Brock University: Community-funded Brock research to explore Niagara’s past and potential future economic impact

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The Wilson Foundation and Brock University are embarking on a multi-year partnership to map Niagara’s history and deepen the understanding of the region’s economic and social development.

Facilitated by Brock’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO), the project will engage the University’s scholars and students, along with members of the wider community, to dive into the region’s unique sectors that have driven growth and development locally and nationally.

“The Wilson Foundation is pleased to support the launch of this project, examining the historic development of the Niagara region, as well as opportunities for the future,” said L.R. Wilson, the Foundation’s Chairman. The Foundation has provided Brock with a $500,000 philanthropic investment in support of the initiative.

A portrait of L.R. Wilson, who is wearing a suit and leaning on a computer table.L.R. Wilson, Chairman of the Wilson Foundation.
Seeking to conduct research that informs the future, the project’s interdisciplinary team will focus on five key economic sectors: hydro-electric power generation; manufacturing and industry; marine transportation; tourism; and agriculture and agri-business.

Led by NCO Director and Brock Political Science Professor Charles Conteh, the team will engage researchers and faculty from the University’s Faculties of Social Sciences, Humanities, Education and Goodman School of Business, as well as Brock University Library’s Archives and Special Collections throughout the project to provide guidance and support research activities.

“The project brings together an interdisciplinary team in partnership with the Niagara community to advance understanding of the region’s socio-economic development prospects and challenges in a changing world,” said Conteh. “While the team will be looking at the region’s past in terms of historical trends of its leading economic sectors, it will also be examining current and emerging sectors, and comparing the region’s assets with those of other mid-sized Canadian regions.

“The team will then situate Niagara’s economic opportunities and challenges in the context of ongoing breakneck changes in global markets and technologies,” he said.

Three approaches will be taken for mapping Niagara’s history, including extensive use of archival materials, reliance on digital tools and the use of oral histories. The project will also provide experiential learning and research opportunities for Brock’s post-doctoral fellows, master’s students and research assistants.

Beyond the historical case study research, the Wilson Foundation’s generous $500,000 gift will further support knowledge dissemination in the Brock and Niagara community.

The information and knowledge gained through research will be presented using digital media, such as online presentations, maps and timelines, Archives and Special Collections’ exhibitions — both online and in person — and symposiums for researchers and the academic community.

“Research at Brock often enriches our shared understanding of the roots and the complex interrelationships of the Niagara region,” said Tim Kenyon, Brock’s Vice-President, Research. “Outstanding scholarship of this kind means looking not only to the future, but also to the many histories that help explain what that future may hold. That is exactly what this project aims to do, and we are grateful for the support from the Wilson Foundation that is enabling Brock to do it.”

Lastly, the gift will support the progression of Brock’s outstanding Faculty of Education, specifically with teacher-candidates interested in history. Concurrent Education students pursuing an undergraduate degree in History will learn about Niagara’s unique place in the world and how the region’s history can help Canada and future generations to thrive. There will also be opportunities for collaboration to determine how to best include the project’s case studies in the curriculum for future teachers and students.

“This philanthropic funding from the Wilson Foundation is an investment in Brock’s future as a leader in research education and will create a purposeful relationship between the University, its researchers and our community,” said Sonia Dupte, Brock’s Executive Director, Development and Campaigns.

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