Worlds of opportunity

By inspiring future-ready leaders, engaging in high-impact research, and lifting communities, Dalhousie aims to make a better world through its Bringing Worlds Together campaign.

- June 25, 2024

Scenes from Dal's campaign launch events. (Cody Turner images)
Scenes from Dal's campaign launch events. (Cody Turner images)

It was a historic announcement.

On April 2, an enthusiastic crowd filled Dal’s McInnes Room for the launch of Bringing Worlds Together—Dalhousie’s campaign for transformational change. With a goal of $750 million, it is the largest fundraising campaign ever among Atlantic Canadian universities. The energy in the room was palpable when Dal’s President, Dr. Kim Brooks, revealed that nearly half of the campaign goal had already been raised. That is more than Dal raised during the university’s previous fundraising campaign, Bold Ambitions.

“For more than 200 years, our extraordinary community of alumni, donors, and partners have enabled Dalhousie to do the extraordinary—to become a national university with global impact,” Dr. Brooks told the crowd.

“Today, I’m here to share with you what extraordinary looks like for our third century.”

“Today, I’m here to share with you what extraordinary looks like for our third century.”

The vision Dr. Brooks shared is one in which Dal reaches across disciplines, cultures, and organizations to achieve exceptional, far-reaching results that benefit everyone.

Next-level extraordinary

Bringing Worlds Together builds on the tremendous success and growth Dalhousie is experiencing. As the largest research-intensive university in the region, Dal has become a hub for collaboration, bringing together people and organizations from across Nova Scotia and beyond for research and projects that tackle major issues and seize opportunities. They range from improving health outcomes to strengthening relationships with Nova Scotia’s African Nova Scotian communities. Bringing Worlds Together has also enabled the university to have an impact in areas such as ocean sustainability, food security, and climate change, which has earned Dalhousie widespread recognition.

“Dalhousie is a place where worlds come together,” Dr. Brooks said. “Where scholarly excellence meets hands-on learning. Where students get to know world-leading researchers in their classes. And where groundbreaking research is helping us achieve a better and more sustainable future that leaves no one behind.”

Left: Honorary campaign co-chairs Fred & Elizabeth Fountain celebrate the launch of Bringing Worlds Together. Right: More than 400 Dal alumni and friends came together in Halifax for the campaign launch. (Cody Turner photos)

Bringing Worlds Together creates a strong foundation for Dalhousie to take all this activity to the next level, delivering solutions to pressing societal issues on a larger scale and faster timeline. The campaign’s three pillars highlight how the university will make that happen. “Inspiring Future-Ready Leaders” creates a clear path for student success. “Engaging in High-Impact Research” aims to solve some of the most complex issues facing humankind. And “Lifting Our Communities” will result in more outcomes that matter provincially and internationally.

“Our ambition for this campaign is to share our capacity and talent with the world in a way that profoundly shapes [the world],” Dr. Brooks said. “This isn’t about making Dalhousie better; this is about coming together to bring about a more just and equitable future. It’s about making the world better. And it starts here in Nova Scotia.”

This is the story of how Dalhousie will achieve that goal by Bringing Worlds Together.

Inspiring future-ready leaders

Dr. Frank Harvey, provost and vice president academic, believes every Dalhousie student has the potential to be a leader, advocate, and professional who contributes to a better society. The key, he says, is to ensure they are ready to take on these roles when they graduate.

“We are preparing students for so much more than jobs,” Dr. Harvey says. “We want them to be the leaders that the world needs for tomorrow. Bringing Worlds Together will enable us to help students gain the experiences, skills, and mindsets to take on a future where the only constant is change that continues to accelerate.”

Dr. Harvey says the campaign will enhance Dalhousie’s ability to inspire future-ready leaders in several ways. It will enable the university to offer more financial supports so that students can focus on their education. It will facilitate the creation of specialized skills training and experiential learning opportunities that prepare students to launch successful careers and businesses. It will fund more initiatives and supports focused on students’ overall well-being. And it will enhance the university’s efforts to engage and support students from around the world and from equity-deserving communities.

“Our goal is to be Canada’s most student-centric research-intensive university,” says Dr. Harvey. “This means ensuring every student has the opportunity to have an exceptional experience. It means creating a clear path to student success.”

A stellar achievement

The right mix of hands-on experiences and entrepreneurship training programs can sometimes create unexpected opportunities.

That’s what happened for Arad Gharagozli (BEng’20). Fascinated by space from a young age, he found an opportunity to explore his passion while working on his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Gharagozli joined the Young Innovators program at Dalhousie’s Emera ideaHUB, which supports students in pursuing innovative commercialization opportunities. The experience opened his eyes to the possibility of creating and launching spacecraft as part of the second wave of the space race. Buoyed by the mentorship and funding available through Young Innovators, Gharagozli started GALAXIA Mission Systems, which designs and manufactures on-board computers for small satellites.

Fast forward to December 2022, when GALAXIA launched the first satellite ever designed in Atlantic Canada from NASA in Houston, Texas. This shoebox-sized satellite is part of a network of highly intelligent satellites performing autonomous tasks such as earth observation, telecommunication, and connecting the “internet of things”—a network of connected devices that exchange data—from space. The Canadian Space Agency backed the company with $1.7 million to build and launch the intelligent nanosatellites as part of a commercial satellite constellation for Canada.

“I can say with confidence it is by far one of the most daring and ambitious undertakings that we have done at Dalhousie,” says Gharagozli. “It cleared a path for a whole new industry to blossom in our region.”

Gharagozli is working to realize that potential through his company, and Dal is helping him in that effort both through partnerships with researchers and access to talent. “Dal has one of the strongest engineering programs in Atlantic Canada,” Gharagozli says. “It prepares students like me to solve real-world challenges and contribute to economic growth in our region and beyond.”

The goal of Bringing Worlds Together is to expand and enhance programs, facilities, and resources to help students like Gharagozli develop entrepreneurial and innovative mindsets to succeed. “The more we can ensure that Arad and the thousands of Dalhousie students like him are future ready, the more we can enable them to make the world a better place for everyone,” says Dr. John Newhook (DEng'86, BEng'89, MASc'93, PhD'97), dean of the Faculty of Engineering.

Engaging in high-impact research

As Dalhousie’s Vice-President Research and Innovation, Dr. Alice Aiken (BScPT'94) knows the university’s researchers are engaging in work that has the potential to be transformative on a large scale. Through Bringing Worlds Together, both Nova Scotia and the world will soon experience the benefits of that work in profound ways.

“We have researchers who have a steadfast commitment to working together to find solutions to the biggest challenges of our time,” says Dr. Aiken. “We have a vibrant and uniquely collaborative research environment that inspires outcomes that matter. As a result, we have become a research powerhouse. This campaign will enable us to accelerate this vital work and the results that we are able to achieve.”

Big ambitions, bigger impact

Dr. Aiken says that Bringing Worlds Together will accelerate research efforts in six key areas—sustaining the ocean, developing climate technology solutions, improving health outcomes, increasing food security, leading social innovation, and advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and digital innovation. These are areas that both pose significant threats and offer unparalleled opportunities. They are also areas where Dalhousie has developed extensive expertise and achieved notable breakthroughs.

“Impact is important for us in all the work we do,” Dr. Aiken says. “We always ask ourselves, ‘How can this have an impact globally?’ Bringing Worlds Together enhances our ability to answer that question. It helps create a stronger, more vibrant collaborative research environment where we are not just imagining a better future; we are achieving it.”

Energized by possibilities

Dr. Chris Burns (MSc’11, PhD’15)
is helping to achieve that future as the founder and CEO of NOVONIX, a sustainable battery technology company that spun out of research at Dalhousie.

Originally from the United States, Dr. Burns came to Dalhousie in 2009 to study under Dr. Jeff Dahn (BSc'78), a globally recognized leader in lithium-ion battery research. Now supported by Tesla, Dr. Dahn and his team have made significant advancements in improving the affordability, durability, and lifespan of this technology, which is essential for devices ranging from cellphones to electric vehicles. Reflecting on his time in Dr. Dahn’s laboratory, Dr. Burns was inspired by the potential for societal impact: “Working with Jeff, I recognized the chance to effect real change that resonates with people,” he says.

As part of his PhD work, Dr. Burns contributed to the development of materials aimed at prolonging battery life. With NOVONIX, he has leveraged that experience to drive innovation in manufacturing synthetic graphite—a vital component of lithium-ion batteries— through a cleaner process. This method could decrease the global warming potential of the process by as much as 60 per cent relative to conventional manufacturing methods employed in China, which currently supplies over 90 per cent of the world’s demand. Through NOVONIX, which has operations in Nova Scotia and Tennessee, Dr. Burns is bringing that technology to market, not only with lower environmental impacts, but also with longer life and higher energy efficiency. This innovation has attracted significant attention from industry leaders, resulting in investments exceeding $400M from Phillips 66, LG Energy Solution, the US Department of Energy, and others.

“There are very few companies in our space outside of Asia,” Dr. Burns says. “Other people saw risk where we saw opportunity.”

Fueling climate tech research

Bringing Worlds Together will raise funds to build a new Physical Sciences Centre, creating more opportunities for game-changing research, and potentially more spinoffs like NOVONIX. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the facility will be a hub for climate technology research that accelerates sustainable solutions. It will also enable Dalhousie to increase research capacity, create more opportunities for post-doctoral studies in climate technology, and offer students more access to innovative thinking on climate issues.

Further reading: New physical sciences facility for green energy innovation planned for Dal

“NOVONIX is just one example of the kind of global effect our future-ready leaders are able to bring to market when immersed in high-impact research during their time at Dal,” says Dr. Chuck Macdonald (BSc'94, PhD'98), dean of the Faculty of Science. “This is what enables Dalhousie, as an institution and a community, to lift our communities.”

Lifting our Communities

How do you honour a legacy of lifting the intellectual, cultural, and economic vitality of communities across Nova Scotia and beyond that spans more than 200 years? For Dr. Brooks, the answer is clear: you amplify it.

“Serving communities is in our DNA,” says Dr. Brooks. “Supporting our communities the way they have supported us means we grow stronger together. Bringing Worlds Together will make it possible for us to do even more for our communities. We see opportunities to combine different knowledge and skills in innovative ways that help communities address the challenges they need to solve and make real progress on the goals they want to achieve.”

Inspiring smiles

Dalhousie Faculty of Dentistry students, faculty, and community partners know what can be accomplished by bringing worlds together. They are working to provide free oral care to community members who otherwise might not be able to afford it through three permanent outreach clinics, one of which is located at the North End Community Health Centre (NECHC) in Halifax.

Anna Quon (BA’89) is one of many community members who have received care through the NECHC dental clinic. The novelist and poet laureate of Halifax says that when she was a child, her teeth were a small sign there was something special about her. “White, bright, and nearly almost perfect is what my dentist said,” she recalls. “I never had a cavity. I didn’t need braces.”

By age 20, Quon had her first cavity and the following year, she chipped a tooth. In the years that followed, her oral health was further impacted both by teeth grinding in her sleep and by psychiatric experiences. Cost was another factor, with Quon only able to afford sporadic care for 30 years until she connected with the clinic. Realizing how lucky she was to have access to low-barrier dental care, Quon featured the NECHC dental clinic in Me and My Teeth, a short film that highlights the parallels between dental and mental health.

“Access to regular dental care helps people not only improve their mental and physical health, but in a society that judges us on appearance, also helps us feel better about ourselves, have access to jobs and other opportunities, and smile more,” she says.

Further reading: In conversation with Anna Quon

Limitless possibilities

Dr. Ben Davis, dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, says Bringing Worlds Together will help fund a new community clinic that will not only expand access to oral care among underserved populations across Nova Scotia, but also to the legal and social work services offered by Dalhousie’s existing clinics. It will also enhance the university’s ability to graduate more highly trained professionals that meet industry demands for talent and grow the economy. And it will enable Dalhousie to dedicate more initiatives, professors, and researchers to helping new entrepreneurs transform innovative ideas into successful businesses.

Faculty of Dentistry students, faculty, and community partners are making oral care more accessible. (Nick Pearce photo)

For Dalhousie’s Vice-Provost of Equity and Inclusion, Dr. Theresa Rajack-Talley, Bringing Worlds Together also creates opportunities for Dalhousie to address historic wrongdoings and become a more inclusive and equitable place for everyone. That means partnering with equity-denied and underrepresented communities on outreach programs to create increased pathways to higher education. “We know that much of what we achieve in advancing communities here at home will have application elsewhere in the world,” says Dr. Rajack-Talley.

Bringing Worlds Together

Having made history with the announcement of Bringing Worlds Together on April 2, Dr. Brooks and Dalhousie are focused on what’s next. Already, the campaign has passed the halfway mark, the momentum is there to raise the rest. That will allow the university to not just imagine a better future, but also make it happen.

“Our ambitions for this campaign are to work together to grow exponentially and meaningfully change the world,” she says.

Achieving that change will take extraordinary effort, but Dalhousie is ready to rise to the challenge. The university continues to inspire future-ready leaders, engage in high-impact research, and lift communities in ways that are transformative. And it continues to enjoy the support of extraordinary partners and donors who see this campaign as the best possible opportunity for addressing challenges and realizing possibilities, and doing that now.

“If we have learned anything in the last 200 years, it is that we can only create meaningful paths forward when we work together,” Dr. Brooks says. 

“If we have learned anything in the last 200 years, it is that we can only create meaningful paths forward when we work together,” Dr. Brooks says. 

“That’s why we are Bringing Worlds Together. We are seeking partners who want to drive meaningful and lasting change that leaves no one behind, who want to accelerate talent and create impact with distinction, and who know that community matters. We can make a better world. And we can do it when we Bring Worlds Together.”

This story appeared in the DAL Magazine Spring/Summer 2024 issue. Flip through the rest of the issue using the links below.


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