Marie-Josée Fortin and Grace Skogstad receive 2021 JJ Berry Smith Award for Doctoral Supervision

Prof. Marie-Josée Fortin (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Prof. Grace Skogstad (Department of Political Science) have been recognized with the 2021 JJ Berry Smith Award for Doctoral Supervision. The award honours active faculty members who, over a minimum of a 15-year period, have demonstrated excellence in graduate supervision at the University of Toronto. Two recipients are announced each year, one in the Physical/Life Sciences and one in the Humanities/Social Sciences.

An ecologist by training; Dr. Marie-Josée Fortin has four main research areas: spatial ecology, disturbance ecology, conservation, and spatial statistics.

‘My success is in my students’ achievements.’ 

Colleagues and students of University Professor Marie-Josée Fortin have heard her say this, and it reflects the commitment to graduate student mentoring that’s led to her being named a recipient of the 2021 JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award.

The awards are presented by the School of Graduate Studies to an active faculty member who, over a minimum 15-year period, has demonstrated graduate supervision excellence at the University of Toronto.  

Fortin is a professor in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology where she investigates the role space plays in ecological processes, biodiversity and ecosystems.

Her work intertwines several disciplines — spatial ecology, conservation, network theory, forest ecology, disturbance ecology, community ecology, landscape genetics, spatial epidemiology, geography, spatial statistics and spatially-explicit modeling.

Fortin has been inspiring graduate students for over 25 years, advising or co-advising a remarkable 60 doctoral students. The research of these young academics has resulted in over 90 research publications and almost 200 talks delivered in scientific meetings and symposia.

These doctoral students have gone onto careers in academia as well as NGOs and the private sector. Fortin’s mentorship activities are on an international scale and she has been especially active in mentoring women in the biological sciences. Fortin is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, recipient of the 2019 President’s Award from the Canadian Society of Ecology & Evolution, and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Spatial Ecology.

Read the full story on SGS Celebrates.

Dr. Grace Skogstad, recipient of the 2021 JJ Berry Smith Award for Doctoral Supervision, says “it’s important to guide and direct, but not to dictate.”

For Professor Skogstad, who has been teaching at the University of Toronto for 35 years, the JJ Berry Smith Award “means everything.” “I want to thank all the people who supported my nomination,” she says. “There were so many people who were meritorious and could have won this award. It’s a great honour. ”

Skogstad began her career at U of T in 1986, when she joined the Department of Political Science as an Associate Professor after earning her PhD from the University of British Columbia. Even then, early on in her career, she had a knack for finding the very best in her students— her very first doctoral student would go on to become a professor at Yale.

Skogstad says her mentorship style proceeds from two major principles. First, a supervisor must stick by her students through thick and thin. (“I’ve never given up on a student,” she says. “I want to make sure they know I believe in them.”) Second, students must be encouraged to take ownership of their projects, even as they benefit from their mentor’s guidance (“a fine line,” she admits). “I think it’s important to guide and direct, but not to dictate.”

Aside from her teaching and research, Skogstad has also made her mark on graduate education through major administrative roles. From 2012 to 2020, she served as Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and, in 2020-21 as UTSC’s Interim, Associate Vice-Principal Research, Strategic Initiatives. A former President of the Canadian Political Science Association, she is the current President of the International Public Policy Association, where she has been involved since 2013 in the international training of PhD students in public policy.

Read the full story on SGS Celebrates.

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