Professor Morley Gunderson has dedicated much of his career toward making his research relevant to public policy.
His success has led him to be called the most accomplished and influential labour economist and industrial relations scholar in Canada. He is the 2015 winner of the Carolyn Tuohy Impact on Public Policy Award at the University of Toronto.
Gunderson, who holds the CIBC Chair in Youth Employment and is a faculty member of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources as well as the Department of Economics at U of T, said in an interview the award “means a lot. Some people downplay such awards but I feel especially privileged about this because it illustrates that my work is policy relevant.”
His work has had a meaningful impact on ordinary Canadians. He has worked with economist Arthur Donner on two federal task forces, including one on working time and the distribution of work, and worked with Rosalie Abella on her Task Force on Employment Equity.
Professor Gunderson also played a significant role in the mandatory retirement decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990. His ongoing research into this issue, which began in 1980, has been cited in major court decisions.
He says it is “very gratifying” to know that his research has been applied in real-life situations, which is “a lot more fun than sitting in an ivory tower” producing research.
Governments actually asking for research that can have an impact on Canadians is far better than “monks talking to monks” in a strictly academic atmosphere, he suggested. His recent research has focused on gender discrimination and employment issues for Aboriginal persons and persons with disabilities.
Harry Arthurs, President Emeritus of York University, said Gunderson “is almost unique among researchers in his willingness to engage in civilized and informed debate, and to acknowledge both the indispensability of research and its inherent limits.”
Gunderson worked on two policy commissions that Arthurs chaired – on federal labour standards and on Ontario pension legislation. He said “Morley isn’t merely a policy researcher. He is a very strong academic who can hold his own in any scholarly setting.” Arthurs recently invited him to contribute a chapter to a well-reviewed book he co-edited with Katherine Stone.
U of T economics professor Arthur Hosios has known Gunderson for more than 30 years and said “Morley’s leadership as a professor, researcher and creative thinker is complemented by his skills at institution-building. By leaving his mark as Director of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources for more than 10 years, he has made another significant contribution to public policy.”
Gunderson designed both the Masters and PhD programs in industrial relations and human resources – the first of their kind in English-speaking Canada. He is very proud of the fact that more than 500 students have graduated from those programs.
He has been involved in the supervision of 37 of the 42 PhD students who have graduated from the programs. They are teaching throughout the world, including U of T, Queens, McGill, Cornell and the London School of Economics.
The programs have been “tremendously successful,” Gunderson said. Again, the focus is on making research policy relevant, and giving grad students the analytical tools they need to succeed in their fields.
Gunderson has been with U of T since 1971, and “I still looking forward to going to work every day.”
The Carolyn Tuohy Impact on Public Policy Award is presented along with several other faculty, staff and student awards under the banner of Awards of Excellence. A list of this year’s recipients and their citations can be viewed on the Awards of Excellence website. This award program annually recognizes the outstanding members of the University of Toronto community who have made rich and meaningful contributions to the University, their communities and to the world.
Alumni Relations within the Division of University Advancement is the steward of the Awards of Excellence program on behalf of the University of Toronto Alumni Association, and co-ordinates the vital contributions of other University stakeholder groups toward this prestigious award program.
Professor Gunderson and the other 2015 Awards of Excellence recipients will be honoured at a ceremony at the Isabel Bader Theatre on April 13.