Reflection on My First Year

Blog Contributor: Kassie Burns

Seems only yesterday I was entering my first class, nervous and excited for what would come next. I knew I would be walking into an amazing journey, leading me to different learning experiences and opportunities, but I had not expected to be surrounded by such supportive and incredible individuals. Without a doubt the most memorable experience I will have from this program is the relationships I have built, (cliché but true!).

Immediately I felt welcomed into the program by the faculty and staff and was delighted to get to know them better. It was clear from the beginning that they genuinely cared about student success and wanted to inspire future generations. I have never experienced such passionate, hardworking educators throughout my academic and professional career than the members of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC). They are leaders in sustainability and their respective fields that have given me the confidence, encouragement, and support I needed to progress through the program. I cannot stress enough how much of a comfort that gave me to help direct me in my graduate studies and sincerely thank them for their dedication to students!

In addition to getting to know faculty and staff better, I was also able to meet some incredible peers! It did not take much time to learn of the sushi lovers and talented bowlers in the group. Their humour and personalities made the stresses of the academic year much easier, and everyone was eager to help one another. We would share resources, talk about our research ideas, practice presentations, work on projects together, and cheered when individuals secured co-op placements and research accomplishments that made my academic experience even more enjoyable. The people I have met here and the atmosphere they brought were dynamic!

I could go on about the amazing journey I had in my first year of the program, but I will end with discussing the variety of learning opportunities that presented itself throughout the year. The traditional settings of listening to lectures went out the window. To my delight, there were several experiential learning occasions with field trips ranging from walking the Bruce Trail behind campus and experiencing the UNESCO Biosphere, to tours of the campus energy systems, and witnessing projects happening with Niagara Parks Commission. All of which pathed way to an immersive means to learn our studies in practice. Classes were flexible to incorporate student interests and followed opportunities that emerged. This led to a trip to the Town of Lincoln to learn more on tree canopies that was initially never planned but was an amazing way to experience community projects and benefits of using Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies. A highlight of the year was a course dedicated to evolving student project management skills, where we were tasked with an assignment aligning with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, a community partner. For the entire term we collaborated to complete the deliverables that were presented to many of the staff, including their CAO, and were able to see our work mobilized into practice. Not to mention the several professionals in the industry giving guest lectures on a variety of topics related to sustainability science that introduced new topics and perspectives to me. There were so many workshops and conferences I was able to participate in, with a never-ending list of incredible experiences that elevated my academic year.

Overall, I am so pleased I was able to participate in this program, that not only gave me the opportunity to explore my research interests but also helped me grow as a professional!

Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Program Reflections, SSAS Student Contributor