Program Reflections

  • My First Year Reflection

    Blog Contributor: Madison Lepp

    Madison Lepp presenting her research at the Mapping New Knowledges Conference. Photo credit: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Imagine this: standing in a room full of academics waiting for you to give a presentation on your research. Apprehensively awaiting the commentary that will follow. Unsure of whether those listening will find your research topic intriguing. Now imagine the opposite, and that is what presenting at the Brock Mapping New Knowledge (MNK) Graduate Research Conference was like. Presenting one’s ideas can be a daunting task at any stage in their academic career, especially at the beginning of one’s academic journey. In April I decided to participate in Brock’s 17thannual MNK Graduate Research Conference. The conference is aimed at showcasing the different research happening on the Brock campus. The space was inclusive, welcoming, and ultimately allowed me to improve my skillset and thesis.

    A bit of a background: I just completed my second semester of the Masters of Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) program at Brock. I am currently researching my thesis titled building climate resilience and climate equity in Canadian municipalities. For me, presenting at this conference was the first big step in my graduate degree where I would put my ideas on the line. Through the experience of both finishing my first two semesters of the program and presenting at my first conference I learned a few things…

    A level of uncertainty is okay.

    It can be easy to compare yourself to others, doubt your abilities, and feel like you are not good enough to be where you are – hello imposters syndrome. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have this feeling in the past year but, one thing that drew me to the SSAS program was the level of openness the program offers. Through countless discussions on the topic, I have concluded that feeling uncertain should not make you an imposter and is completely normal. The supportive culture of the program has helped me channel this self-doubt into positive motivation. When presenting at the MNK conference I used this positive outlook, knowing that many other students presenting at the conference were in the same place as I.

    Only practice makes perfect.

    Odds are the first time you present something it will not be perfect, but that’s okay. Preparing to defend my research by presenting at this conference was a great way for me to prepare. After two years of presenting online, the MNK conference provided opportunity to brush up on my in-person presentation skills. I can only hope that the next time I present it will go even better than the first. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is important in improving performance. I am glad that my first experience of being uncomfortable in my masters was in such an inclusive space.

    Avoiding (constructive) criticism gets you nowhere.

    Let’s be honest, no one truly likes receiving criticism and although being confident in your work is important, accepting criticism is an opportunity to improve your work. Through multiple applications and presentations of my ideas to colleagues, the first draft of my thesis proposal has changed a great deal – and for the better. The MNK conference was yet another opportunity to get feedback on my thesis. Through the engagement of the audience, I came to improve my thesis proposal once again. Using critiques of your work can be an important step to improve ideas.

    Although daunting, the experience of presenting at the MNK conference was highly beneficial and gave me a chance to elaborate on my thesis research proposal while providing me with the space to enhance skills I will use in the future. I am excited to see how my work will evolve over the next year and am eager to participate in next year’s MNK conference.

    Categories: Blog, Conferences, Event, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • My first year in the Sustainability Science and Society program

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Master of Sustainability student Alexandra Cotrufo

    It’s hard to believe that only a few months ago, I logged onto (weird times!) my first class of the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) program. As cheesy as it is to say, time really does fly by when you’re having fun! Since that very first class, I have met some amazing individuals, made life-long memories, learned so much about sustainability, gained valuable work experience, and successfully completed my Major Research Paper (MRP) proposal. Whether you’re a student interested in applying to the SSAS program, a student who has been accepted into the program, a student who is currently in the program, or someone who is just interested in learning about it, I hope you enjoy reading this blog about my first year in the SSAS program.

    Let’s start with the courses. Since I am in the MRP and Co-op stream, I took a total of seven courses this school year which focused on a wide range of topics, from Geographic Information System (GIS) Mapping to Water Governance. These courses provided me with a deeper understanding of the many dimensions of sustainability and truly emphasized the program’s goal of being transdisciplinary. One of my favourite courses was SSAS 5P01: Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society. This course introduced me to the main concepts of sustainability science and highlighted ways that society can work to meet current and future needs for both people and the planet. I also really enjoyed SSAS 5P03: Problem Solving in the Environment, which introduced me to project management and provided me with the opportunity to work on an environmental sustainability communication strategy and interpretive plan for The Niagara Parks Commission.

    Alongside my course work, I was also a Research Assistant for The Brock University Project Charter. In this role, I worked on advancing sustainability and awareness on campus through creating social media content, writing blog posts, hosting events, and working on numerous projects. One of these projects included working on a submission for The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which ranks universities around the world on their progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. For the 2021/2022 submission period, Brock University ranked in the top 300 – a very exciting accomplishment! I was also fortunate enough to receive a WWF-Canada Go Wild School Grant with my colleague Madison Lepp, which we used to create The Brock University Seed Library. Working on this project has been one of the highlights of my year and I am so glad we are able to provide the community with free access to seeds and pollinator blends! I will be continuing to work with the charter during my co-op placement this summer.

    Another big part of my year was of course working on my MRP. My research is on the risk of greenwashing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) communications. It aims to explore the extent to which marketers hesitate to communicate about CSR due to the increasing skepticism of greenwashing among consumers and stakeholders. I successfully defended my proposal in March, and I am looking forward to collecting and analyzing the data I receive from my questionnaire during the upcoming fall term. I am grateful to be supported in my research by my supervisor, Dr. Todd Green, and my second reader, Dr. Kai-Yu Wang.

    Finally, one of my favourite parts of this year is the relationships I have built with my classmates and the SSAS faculty. I have had the honour to work with some of the nicest folks who are all extremely passionate about advancing sustainability and contributing to a healthier environment. I have learned so much from each and every person I have met through this program, and I know the connections I have made will stay with me through the rest of my life. Although COVID-19 has made it difficult to build-in person relationships, I have had a lot of fun meeting with my peers for virtual coffee chats, game nights, and even a field trip to The Niagara Parks Commission!

    Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • First Year Reflection

    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.

    Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • First Year Experience in the SSAS Program

    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.

    Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Master of Sustainability Year-in-Review

    Blog Contributor: Mikellena Nettos

    To sum it up – this program deeply changed my life. I have learned so much and met so many amazing people that inspire me every day. I can truly say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life so far and I know I will take what I have learned and bring it with me for the rest of my life.

    First semester I was enrolled in Environmental Sustainability Education & Foundations of Sustainability. In Environmental Sustainability Education (SSAS 5V80) – I truly learned the effect the environment can have – not only on your mental health – but on your capacity to learn. Dr. Xavier showed us how ESE can induce empathy for nature and for people and I think this will be the way we overcome the climate crisis – empathy. Did you know 20% of the world has empathy? That’s it – and I think it is because of individualism that capitalism pushes onto modern society. To combat the crisis, we must come together and share empathy for people and the planet – put aside our differences and put the earth first. This then led me to creating a group to try and promote a sense of community around sustainable values. I now have 35 people in my community group and 143 followers on my Instagram page where I promote clean-ups, started a sustainable book club, and discuss various topics about sustainability to educate and come together with my followers.

    The second semester was hard and pushed me to my limits. The course load during the pandemic was a lot to balance. From working as an RA, to being enrolled in Project Management (SSAS 5P03) and Climate Change Adaptation (SSAS 5P12) – all while trying to secure a co-op and write my proposal. I had a few breakdowns coupled with COVID-19 isolation – but I never gave up because I love sustainability. It truly has lit my heart on fire. In Dr. Blythe’s Climate Change Adaptation – the conversations I was able to have with my cohort on diverse topics really gave me hope for the future of our planet. Additionally, the book review gave us the opportunity and freedom to study any aspect of sustainability. I chose “All We Can Save” and that book really changed my life. It’s so inspiring but very sad at the same time. It has taught me so much and I truly hope there is a course developed around analyzing it because it is very eye opening to the severity of our climate emergency.

    My research is also something I am very passionate about – and I am so lucky to have Dr. Blythe as my supervisor – she is such an inspiration. I am looking forward to mapping the proximity of environmental hazards and environmental benefits to minority communities in Ontario and Dr. Blythe plans to assist me in knowledge mobilization once my research is complete! This will hopefully influence the government to take environmental racism seriously and protect vulnerable populations. The reason I chose this topic is because I believe we need to protect and elevate everyone if we are to solve the climate crisis and that starts with those who are affected by it the most.

    While the pandemic has definitely caused some stress and our cohort was not able to meet in person – I have still made amazing connections with people I will hopefully continue to share the sustainability space with, and I am so glad that I chose this path. I really want a future career in sustainable community engagement – I want to spread the word of a sustainable future alongside Mother Earth’s allies to sustain a thriving future for everyone on the planet.

     

    Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • My Experience in the Master of Sustainability Program 2020-2021

    Blog Contributor: Allison Clark

    I accepted my admissions offer to the Master of Sustainability program in February 2020, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. I was expecting all courses to be taught in person and was looking forward to building connections with faculty members and students at Brock. After several months of lockdowns, it became apparent that the 2020-2021 academic year would take place virtually. While I understood the importance of working from home during the pandemic, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to undertake graduate studies in person. Nevertheless, I knew the Master of Sustainability program was the right fit for me, so I began my studies in September 2020.

    From the comfort of my home in Nova Scotia, I spent the past two terms completing courses pertaining to sustainability, science and society. Required courses focused on the foundations of sustainability science, research methods for environmental inquiry, and transdisciplinary research in practice. Through these courses, I was able to better understand the complex social-ecological issues we are faced with as sustainability scientists. As an elective, I enrolled in a directed readings course with my supervisor, Dr. Michael Pisaric. This course allowed me to engage with literature pertaining to my thesis topic, investigating the impacts of climate change on vegetation in the Canadian Arctic. I also audited a climate change adaptation course taught by Dr. Jessica Blythe, where I was able to learn about climate adaptation at the academic, municipal, and corporate levels. Despite these courses being entirely virtual, each of my professors cultivated incredible, open, and engaging learning experiences. Having small class sizes allowed me to build connections with my classmates and professors – both of whom have encouraged and supported me every step of the way.

    As a graduate research assistant, I worked on the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative, a partnership between Brock University and the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC). My co-worker, fellow student, and now friend, Savannah Stuart, was also assigned to this position. Together, Savannah and I focused most of our time developing a Climate Change Readiness Plan for the NPC. We received constant support from our supervisor, Dr. Ryan Plummer, who guided us through the planning process. Through this position, I was able to develop my leadership, communication, teamwork, and qualitative research skills.

    Through my thesis research, I have been able to foster my passion for Arctic ecology and climate change. With the help of Dr. Michael Pisaric, I formulated a successful thesis proposal, which will guide me through my research in the terms to come. My proposed research requires me to complete in-person laboratory analyses, which will be done in the Water and Environment Laboratory at Brock. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, I was not able to work on this aspect of my research during the Fall or Winter terms. Luckily, I was recently approved to work in the laboratory. With this approval, I made the big move from Nova Scotia to Ontario so that I could continue with my research.

    Overall, faculty and staff within the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre have created an incredibly supportive and engaging learning environment, which is no small feat during a pandemic. I have already learned more than I could have ever imagined going into this program. I am eager to continue in the program through my thesis research. In doing so, I have no doubts that I will have support from those within the Sustainability program at Brock.

    Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • Master of Sustainability – My First Year

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

    When I imagined going to grad school, I often pictured myself sitting in a small seminar room, having thought provoking discussions with a group of like-minded individuals, making plans to save the world. However, the year 2020 had other plans in store for my grad school experience. With the forced introduction of online school, we were left no choice other than to navigate this unique time in history together.

    When I started school, I felt as if I was being cheated out of a “real” grad school experience and I found myself questioning if I was going to get the same skills and experiences as students who were able to graduate before me. While of course the experiences had to be altered to an online setting, I never felt that I was not receiving a full and quality education. I found myself looking forward to the discussions in our weekly classes, and while we we’re joining from all over the globe, the discussions were enriching, and I still felt connected to the material and my peers. When we finally signed off for our final class of the year, I truly felt connected to my peers and professors, and although we’ve never met in person, I believe that I still managed to make friends for life.

    This program has changed the way I view sustainability but most importantly it has changed the way I think and utilize my knowledge. I have learned how to view problems from multiple perspectives and how to apply research into real world applications. I have learned about the importance of scientific and ancient knowledge. I have learned how to critically evaluate and challenge my baseline assumptions. But most importantly, I have learned to listen and critically evaluate knowledge, accepting that it is completely okay for my opinions to my challenged and changed.

    One thing that has been extremely challenging for so many of us during COVID is feelings of isolation and loneliness. However, while I have not met any of the people involved in the program, we were still able to foster a sense of community and connection in an online space. I am extremely grateful for the faculty, my professors, and of course my peers for going above and beyond in making us feel connected.

    As a thesis student, much of my first year has been dedicated to designing and building the foundations of my research. Through this program I feel that the way in which I look at research has been altered, which has ultimately made me a stronger researcher. I have learned about the importance of connecting research to real world problems as well as the importance of viewing problems from multiple perspectives. This insight has enriched my research immensely and all of the courses that I took we’re directly relevant in enhancing my thinking and skills. Building a research proposal has been a long and difficult process, however I feel that the content and skills that I was learning along the way helped with the entire process. While COVID has made a lot of things harder, I also feel like I was granted freedom to develop my ideas in my own space and on my own timeline, which helped foster my creativity and thinking along the way.

    Overall, while this year is not what I imagined my first year of grad school being, I wouldn’t take anything back and I am extremely grateful for the things I have learned, the experiences I have gained, and the friends I have made.

    Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • A Student’s Perspective of the Master of Sustainability Graduate Program at Brock University

    Blog contributor: April Sorenson

    My name is April Sorenson and I am currently a Master of Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) Co-op graduate student at Brock. I am from Reno, Nevada and am a dual citizen in the U.S. and Canada. I received my undergraduate degree from Colorado State University in Landscape Architecture in 2016. After graduation, I worked for Stantec Consulting for two and a half years and earned my LEED GA accreditation. Throughout my studies and work experience, I quickly became aware of the impact that we are having on the earth. As a result, I became increasingly interested in sustainability and began looking into grad programs. I chose this program because of its location on a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, its scholarship and fellowship opportunities, and its experiential education components.

    I have recently completed the coursework for the program and defended a proposal for my Major Research Paper (MRP). My MRP is titled, What is a sustainable city? An analysis of the current sustainable urban rating systems and cities that are leading the way. I am very excited to learn more about sustainable urban design, and I plan on sharing the findings of my research with local municipalities.

    The SSAS program has been an enriching experience that has answered many of the questions I had about sustainability and climate change. This program provides well-rounded coursework that focuses on a transdisciplinary perspective to sustainability science. The curriculum provides a good balance of theory and practice. In addition to coursework, I had the opportunity to work as a Research Assistant for the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. I was able to expand my knowledge on green infrastructure, low impact development, community improvement plans and knowledge mobilization. This position also helped me gain valuable professional development skills by allowing me to work directly with sustainability professionals at the Town of Lincoln. Working closely with partners at Brock University and the Town of Lincoln was a very rewarding experience because I learned how to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a real-world setting.

    Perhaps the most rewarding part of my experience in the SSAS program is the relationships I have with my fellow peers. Our conversations have expanded my thinking to new levels, and we have supported each other through every obstacle. I know that each of them will contribute to a greener world through their sustainability efforts. The knowledge I gained in this program, along with lifelong friendships, have provided me with a foundation for a rewarding career in sustainability.

     

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • My Experience in the Master of Sustainability Program

    Bani Maini

    Blog Contributor: Bani Maini

    It is a daunting task to get up and leave the only way of life you’ve known to move to a new country. In my case, I left India to come to Brock and pursue sustainability science. I enrolled in the Master of Sustainability program in the MRP stream. The past eight months have been filled with academic and experiential engagement with sustainability and have exceeded all my expectations. Through classes, a research assistantship, and a Major Research Paper (MRP) project, I was able to explore my interests and develop my research skills. All the while I have been here, I have had tremendous support from the ESRC department.

    The Fall and Winter semesters included courses on foundations of sustainability, research methods, climate change transformation and adaptation, opportunities to learn project management skills, and engage with wonderful speakers and their work through transdisciplinary seminars. The breadth and depth of the academic courses introduced me to sustainability science in the most exciting way possible.

    As a graduate research assistant, I received constant support from Dr. Ryan Plummer and Amanda Smits in their research work. I had a great opportunity to work on an environmental stewardship project through Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI) partnership between the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) and Brock University. The project was supervised by Dr. Sherman Farhad, who has been a great mentor. Through additional support from Dr. Julia Baird and Dr. Plummer, the project has been a major learning experience which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    In the pursuit of studying marine environments, I was given the full opportunity to explore my research interests. Dr. Jessica Blythe, who is supervising my research, supported all the MRP development phases while also being a constant source of motivation for me. While working on my MRP on area-based conservation in marine environments, I have built on my knowledge, and my determination to address some of the most challenging problems that affect the oceans has grown deeper.

    Despite how daunting it was, the ESRC provided the support and opportunity I needed to assimilate myself into a new environment. It has been inspiring to see everyone at the ESRC working tirelessly towards the common goal of betterment of the environment and society. This turned me into an optimist, and I have decided to follow their footsteps to work towards the common goal. Now, I look forward to developing my MRP research. ​

     

    Categories: Blog, Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor

  • 3 Things I’ve Learned in the Masters of Sustainability Program

    Erica Harper

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    After one year in the Master of Sustainability program at Brock, I’ve learned a lot about myself, the world around me, and how to be the best environmental steward I can be. Brock has provided me with the opportunity to develop not only as a student, but as a person in this everchanging and complex world we live in. For context, I have a business degree from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia where I specialized in marketing because I have a passion for communicating important information into easy-to-read messages. To be honest, I never imagined going back to school when I graduated in 2018, but the state of the world, its animals, and ecosystems was troubling to me. I wanted to make a difference specifically in the corporate world because I knew that corporations were responsible for a significant portion of the world’s pollution. Therefore, to make this positive difference that I so badly wanted to make, I had to gain knowledge, skills, and connections that would allow me to do. This is where my journey with Brock’s Masters of Sustainability program began.

    Here are three important lessons I’ve learned in the program so far:

    • Imposter syndrome is normal, but it cannot take over your thoughts

    As someone without a science background, I was nervous to be perceived as an “imposter” or as someone who simply didn’t fit in as a business major. That being said, on my first day in Dr. Jessica Blythe’s Foundations of Sustainability Science course, she said everything I needed to hear to be a confident and prepared student in the program. She spoke about imposter syndrome and how it’s normal to feel as though you’re not ready or even qualified for the next step in your life, but to ignore those thoughts and to keep going because she knew that everyone in the program had what it took be successful. Simply having a professor telling their students that they believe in them and that they belong is enough to encourage stressed, confused, and worried students as they try to get used to a new school and program. I felt as though Dr. Blythe was speaking right to me even though she didn’t know much about me yet, and that was the most comforting thing to me. I learned that she was definitely right – imposter syndrome is normal, but the most important thing is to not let it take over your thoughts and be confident in your abilities. Even in rooms where I didn’t feel like I belonged, I forced myself to speak up, ask questions, and be as engaged as I could be, which is a lesson I will take with me no matter where I end up after graduation.

    • Sustainability of all kinds cannot be achieved without collaboration

    Collaboration is a word that is used so often in various contexts that it almost tends to lose its meaning. This program really showed me what collaboration was: working with people from different academic and cultural backgrounds through complex problems in society to achieve a well-rounded solution. Sustainability itself is extremely complicated because it is applicable to most fields of study, namely public health, sport management, ecology, urban design, and political science to name a few. The papers and research that we were exposed to throughout the year in our many classes including environmental sustainability education, research methods, transdisciplinary seminar, and climate change adaptation & transformation have demonstrated how interdisciplinary sustainable solutions are. Solutions cannot be thought of in a vacuum and collaboration is essential to ensure that the main pillars of sustainability are considered: social, economic, political, and environmental. Since most people are not an expert in all four areas, working together as a group of sustainability scientist with a wide variety of backgrounds proves to be the best way to come to a sustainability-oriented solution to any problem. I will continue to value different opinions, suggestions, and frameworks as I go through this program and enter the workforce because collaboration is a skill that is crucial in all aspects of life.

    • You don’t have to fit into a “sustainability mould”

    Starting a master’s program can be intimidating at first and fitting in with what seems “normal” within the world of sustainability can be especially tempting. I’ve learned to resist that urge and to do everything I possibility can to be sustainable without being too hard on myself. Of course, it was important for me to be aware of my own carbon footprint, but it was also important for me to take a step back and realize that I’m doing the best I can, even when the carbon footprint calculator tells me that if everyone lived like me, we would need 2.5 planets to survive. Once I had the opportunity to get to know my professors and learn more about the scholars in the field of sustainability science, I noticed that there are so many ways to fit under the “sustainable” label. It’s not just about never driving your car, being 100% zero-waste, only buying second hand, or only purchasing from 100% sustainable companies – it’s about doing what you can with the resources and knowledge you have in the moment. Although I aspire to do all of those things one day, for now my life looks a little more like this: walking instead of driving when possible, aiming to be low waste (not completely zero-waste), searching for thrift stores that I enjoy, and researching sustainable companies to buy from when I can. Living this way is what works for me at the moment and although I am constantly striving to be a little more sustainable with each passing month, I now know that trying to be the perfect image of sustainability is not sustainable for me right now.

    Whether you are an incoming student in the program or someone who is simply curious about learning more about sustainability, I hope this article was helpful to you! Brock has been a great place for me to grow as a student and as a person in ways that I could not have envisioned a few years ago. I’m glad I made the leap into the Masters of Sustainability program and I’m excited to see where it will take me in the years to come!

    Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor