Blog Contributor: Jillian Booth
The end of my first year in the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) Program here at Brock University is approaching quickly. It seems like only yesterday I was attending orientation, and, in few weeks, I will be starting my co-op placement (equally as scary). In this blogpost I will be reflecting on my first-year experience as a whole: my experience, what I have learned, and the opportunities I received.
My first year in the SSAS program exceeded all expectations and hopes I had going into the program. I immediately felt supported by both the faculty and students which was essential for my success during these unprecedented times. Even though we were in an online setting my cohort was able to find new ways to build strong, long-term connections through class discussions, online study hours, virtual trivia games, and yoga sessions. I find myself constantly bragging to my family and friends about how I got to be a part of such an intelligent group of staff and students who all shared the passion of making this world a better place for now and future generations.
Initially, when I found out that our first year would be online like any other student I was upset, as I would not get the same experiences or opportunities that have previously been available through the program. I was quickly proven wrong as there were multiple opportunities where I met experienced professionals working within the field of sustainability through speaker sessions, workshops, and webinars. I was also able to work with professionals in my area of research through my major research paper, my research assistantship, and even through course projects. From these experiences, I was able to receive direct advice and feedback on how to build a successful career while already building strong network connections with professionals in the field of Sustainability.
Before starting this program, I hoped that I would learn from multiple disciplines and gain knowledge to help transition to use a more transdisciplinary perspective, as I come from a natural science background. Although, this is an ongoing learning process I was constantly challenged through my course work and class discussions to not only view complex environmental issues through different perspectives my challenge my own. This was achieved not only through the transdisciplinary staff working in the SSAS program but also through the students from public health to natural science to psychology. Where no perspective was thought to be wrong or right but rather essential to determining solutions for a more sustainable future.
The biggest lesson I have learned so far is to challenge yourself to do new things as the program is a safe place to ask questions and gain feedback. From this, I contributed more in class, constantly asked questions, and was comfortable reaching out to professors for advice and guidance. This confidence also helped to build my professional portfolio as I started to build network connections, take on new roles in volunteer positions, and started applying to present at conferences. These efforts resulted in securing an ideal co-op position that aligns with my career aspirations perfectly and will provide me with transferrable skills that I can use throughout the rest of my professional career. I can’t wait to see what opportunities will arise in my second year for myself and my colleagues.