Harrison assumes Parkland Institute's director's role

After years as a volunteer supporter, researcher, advocate and co-director at the Parkland Institute, Dr. Trevor Harrison (Sociology) has moved into the director's chair of the Edmonton-based, but province-wide, research organization.

The Parkland Institute studies economic, social, cultural and political issues facing Albertans and Canadians, using the perspective of political economy.

"The institute shares the results of its research widely and promotes discussion of those issues," Harrison says. "Within post-secondary institutions, Parkland Institute includes those who are involved in interdisciplinary and socially-engaged thinking."

With a diverse board and support from members, Harrison says the Parkland Institute is serving a niche purpose.

"One of things that makes the Parkland Institute unique is the connection with the community," Harrison says. "We spend a lot of time trying to get away from complex wording and jargon while preserving the intent of the research, and we try to communicate with the community at large."

Harrison says the Parkland Institute works with religious organizations, professionals, trade unionists, the arts community, non-profit organizations, environmentalists, feminists, social movement activists, private sector individuals and other interested individuals.

Harrison cites ongoing research into disparity – economic and social – as being typical of how the Parkland Institute's work has acted as a catalyst for social change. Alongside other research that outlined the challenges of royalty rights in the oil and gas industry, Harrison says the vastly different projects affected change and drew attention to issues common to all Albertans.

A broad base of members who pay a donation-based individual membership supports the organization, and number more than 700 – a figure Harrison hopes to increase.

"We don't want to be connected to any one particular group, and have found that individual members provide a good base of support. We view this as a two-way conversation, and many research topics have evolved from what our members tell us."

New to the U of L are two awards aimed at faculty and graduate studies candidates, which Harrison hopes will spawn even more research ideas.

To learn more about the Parkland Institute, visit its website at or e-mail Harrison directly at

This story first appeared in the February 2012 edition of The Legend. To view the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.