Global institute draws renowned demographics researcher

Nothing illustrates the role of the economy in our lives like the current economic downturn.

With families across North America foreclosing on mortgages, baby boomers delaying retirement and new graduates scrambling for jobs, almost every demographic has been affected.

The economy is an ever-evolving force with tremendous influence on how and where people live. In fact, understanding how global populations and economies inform one another is crucial for understanding everything from international relations to when Canadians retire, explains Dr. Susan McDaniel, the newly appointed Prentice Institute Director and Research Chair.

A renowned demography expert, McDaniel returns to Alberta from Utah, where she was a senior scholar at the Institute of Public and International Affairs and Professor of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah from 2007 to 2009. She will lead the new Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy, which is the product of a multi-million dollar endowment from Alberta agribusiness entrepreneur, the late Dr. John Prentice (LLD '06) and his family.

"It's interdisciplinary, so the institute is expected to bring in researchers from across Alberta, Canada and the world. It will be a global institute focused on global issues and a global population," she explains.

McDaniel previously spent 15 years at the University of Alberta as a full professor of sociology and another three at the University of Windsor. She currently holds grants from agencies like the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

One of her current research projects focuses on perceptions of aging and retirement trends. In a recent study - soon to go to press- she interviewed middle-age Canadians and Americans during the financial crisis to find out how they anticipated their older years.

Many Americans expressed panic about how they'd manage their health, while Canadians were more proactive, expressing greater confidence that they'd handle whatever challenges they encountered.

"That's what's so exciting about doing this research; you discover such interesting things," she says.

While the institute is still in development, McDaniel believes it will become an area of extreme excellence for which the University will become known.

"It's a tribute to the U of L that they managed this. The funding could have gone to any of the universities, but it came here," she says.