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UTM Equity and Diversity Award

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 - 2:27pm
by Christine Ward

Shashi Kant doesn’t just want to teach sustainability; he wants to practise it too. And he believes the best place to start is at home.

Professor Shashi Kant
Professor Shashi Kant

Kant is the director of UTM’s Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) program, launched in 2014. The program is driven by the goal of a sustainable world and uses a unique teaching philosophy of interconnections and interdependence between economic, environment and social pillars of sustainability.

“Generally, people understand sustainability to be about environment and climate change, but it’s so much more than that,” Kant says. He points to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world’s shared plan to protect the planet by tackling such pressing global challenges as climate change, education, health, hunger, poverty,  and pollution. In this context, sustainability is all about addressing social, economic and environmental inequities that  ultimately lead to wider gender, ethnic and racial inequities.

What happens, Kant asks, if we turn that same high-powered lens of equity on our own UTM sustainability management family?

What he saw compelled him to act. “Every year we have a handful of students who are really struggling to make ends meet,” he says. Finances became a pressing concern for even more students over the last year as the pandemic eroded part-time and summer job opportunities and the ability of many families to support their students.  

“Sustainability doesn’t mean equal money, but it does mean equal opportunity. If there’s no equity for our students, how can we think about it for society?”

So, Kant set about finding ways to bridge the gap.

Earlier this year, he made a personal donation to establish the Equity and Diversity Award at UTM. Beginning in January 2022, the award will support one MScSM student a year on the basis of demonstrated financial need, with preference given to Black and Indigenous students and students who are registered with Accessibility Services at UTM. Both domestic and international students are eligible to apply.

Kant hopes more resources will ease the financial barriers to education, improve student mental health and well-being, and allow every one of the program’s bright and promising students to realize their passion for a better world.

He also hopes that his colleagues and friends of the MScSM program—people and organizations passionate about a sustainable world and ardent supporters of equity, diversity, and inclusion—will join him in growing the value of the Equity and Diversity Award.

“I was motivated to do this by the actions of our students towards the equity and diversity in their own cohort. It’s a modest first step, but now is the time to make this happen. We must walk the talk, he insists, adding that the extra effort makes sense in a close-knit program where everyone feels like family.

“From students and alumni to faculty, staff, and  friends of the program, we’re all in this together. If one of us is unable to put food on the table, it’s everyone’s problem to solve.”  

To learn more or make your gift to UTM’s Equity and Diversity Award, click here or contact advancement.utm@utoronto.ca.