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Fostering global connections

Timothy Shaw and Jane Parpart have led storied careers. Globally recognized scholars, researchers and administrators, they’ve dedicated their lives and professions to international development with an eye to Africa. But it’s their decades of mentorship that stands as their greatest accomplishment. The couple has created and nurtured a dynamic international network of scholars, policy makers and administrators who are making a difference in areas ranging from the United Nations to leading world-renowned educational institutions.

And now their legacy of support will continue through the Timothy Shaw & Jane Parpart Scholarship in Political Science, earmarked for master’s or PhD students in political science and/or international development studies. The scholarship will provide financial support to one or more students annually. “We’re delighted to create this scholarship given all the benefits we’ve received from this network over the last several decades,” says Dr. Shaw, who spent nearly 30 years at Dal as director of the Pearson Institute, the International Development Studies Program, the Centre for African Studies and the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies. “We hope to inspire the next generation of socially conscious, politically informed and globally aware researchers at Dalhousie.”

Like Dr. Shaw, Dr. Parpart also spent much of her career at Dal, first in the Department of History and eventually as the Lester B. Pearson Chair in International Development Studies. She was also a key player in the development of the Gender and Women’s Studies program. She knows first-hand the value of providing financial support to graduate students, many of whom are new to Canada. “A lot of these scholars tend to be mature students who have their own families. It’s been very important for us to help them get established. In turn, many of them are continuing the same tradition of giving back because they recall the good experiences they had and want to do the same for others,” says Dr. Parpart. “I hope our legacy and commitment to international perspectives on life and work will continue to be a good model.”

Connection to Africa

Drs. Shaw and Parpart’s connection to Africa began during their own graduate school days (although the two wouldn’t meet until nearly 20 years later.) For Dr. Shaw it was the three years studying for his master’s degree in Uganda in the late 1960s. “Africa got into my blood and has never left.” And for Dr. Parpart, it was the reputation of Boston University’s African Studies Center that piqued her interest and subsequent “fascination with the continent.” Thus began fascinating careers that have spanned five decades and the world.

In addition to their professorships at Dal, Dr. Shaw directed the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, and Dr. Parpart was a visiting professor at the Centre for Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies, to name just a few of their accomplishments.

In Dr. Parpart’s words, they like to “stay involved and engaged,” though that may be putting it lightly. They continue to make a global impact through visiting professorships, research and writing, and
each currently serves on more than a dozen PhD advisory committees. Both currently hold professorships (visiting and adjunct) at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Carleton University and University of Ottawa.

Bringing people together

While Drs. Shaw and Parpart have an impressive list of accomplishments and accolades, they are humble and quick to bring the conversation back to the PhD students they’ve mentored, one of whom is the current chair in the Department of Political Science, David Black (MA’86, PhD’92). “I can’t overestimate Tim and Jane’s generosity and their ability to bring people together,” says Dr. Black, who credits Drs. Shaw and Parpart for attracting him to the Centre for African Studies.

“It is crucial to have African and other ‘global South’ students in the program.” David Black (MA’86, PhD’92), current chair in the Department of Political Science (Danny Abriel photo)

“One of the most important roles in mentoring young African students, and other students interested in Africa, is providing them with adequate support. It can be challenging to recruit and fund these students to come to Dal, but there is a huge benefit in doing so. It’s crucial to have African and other ‘global South’ students in the program to enable a rich and diverse collective learning environment,” remarks Dr. Black.

“The only way forward”

For Drs. Shaw and Parpart the influence of creating an international environment goes far beyond the scholars and the university. “We believe this is a global world. We support anything that helps global understanding and a commitment to a global perspective—we think it’s the only way forward,” says Dr. Parpart. “We hope that this scholarship will facilitate that.”