2024 Community Service Award Recipient

This award is presented to an individual who has made significant improvements to a community in need through efforts in the engineering or geoscience profession.

Dr. Kerry Black, P.Eng.

Dr. Kerry Black, P.Eng.

Professional engineer Dr. Kerry Black works closely with Indigenous communities across Canada to build trust and seek solutions to urgent infrastructure issues, including access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation, and housing. She’s learned that engineering innovation and technology alone aren’t enough to resolve these complex challenges.

A non-Indigenous settler and Canada Research Chair in Integrated Knowledge, Engineering and Sustainable Communities at the University of Calgary, Dr. Black is among less than a handful of experts in her discipline to meaningfully co-develop engineering research with First Nations community partners. She integrates Indigenous research methods—drawn from First Nations’ traditions and knowledge—into engineering research and designs.

Dr. Black is committed to what she calls “re-engineering” research, with a people-first approach focused on building healthy communities through resilience, relationships, reconciliation, and reciprocity. By partnering with communities, she gives residents a voice in the decision-making process, tangible training tools, and ownership over the results.

“As engineering professionals, we need to examine infrastructure issues through a different lens,” says Dr. Black. “Progress on Indigenous rights and self-determination requires a deeper understanding and consideration of the social, economic, historical, and geographical realities that exist within Indigenous communities.”

Dr. Black’s research builds on over 15 years’ experience in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Her early work developing Indigenous-centred water safety plans in Ontario and Saskatchewan was unprecedented. It resulted in a first-of-its-kind framework for researchers and professionals that set new standards on culturally grounded engineering practice.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, her investigation of wastewater monitoring in Indigenous communities helped mitigate disease transmission. Through her latest endeavour—a mobile research station—she travels to communities across the province measuring water and indoor air quality and assessing building safety.

In December, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named Dr. Black one of its six inaugural co-chairs in Mountain Water Sustainability—a tremendous honour that acknowledges the global significance of her work.

An assistant civil engineering professor at the Schulich School of Engineering for five years, Dr. Black has been instrumental in developing the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy. In her classroom, she introduces students to the intricately connected systems of engineering, sustainability, and social justice. Her advice is clear: she says active and open listening is pivotal.

Awards and Distinctions

  • Founding Fellow, United Nations University Hub, University of Calgary (2023)
  • Schulich School of Engineering Award for Advancing SSE Contributions to ii' taa'poh'to'p (2022)
  • Top 40 Under 40 Award, Avenue Magazine Calgary (2022)
  • Service Excellence Award, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary (2021)
  • Teaching Excellence Award, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary (2021)
  • Students' Union Teaching Excellence Award Honourable Mention, University of Calgary (2020)

Professional Affiliations and Activities

  • Chair, Canadian Society of Civil Engineering Sustainable Development Committee (2022)
  • Member, APEGA (2021–present)
  • Thought Leader, British Columbia Auditor General (2021–present)
  • Secretary, Director, Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (2020–present)
  • Member, Samson Cree Nation Nipiy (Water) Committee (2019–present)
  • Senior Advisor, First Nations Housing & Infrastructure Council (2018–2023)
  • Senior Policy Advisor, Water, Housing, and Infrastructure, Assembly of First Nations (2016–2017)