HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. — Robert Way’s education and research has landed the Happy Valley-Goose Bay man a faculty position at Queen’s University.
Way will be leaving his position as a W. Garfield Weston postdoctoral fellow at Memorial University’s (MUN) Labrador Institute later this summer and heading to Kingston, Ontario to begin his position as assistant professor of geography in the university’s Department of Geography and Planning.
Way has a bachelor of arts from the University of Ottawa, a master of sciences from MUN and a PhD in physical geography from the University of Ottawa.
While he will be based at Queen’s, the position is an opportunity for Way to continue to carry out his research in Labrador.
“That was ultimately one of the deciding factors in taking a faculty position,” Way said during a recent phone interview. “It gives you the opportunity to have the freedom of where to do your research.
“And, for me, having invested almost 10 years of my life into doing this kind of work in Labrador, I wasn’t prepared to call it quits and go work somewhere else.”
Way’s research focuses on how climate change impacts cold environments.
“I’ve done a lot of permafrost work and some glacier and climate work and that’s the area I want to keep working in, at least in the short-term future,” he said.
The highlight of his research thus far, he said, was studying how northern environments weren’t necessarily being properly sampled — in terms of warming – by some large groups carrying out such research.
“We developed a method to be able to better sample these regions and, as a consequence, there is a lot of coverage of this issue,” he explained. “It made people realize there was a lot more warming going on, especially in Canada, than was thought.”
In addition to his research, Way’s position at Queen’s will see him teaching and eventually recruiting graduate students to help with his research projects.
Way is of Inuit descent. His parents, Brenda and George Way, live in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Way feels there aren’t a lot of faculty of Inuit descent working at Canadian universities. The number is even lower in his area of interest (natural sciences), he said. Way believes it was his strong research background that tipped the scale in his favour and helped him secure a position at Queen’s.
The Indigenous scholar would like to see more being done to help students in Labrador pursue their education in the Big Land.
While many people go away for postgraduate studies, he said, that decision should be a choice rather than their only option.
In addition to the cost of travelling from Labrador to other areas, he said, students also face the challenge of adjusting to a new environment.
Way said the challenge goes well beyond the undergraduate degree.
“You get your undergraduate (degree) then the only way to pursue your graduate (studies) is to stay away,” he said. “So, you’re talking about 10 years of being away from your smaller, close-knit community and all of the things you grew up caring about.”
Way feels fortunate that he was able to spend a significant amount of his time — while pursuing his education — on the ground in Labrador. But, that option isn’t available to everyone, he said.