New graduate program aims to facilitate transition towards sustainability


The first cohort of nine students (one was absent from photo) recently launched Brock University's new Sustainability Science and Society graduate program.

The first cohort of nine students recently launched Brock University’s new Sustainability Science and Society graduate program.

It’s an important program as Brock is located in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – a site seeking to reconcile social, economic and biophysical challenges confronting societies around the globe.

“The Sustainability Science and Society graduate program aims to facilitate society’s transition towards sustainability,” said Ryan Plummer, director of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and SSAS graduate program director.

Plummer said the program’s aim is “multi-faceted.”

SSAS aims to facilitate society’s transition towards sustainability. The transdisciplinary focus of the program breaks down traditional barriers between disciplines, encouraging the cross-pollination of ideas that will generate novel solutions and new opportunities in a dynamic and complex world.

“There are few master’s degrees specifically designed to address contemporary challenges through the transdisciplinary lens of sustainability science,” Plummer said.

This graduate program consists of two learning paths. The Master of Sustainability, Co-op (Scheme A) is for those students wishing to enrich classroom learning with practical experience.

Alternatively, students desiring an intensive research experience can pursue a Master of Sustainability (Scheme B). Both paths include common foundational courses that are offered in the first two terms of study.


Dean of Graduate Studies Mike Plyley speaks at the SSAS graduate program launch.

“Sustainability Science is a new way to approach real world problems in sustainability,” said Liette Vasseur, ESRC member and UNESCO Chair, Community Sustainability: From Local to Global. “No discipline alone can resolve them, and the need for transdisciplinarity is crucial to find long-lasting solutions. I strongly believe that through this program students will acquire the knowledge and the skills that are essential to significantly contribute to a more sustainable world. Few programs give the opportunity for students to work with a wide range of experts (from biology and geography to economy, political and social sciences) from academia as well as professionals from different spheres.”

Katrina Krievins, a 23-year-old with a degree from Brock (BA ’12) and graduate certificate from Niagara College, chose the SSAS program because of its transdisciplinary focus. Krievins is taking the co-op scheme and has her sights set on a career in restoration ecology.

“The study of sustainability is not solely concerned with natural systems or social systems,” she said. “Instead, it explores the interactions between these linked systems. Learning to move beyond disciplinary boundaries is imperative to exploring potential solutions to complex problems and thus, moving toward a more sustainable future. Having the option of two different learning paths was also a significant factor for me.”


Related: Profiling Sustainability Science and Society graduate program student Sarah Holmes

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