Co-Op

  • Co-op with MTO inspires master of sustainability student to pursue career in environmental policy

    The next instalment in our series of blog posts about the co-op experiences of Sustainability Science & Society (SSAS) students, we hear from Nicholas Fischer, who will soon be graduating with his Master in Sustainability degree. Last summer, Nich worked for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) in the Environmental Policy Office.

    Blog Contributor: Nicholas Fischer

    Nicholas Fischer

    In my role as an Assistant Policy Analyst at MTO, I provided support to the Senior Policy Analysts on a variety of projects related to transportation infrastructure and landscape remediation. My principle assignment involved generating a policy brief and supporting house notes to various members of senior management. These briefing materials were the product of background research and communication with various provincial ministries and governing bodies, outlining the impacts which changes to the Environmental Assessment Act of Canada would have on provincial infrastructure delivery and environmental assessments.

    Outside of this project, I supported staff with additional projects and policy amendments, including: pollinator health in provincial right-of-ways, provincial waste management, endangered species protection and best management practices, and biodiversity strategies used across Ontario’s provincial ministries.

    The most interesting project I worked on was developing policy solutions for environmental assessment procedures for Ontario. During the time I was with the MTO, the Federal Government of Canada was undergoing a review of federal environmental assessment legislation which would ultimately impact how infrastructure delivery took place at a federal and provincial level. My project focused on identifying the impacts these legislative changes would have for the Ontario provincial government and identifying avenues of possible policy reform to ensure that infrastructure development and design in the province could continue in a sustainable manner, fitting within the new regulatory framework proposed at the federal level.

    My co-op experience has definitely helped to solidify the idea that I would like to focus my career experiences in the realm of environmental policy. Prior to this experience, I was unsure of working in the policy sector, however working with the MTO has shown me that without policy development and analysis, no real environmental change can take place on a regional or provincial level. Policy creates the avenues for change within a government and within local populations, and without policy avenues, it is difficult to affect real change for the betterment of our shared natural environment.

    I would like to thank the entire Environmental Planning Office for allowing me a breadth of experience on a variety of projects which showed me exactly how the province upholds environmental protection and sustainability within an infrastructure-based ministry. Additionally, I would like to thank Melissa Beamer of the Brock Co-op Office for working continuously with the SSAS students to ensure we found appropriate, challenging and rewarding co-op experiences.

    The ESRC’s SSAS program offers students the option of completing either a major research project and a co-op experience, or a longer research project that culminates in a thesis. Undertaking a co-op provides students with firsthand experience of how important knowledge of sustainability is in creating policy, guiding business development and ultimately helping the community. Graduating students frequently cite their co-op experience as being influential in guiding their future career plans. To find out more about the SSAS program, visit brocku.ca/ssas.

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Experiential Education, SSAS Student Contributor

  • “Co-op Student of the Year” Meghan Birbeck reflects on 8 months with the Town of Lincoln

    Blog Contributor: Lydia Collas

    Each year, students in the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program embark on their co-ops between May and August. Since the SSAS program was established in 2014, students have worked in extremely varied industries, including eco-tourism, public transportation and town planning, and in locations from Niagara to Nicaragua!

    This year, SSAS student Meghan Birbeck was awarded the title “Co-op Student of the Year” – an honour given to just two students annually. Meghan spent an extended co-op working as a Sustainability Intern at the Town of Lincoln and was instrumental in securing the Living Lab Partnership between the ESRC at Brock University and Lincoln. I recently met up with her to find out more about the experience and what’s in store for the future.

    Meghan, what did your work as a Sustainability Intern involve?

    At Lincoln, I worked with a wide variety of departments that included planning and development, public works, community services, economic development and communications. My role was to bring a “sustainable” lens to issues that they were tackling. This was the first year that they had taken on a co-op student so the role was quite diverse and I applied myself to whatever task was most pressing.

    During your co-op experience, is there a project that you worked on that was most interesting/ enjoyable?

    The pilot public transit project that I worked on was really great. I was involved in reviewing current public transit services and I worked on exciting new developments. This involved drafting new transit routes as well as community outreach and education to connect with the local community about sustainable public transit.

    Now that you have returned to your studies in the SSAS program, what impact do you think your co-op experience has had?

    My co-op has really complemented my studies in the SSAS program. The experience allowed me to see how some of the underlying theories of sustainability have such broad implications – such as to the municipal projects that I was involved in!

    And did the co-op have a lasting impact on your future goals and plans?

    Definitely – I was invited to extend my co-op so I stayed on for eight months in total. I’m now doing my MRP but I have plans to go back to Lincoln this summer as well. Through the planning projects that I worked on, I developed an interest in becoming a professional accredited planner. My plan now is to combine this planning work with my education in sustainability.

    Is there anyone that you’d like to thank for their part in this experience?

    I am grateful that Brock had an established relationship with the Town of Lincoln that led to this co-op placement being established. I am very thankful to Melissa Beamer in the Co-op Department for her support during the application process and for acting as my Senior Employer Development Manager. I am also extremely grateful to Carrie Beatty at the Town of Lincoln for her unwavering support, ensuring that I was exposed to challenging projects and for making work and inviting and fun place to come to each day.

    Meghan receiving the “Co-op Student of the Year Award” after the official awards ceremony on 22 March 2018. Photo by Michelle Lesley Annett.

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, SSAS Student Contributor