Leadership program in Antarctica a life-changing experience, says Laurentian University professor
Tammy Eger wants to do more to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in research
Tammy Eger has recently returned to Sudbury from a trip she describes as life-changing. The Sudbury academic is one of 100 women from around the world who spent three weeks in Antarctica as part of the Homeward Bound leadership project.
Eger is a professor in the School of Human Kinetics at Laurentian University in Sudbury. Her fellow travellers are all researchers in various fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics or medicine — STEMM for short.
"[The program's] goal is over a 10-year period to train 1000 women from around the world to create this network of leaders that can help try to figure out how we can solve some of these critical problems facing our planet," she said.
Eger says she applied to Homeward Bound to look at how she could do more to advance equity, diversity and inclusion across research.
"Not just specifically my discipline within human kinetics, but more broadly in terms of building inclusive and diverse research teams," she explained.
"We have lots of great examples of that in Sudbury," said Eger. "Look at SNOLAB. You can look at the Living with Lakes Centre," she added.
As for her colleagues on the expedition, Eger says they talked a lot about having confidence in their own abilities to lead and to work with collaborative teams.
"Not just with teams within your region but working with teams around the world and to respect the diversity and differences and to really build an inclusive leadership model," she said.
After months of preparation, Eger left November 15 for Antarctica. It was early in the summer season there. "We had an opportunity to have sunsets around midnight," she explained. "The sun would rise again around 4:00. In the winter period it's full darkness, so a completely different experience if you're there over winter versus the summer," she said.
Eger describes the experience as incredible and feels privileged to have been one of only four Canadians chosen for this fourth cohort of the program.
"It gave us an opportunity to see some of the nesting penguin activities," she said. "They are such an incredible species to watch."
"I had an opportunity to see Adélie penguins, Gentoo penguins. Chinstrap penguins, and there's a penguin called the Macaroni penguin, which is really cute," said Eger.
"Now I feel as though there's even more need to protect what's happening on our planet when you see some of these animals up close and how vulnerable they are," she added.
"We also got to see how the sea ice was changing. We got a chance to walk up on some glaciers so it gave us an opportunity to explore the Antarctic Peninsula region," she added.
"We also had an opportunity while we were there to visit research stations and to learn from the research scientists," she said.
Eger may be back home in Sudbury but she's now part of a Homeward Bound alumnae network. She will focus her attention on a scholarship program.
"We want to raise more money so that the program becomes a little bit more financially viable for Indigenous peoples and peoples from regions that are really affected by climate change that likely can't afford to pay their portion of the program," she said.
With files from Markus Schwabe