Jim Silver - Short Bio

Autumn Convocation 2007

Jim Silver, BA (Hons.), MA, PhD
The Erica and Arnold Rogers Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship

Bridging the gap between community and the University. That describes the collaborative approach undertaken by Politics Professor Jim Silver—and the motivation behind conducting his research with, not for, members of the inner-city and urban Aboriginal communities.

“I’ve always been interested in poverty and inequality kinds of issues,” said Silver, Chair of the Politics Department and Co-director of UWinnipeg’s Urban and Inner-City Studies Program. “Before returning to U of W as an undergraduate student, I spent two years in Africa as a CUSO volunteer and it sparked my interest in issues of community development and poverty so I find myself doing similar kinds of work closer to home.”

Silver’s prolific scholarly work and significant research on inner-city and urban Aboriginal issues has garnered respect across Canada and, most importantly, by community members with whom he works in his research. His stellar publication record includes more than 100 books, book chapters, monographs and papers on urban Aboriginal community development, inner-city issues, Winnipeg and Manitoba’s political economy, urban poverty and public policy.

Silver’s sixth book In Their Own Voices: Urban Aboriginal Community Development was recently nominated for the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction. He feels energized that the book – based in part on interviews with leaders in Aboriginal community development and focusing on how they overcame obstacles of racism and poverty to do positive work – is being widely used by community development practitioners and within universities.

“The kind of research I do involves working closely with people in the community to try to promote change and at the same time do research, and include community people in the research,” he said.

Currently, Silver is conducting a research project in the North End Lord Selkirk Park public housing complex, as well as comparative research in Toronto and Halifax.

“We are building from within and building on the strengths of the community,” Silver explained. “We are trying to develop a number of institutions in Lord Selkirk Park like an adult learning centre and child care/parenting centre and working to engage people in the process.”

Throughout his 25-year academic career, Silver has always worked respectfully and co-operatively with community-based organizations and has been committed to giving back.

“I had to take the time to earn the trust of inner-city people. When I started, I attended a lot of meetings and took on jobs like writing letters and briefs; I gradually earned their trust,” he recalled. “People in the inner city have seen academics come and go and often it’s to the academics’ benefit and they don’t leave much behind. I’ve been concerned with leaving things behind in Lord Selkirk Park like the adult learning centre where UWinnipeg students offer tutoring and residents can upgrade their education. As well, Wesmen basketball players run a kids’ program.”

Silver also sees meaningful university programs as a way of engaging the inner-city community. He played a central role in developing UWinnipeg’s Aboriginal Governance and Urban and Inner-City Studies programs and has received several large Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grants including, as co-investigator, two recent $1-million grants for research on inner-city transformation in Winnipeg, and a grant for research comparing revitalization of inner-city neighbourhoods across Canada.

Silver says his career highlights include winning the University’s Clifford J. Robson Award for Excellence in Teaching (1985) “because I really love teaching” and the University’s Clarence Atchison Award for Community Service (1997) and the Joseph Zuken Citizen Activist Award (1997).

“Those [latter] two awards reflect my longstanding interest of working in the university and also in the community and trying to link the two,” he said.

Additionally, Silver was instrumental in establishing the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba in 1997. The centre contributes significantly to public policy research in the province and is pioneering in terms of its research ambitions, successes and academic credentials.

Silver serves as a role model for effective, community-based and politically significant academic research.

“Jim’s consistent and long-term focus on questions of poverty and the social and economic causes of inner-city disenfranchisement makes his body of work unique and extraordinary,” wrote one of his nominators.

Another nominator stated, “Professor Silver is, indeed, the epitome of the engaged scholar that the University’s mandate calls for in its efforts to have relevance in the community, to develop partnerships and to act as a catalyst for change. His academic record is outstanding.”

Today, The University of Winnipeg is honoured to present Dr. Jim Silver with the Erica and Arnold Rogers Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship for his significant research on inner-city and Aboriginal issues and building connections between the community and the University.