Blog Contributor: Savannah Stuart
As our first year in the Master of Sustainability Science and Society program (SSAS) comes to a close, it offers time to reflect. My fellow classmates and I certainly did not envision our first year of graduate school to be amidst a global pandemic. This tumultuous crisis created many changes to our learning and research and presented us with new challenges. It truly tested our abilities to be creative and problem solve, abilities which are necessary to being a sustainability scientist.
Through it all, there is absolutely no other way that I would have wanted to spend this past year. The program and our professors did a tremendous job of communicating with students and advocating for student’s wellbeing during a difficult time, which I feel much gratitude for. Our classes were rich in content and thought-provoking discussion, and our small class size enabled us to form strong connections and friendships.
The culture created in each of our classes allowed for open discussion, where each person’s perspective was listened to and valued. This is a truly incredible aspect of this program, and aids student’s learning and absorption of typically heavy and hard to discuss topics such as climate change. Our classes pushed us to challenge our views, integrate new perspectives and ways of knowing, and taught us how to become stronger critical thinkers and communicators.
My perspective and understanding of sustainability science have grown and expanded throughout this program. I went into this program with the perspective that in transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, disciplines pertained only to academic disciplines. This program has proven to me that I was wrong; transdisciplinary work often takes place across fields in academia, industry, and public sectors, thus proving a practical feature of research and literature in sustainability science. I believe the ESRC demonstrates this beautifully through their community partnerships. By working across academic, industry, and public disciplines, one is ensuring that knowledge transfer is happening at a greater scale and speed, as the research informs practical use on the ground.
I was able to observe work completed within one of Brock’s community partnerships with the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) through my year-long research assistantship. The research assistantship offered through the SSAS program enriched my academic learning and allowed me to develop transferable skills and gain professional experience. Additionally, I saw the incredible and important work that can be done in sustainability science when academic institutions develop community partnerships.
Through this program, I now have a greater understanding of the holistic approach that sustainability research offers. In working with my supervisor on my research, I have been reminded to look at the project from multiple lenses and consider the contribution it could make to the research field and beyond. Sustainability science inherently requests this of us, tackling timely and novel global issues, and I am looking forward to continuing my learning experience in the second year of this program.