted as a reviewer for 33 grant applications, article manuscripts and book manuscripts. These roles attest to his national recognition as a scholar, demonstrating his expertise in his field as well as his service to the discipline of history in Canada.

Swainger has been an integral member of UNBC’s History Department and has taught at all levels of instruction, including the supervision of graduate student theses and undergraduate Honours theses. A key aspect of his role in the department has been the delivery of HIST 300 Historiography, a required course for all History majors. Dr. Swainger has been a rigorous educator who expected a lot from his students. He provided students with research opportunities in several of his projects including the History of UNBC and his most recent highly successful book The Notorious Georges. In 2013, he was nominated for a University Excellence Award in teaching. 

Dr. Swainger served as Acting Chair and then Chair of the History Department for more than four years. His service to the University community includes time spent on Senate and related Senate committees, on the University Tenure and Promotion Committee, on the UBC Medical School Admissions Committee and on the UNBC-FA Executive. He also served on various committees related to distance and regional delivery at UNBC.

Another significant role Dr. Swainger took on was to mentor junior faculty, both in the History Department and across the University. Overall, Dr. Swainger has delivered exemplary service across UNBC and has been a highly successful educator.

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Dr. Pamela Wright (Ecosystem and Science Management)

Dr. Wright joined UNBC in the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management program in 2004. She was appointed as an Associate Professor and granted tenure in 2009. 

Dr. Wright had a strong academic career prior to starting at UNBC, being appointed as an Assistant Professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, before taking on the Directorship and a faculty position with the Centre for Coastal Studies in Bamfield, B.C., followed by a year with the School for Field Studies/Boston University. Dr. Wright went on to work for the Minister of Canadian Heritage as the Vice-Chair of the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks (1998-2000) — the resulting reports from this work significantly contributed to changes in 2001 to the Canada National Parks Act that clarified and defined maintenance and restoration of ecological integrity as “the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.” 

Dr. Wright’s research has been diverse, but significantly involved the following: systematic conservation planning at landscape scales to identify areas with high conservation value in northern B.C.; as well as understanding, mapping, and measuring the impacts of recreation and nature-based tourism on ecosystems; and ensuring protected area management effectiveness through establishment of indicators, monitoring, and management regimes to achieve conservation goals. She was one of the principal investigators in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) between Tl'azt'en Nation and UNBC on Partnering for Sustainable Resource Management. From 2010-2014, Dr. Wright led the Indigenous Rural Tourism and Community Development (ITOUR) program for UNBC in partnership with universities and colleges in northern Manitoba, the southwest USA, and Mexico. The project opened new opportunities for student and faculty exchanges and collaborations, particularly with non-traditional Indigenous university-college partners and strengthened the academic and cultural experiences of students. The project increased awareness of Indigenous communities’ experiences and tourism capacity, while building institutional capacity to facilitate Indigenous student exchanges and opportunities for cross-cultural enrichment.

Dr. Wright’s research and service involve systematic, landscape-level conservation planning, and she has contributed long-term involvement in research and advising for the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area and Yellowstone-to-Yukon Conservation Initiative. She has led and coordinated the BC Protected Areas Research Forum from its inception in 2006 until 2022, including bringing the conference to UNBC in 2018. Dr. Wright worked internationally with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on the Protected Areas Management Effectiveness Task Force, advised and communicated nationally on policy for Canada’s 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets, and worked sub-nationally alongside Alberta Parks, Ontario Protected Areas, and BC Parks to evaluate and develop long-term ecological monitoring programs for effective conservation. It is this work that contributed to Dr. Wright being recognized as a Wilburforce Fellow in Conservation Science from 2017-2019. 

In 2019, UNBC’s Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute recognized Dr. Wright as a Distinguished Scholar and awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2023. Mitacs recognized Dr. Wright in 2020 with an Award for Exceptional Leadership for her work mentoring students through research with diverse partners. She has also received UNBC’s Excellence in Mentorship award in 2020, Excellence in Teaching in 2017, Nature Canada Women for Nature in 2013, and the CPAWS National J.B. Harking Award for Conservation in 2010.

Over her 19 years at UNBC, Dr. Wright supervised or co-supervised 18 graduate students and four post-doctoral fellows, and she received more than $1.5 million in funding to support her research. Her students have gone on to influential positions including with Parks Canada, BC Parks, Yellowstone to Yukon, and various government ministries including the Ministry of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship. Dr. Wright has published 30 refereed papers, chapters, and reports as well as 33 non-refereed publications and reports, the latter of which were probably as influential in shaping Parks and conservation policies in Canada as her peer-reviewed contributions. She contributed actively to the governance and advising of multiple conservation organizations regionally, nationally, and internationally, and continues to contribute now in retirement.