Reflecting on My First Year in the SSAS Program

Blog Contributor: Sydney McIntyre

Does time really fly when you’re having fun? I can confirm that indeed, it does. As this semester comes to an end, it is now time to reflect on my first year in the masters of sustainability program at Brock. I think specifically this year, our cohort was special because it was the first time in three years that school felt like school. Face to face learning, real time discussions and simply being able to laugh in person with  friends and colleagues was very special (and something I will never take for granted ever again!). I am so thankful that I got to have my first year back in class in the SSAS program! It’s hard to believe that it has been 8 months since I started my graduate degree and am quickly approaching my co-op work term this summer, followed by my MRP completion this coming fall.

I would first like to address the relationships I have built with all faculty and students over the past 8 months. Since the very first day of orientation, the SSAS program surpassed all my expectations. I think I can speak for my entire cohort when saying the faculty are so welcoming and truly make you feel as though someone is always in your corner, consistently cheering you on. Every single professor went above and beyond their duties; making sure content was thought-provoking, communicating and critiquing when appropriate, as well as always ensuring our well-being was put first.

In addition to my professors, my peers quickly became a huge part of my graduate experience as I built wonderful, life-time friendships that I will forever cherish. Everyone in my cohort came from different educational backgrounds with overall different academic interests; however, this brought forward so many diverse perspectives and insightful knowledge that I don’t think can be taught from reading books or listening to lectures.

This brings me into my understanding and perspectives on sustainability science, and how they have changed since my first day in September. I went into this program with a heavy science background, a love for conservation, and general interest in saving the environment; and thought “yeah that sums up sustainability science”. Was I ever wrong! Although this program is perfect for my interests, it is also so much more. I have learned exactly what it means to really think like a sustainability scientist and widen my perspectives when looking to address the world’s most complex challenges; examples being incorporating social aspects, considering economic ties, and defending nature when it’s needed the most!

The class content I received throughout my first year was like no other. There were field trips with community-partner collaborations, consistent discussions and idea sharing, as well as critical aspects such as presentations and forming mock climate action plans that really pushed for knowledge development. I think my favourite classes this year were SSAS 5P01 and SSAS 5P03. In 5P01: Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society, we were introduced to the main topics of sustainability. I really loved this class because Dr. Blythe and my fellow classmates really created a safe space for discussion, often bringing forward passionate opinions and encouraging active participation. Likewise, in 5P03: Problem Solving In the Environment, Dr. Plummer collaborated with Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) to create a collaborative project, in which all of us gained project management and consulting experience. This class was great because it gave us real-life work practice, but also established connections with professionals in the field of sustainability.

Lastly, I think it is important to leave a note for potential future students thinking of entering the SSAS program – do it! If you have ever thought about contributing to real world problems and making a true difference, this program will bring you one step closer in achieving your goals. I was never someone who even thought about applying for my masters, however, here I am 8 months in with a brain full of sustainability expertise, irreplaceable friends, amazing experiences and ½ a master’s degree – all with zero regrets!

Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, SSAS Student Contributor