New Research from Master of Sustainability Alumni

For Leaya Amey (above, R) and Alison Feist (L) (Master of Sustainability Class of 2019), publishing their research is an exciting way for them to integrate the knowledge they gained in the SSAS program with their professional careers in the field of sustainability science.

Amey, who completed the program in December 2018 and graduated in June 2019, has been working for Maple Leaf Foods as a Sustainability Specialist after reaching out to a connection through LinkedIn. She credits the Master of Sustainability program for providing “a necessary foundation of knowledge regarding sustainability-related concepts and practices”. Amey is also thankful for the exposure she received through the program to how Brock University communicates and practices sustainability; “I was interested in how universities (or entities in general) were planning and strategizing for sustainable development now and in the future”.

This interest is reflected in a recently published article that was co-written by Amey and her former SSAS co-supervisors Drs. Ryan Plummer and Gary Pickering. The study, according to Amey, “sought to better understand online communications related to sustainability by Canadian universities. Specifically, how many Canadian universities communicate about sustainability online, what types of features are offered on Canadian universities sustainability websites to engage users in sustainability-related topics, how many Canadian universities have a downloadable sustainability plan and what are the quality of those plans”. The study found that while 67% of Canadian universities communicate sustainability on their websites, only 22% have a downloadable sustainability plan, and that these plans range in quality. These findings are important because, as Amey explains, “[they] assist with understanding how higher education institutions (HEIs) can enhance sustainability communication via websites and sustainability plans.

Coincidentally, Amey’s fellow Class of 2019 member Alison Feist is also interested in sustainability as it applies to higher education institutions. Feist currently works as the Mission Zero Coordinator for Sheridan College, which focuses on sustainability and engagement in an institutional setting. In addition to her work at Sheridan, Feist has also had the opportunity to contribute a case story from her thesis research in the Master of Sustainability program to the Atlantic Chapter of Canada’s National Climate Change Assessment.

Feist’s research, co-authored by Drs. Ryan Plummer and Julia Baird, and Simon J. Mitchell, explored how collaboration works in climate change adaptation in New Brunswick to understand how people come together to work towards/implement solutions in a climate adaptation context. Specifically, said Feist, “exploring qualities in the collaborative process (i.e.  attributes of how people interact together like learning, or building trust), outcomes, and how these are brought about in the process was of interest”. Feist explained that the findings of this study “[identified] important themes around how these [qualities and outcomes] came about- which were centered around learning and becoming educated about climate risks and acting on this together as people recognized and began to understand the need for adaptation action. These findings provided some insight into the importance of certain qualities and outcomes to the complex process of collaboration, and it can help collaborative groups understand group dynamics as they work in climate adaptation settings.”

Like Amey, Feist credits the Master of Sustainability program at Brock with teaching some of the important concepts needed for her research, “Collaboration is an important concept which is found in many sustainability topics, and it is also something that I did many, many times while working with a research team (and in class settings) during my time in the program!”.

Dr. Ryan Plummer, ESRC Director and former supervisor for both Amey and Feist, is extremely proud of this accomplishment by his former students. “Publication of their manuscripts in international journals following rigorous peer review is a testament to the high quality of their research and their contributions to scholarship”, said Plummer. Plummer believes that the research published by Amey and Feist demonstrates their intellectual capacity and tenacity. It reflects very positively on the important concepts, skills, and critical thinking that are taught in the SSAS program.

Amey and Feist’s research are both available to read for free through the following links:

Leaya Amey’s research on Website communications for campus sustainability can be found here.

Alison Feist’s research on Examining collaborative processes for climate change adaptation in New Brunswick, Canada can be found here.

Categories: SSAS Alumni Contributor, SSAS Program