University of Calgary

Spotlight on Sustainability: Darren Lund

UToday HomeJanuary 17, 2013

Darren Lund, a professor in the Faculty of Education, focuses his work on social sustainability — creating the social environment and institutions that are equitable and offer ideal opportunities for everyone. Photo credit: Riley BrandtDarren Lund, a professor in the Faculty of Education, focuses his work on social sustainability — creating the social environment and institutions that are equitable and offer ideal opportunities for everyone. Photo credit: Riley BrandtDarren Lund says some of his students in the Faculty of Education wonder why they need to learn about transgender issues when they’re planning to teach math or science and not the “touchy-feely stuff.”

But once they get into the classroom, it can quickly become clear. Lund points to one young teacher who emailed to tell him about a student running out of her class very upset. She followed the student into the hall where the young man revealed he was in the process of becoming a woman.

“He was really at a low point and was considering suicide and the teacher’s very kind, humane approach to that student and getting him the help he needed made a great difference to him,” says Lund. “She was thanking me for raising these issues where we could talk through them.”

Lund has spent his career working toward creating social sustainability: creating the social environment and institutions that are equitable and offer ideal opportunities for everyone.

As a researcher studying youth activists and a professor working with a number of faculties including nursing, social work, engineering and medicine, Lund’s work is aimed at creating schools — which he refers to as “microcosms of society” — that are ideal learning environments for all kids.

To do that, he says teachers have to face barriers, such as racism, sexism and homophobia, that many members of society’s more privileged groups may not even see in their daily lives.

“It’s about putting social justice issues front and centre not because it’s politically correct, but because it’s the right thing to do,” he says. “It’s actually really leveling the playing field and having each person enjoy the exact same benefits and reducing the barriers for every single person to obtain the best life they can.”

Lund says educators need to understand the barriers that exist for marginalized groups and use empathy to become the “the best teacher you can be for every student.”

His work helps teachers and administrators better comprehend their own role in educational institutions and how they can improve the learning environment.

He says it’s complex and sometimes difficult work. “Making positive relationships with our students requires us to think about social issues that we may be a bit uncomfortable with,” says Lund. Such as a distressed transgendered student crying in the hall.

Spotlight on Sustainability is an ongoing series profiling the work of students, faculty and staff. To submit story ideas please contact the Office of Sustainability.”