VIU Awards Honorary Degree to Dr. Michael Hawes

Dr. Michael Hawes, CEO of Fulbright Canada, the world's most prestigious and largest academic exchange program, accepts an honorary degree from VIU on June 6.

May 31, 2018 - 10:45am

Hawes to receive Honorary Doctor of Letters at VIU’s June 6 afternoon Convocation ceremony

On the cusp of dramatic and far-reaching change, researchers are connecting, under the leadership of Dr. Michael Hawes, in their quest for a better tomorrow.

Hawes, CEO of Fulbright Canada, the world’s most prestigious and largest academic exchange program, will be recognized for his work with an Honorary Doctor of Letters at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) June 6 afternoon Convocation ceremony

“Fulbright is a celebration of extraordinary individuals and their accomplishments,” says Hawes. “Mostly, they are students and scholars, researchers and teachers, but they can also be university administrators, government officials and leaders in the NGO community. They come from all walks of life, every ethnic and social group, speaking many different languages, from every corner of Canada and the United States. They study and conduct research in all areas - from poetry to physics.” 

Hawes says what the Fulbright scholars have in common is a commitment to making the world a better place, to contribute in a meaningful way to the public policy debate, to engage with their local communities, and deepen our understanding of both the physical and the social world. He has a special interest in northern issues, Indigenous rights, responsibilities and opportunities, and was recently in Iqaluit with 19 scientists on a Fulbright research project. 

“Fulbright is the largest global scholarship program in the world which has been in operation for 72 years and spans 161 countries,” he says. “I run a program that moves people and supports people in all areas of academic enquiry.”

Hawes is a professor of political science, a tireless advocate of international education, and a proud alumnus of the Fulbright program. He is Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Educational exchange between Canada and the USA and Executive Director of Fulbright Canada.

He explains that the Canada-US Fulbright Program operates on the principle of reciprocal exchange and provides the opportunity for outstanding American and Canadian students and scholars to study, lecture and conduct research in the other country.

Under his direction, Fulbright Canada has witnessed dramatic growth in the breadth of its programming and in the number of students and scholars that the program supports. Since 1985, he has been a professor of international relations (currently on leave) in the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University in Kingston. He currently chairs the International Advisory Board of the Institute for Studies in International Development at McGill University, is a member of the executive committee of the board at Canada World Youth, and a member of the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal Editorial Advisory Board.

“I was the first Fulbright Distinguished Research Professor at the University of California at Berkeley,” says Hawes. “I was excited because it provided a model that we now employ across the two countries and it allowed me to establish relationships that would last a lifetime.”

Ultimately, Hawes’ work is about helping society prepare for the future through academic research and policy change. He speaks of the onset of the fourth industrial revolution, and how that will change the way we live and work. As he explains, this will expand the digital revolution to a new level with artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. In this brave new world, he says, the connection between research, policy and people is even more important.

“We are seeing the beginning of the fourth revolution now. In the Arctic Ocean, a local Fulbright alumnus uses drones to overcome the harsh climate. Ten years from now, the biggest challenge will be jobs – it will be more and more difficult to find what has been characterized as traditional work. There will be work, but it will be a new kind of work. There may be one third less cars, less crowding, less pollution, but jobs will change. Adjustments will be needed. That’s why university is so important,” he says. “We need to keep learning and adapting and retraining. And we need universities like VIU that do just that.”

“Dr. Michael Hawes has an exceptional record of achievement in areas that are directly tied to the mission of Vancouver Island University, particularly relating tothe advancement of teaching and research programs on Indigenous issues,” says Robin McLay, Senior Advisor to the President at VIU. “Under the direction of Dr. Hawes, the Fulbright Foundation has placed Indigenous issues as a key priority of its research and teaching priorities – priorities that place a high value on research and teaching programs that are tied to addressing some of the more pressing social, environmental and economic challenges facing Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States.”

Hawes will be receiving his Honorary Doctor of Letters during the Wednesday June 6 afternoon Convocation ceremony starting at 2:30 pm in Nanaimo’s Port Theatre. The Convocation Ceremony will also be live-streamed.



Janina Stajic, Manager, Communications and Public Engagement, Vancouver Island University

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