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‘Honour and privilege’

Interim dean of School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies appointed

Teaching and Learning

By Jennifer Batten

Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo has been appointed interim dean of Memorial’s School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies of the Labrador Institute for a three-year term effective Aug. 1, 2020.

The Board of Regents approved the conversion of the position of administrative director of the Labrador Institute to the academic leadership position of dean to align with the establishment of the School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies, the first academic unit in Labrador.

‘Ideal candidate’

Dr. Mark Abrahams, provost and vice-president (academic) pro tempore consulted with faculty and staff, then made the recommendation to the president, who approved Dr. Cunsolo’s appointment to the role.

“Dr. Cunsolo is a highly community-engaged, student-centred and collaborative leader whose contributions to the development of Memorial’s presence in Labrador make her an ideal candidate for this key role,” said Dr. Abrahams.

Dr. Cunsolo is an internationally renowned researcher in climate change and health, and holds several national and international research leadership roles in this area.

An active researcher with an emphasis on community partnerships and knowledge dissemination, she has worked with Indigenous communities and leaders across Canada on a variety of community-led and community-identified research initiatives in the areas of climate change, health, environment, culture and higher education, including in Labrador since 2009.

Transformative change

As an administrative leader, Dr. Cunsolo has focused on creating transformative change through equitable access to education and research, in the North, by the North and for the North.

She was appointed director of the Labrador Institute in September 2016. During her time in the role, she worked with Memorial leadership and the Indigenous governments in Labrador to lead the historic establishment of the School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies, the first academic unit in Labrador.

She also initiated numerous research and education initiatives in Labrador, including the acquisition and development of the Pye Centre for Northern Boreal Food Systems, the Labrador Research Forum and the Labrador Lands and Waters Indigenous Youth Science Camp.

“An academic unit, and the future establishment of a new campus of Memorial University in Labrador, will be transformative on every level.” — Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo

She also established the Labrador Institute as one of two Atlantic Canada hubs for Indigenous health research and mentorship through the multi-year, multi-million dollar Atlantic Indigenous Mentorship Network and the Atlantic Network Environment for Indigenous Health Research.

In this new leadership position, Dr. Cunsolo will continue to work with partners in Labrador, Memorial University, and throughout the North to lead the development of the School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies in Labrador, oversee the creation of undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate programming, and work towards the establishment of the Labrador campus of Memorial University, including infrastructure design and development.

‘Honour and privilege’

Dr. Cunsolo says she is “delighted” to be appointed as the inaugural dean of the School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies.

“Working with representatives from the Innu Nation, Nunatsiavut Government, the NunatuKavut Community Council, the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, communities and leaders across Labrador, and decision-makers throughout Memorial University to bring the dream of place-based, Northern-led and accessible education to Labrador has been the deepest honour and privilege of my career,” she said.

“An academic unit, and the future establishment of a new campus of Memorial University in Labrador, will be transformative on every level, and I look forward to continuing to work with everyone to bring our dream into reality.”


Dr. Cunsolo came to Memorial from Cape Breton University, where she was a Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Healthy Communities and associate professor of community health.

She holds a PhD from the University of Guelph and was a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University in the Climate Change Adaptation Research Group.

She is an elected inaugural member of the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

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