Program Reflections

  • Reflecting on my First Year Experience

    Blog Contributor: Natalie Seniuk

    In the fall of 2022, I stepped away from my career as an environmental planner and project manager to pursue a graduate degree. When I found the Master’s of Sustainability Science and Society program at Brock, I knew it was the fit I had been looking for: a program focused on sustainability and climate change but through a social sciences lens. Beyond the academic fit, Brock is also my hometown university, and I am the second generation in my family to attend, following in the footsteps of the women in my family.

    Coming into the program as a mature student with a background in the environmental field, I didn’t know what exactly I would be adding to my knowledge bank. To say I have learned new things during this past year would be an understatement. Beyond acquiring new knowledge, I have been challenged to think in a new way: to dig deeper and question the potential impacts of sustainability and climate actions when value isn’t placed on the interconnectedness of the social and natural systems we live within. Having access to research, knowledge, and perspectives that are generally inaccessible outside of academic environments has reminded me of all that is happening, not just in industry, but in knowledge development and research. Working to further connect these two worlds is where I see myself applying my education when I complete my thesis next year.

    As a mature student and parent to a tiny person, it was a challenging first year. Needing to juggle academic and parental responsibilities felt overwhelming at times and making choices to step back from participating in things at school and home often felt like a sacrifice. Looking back, I recognize the benefits of having a full academic and personal life at the same time, it just looks a little different than it did when it was only me. With the support of my family, and faculty and staff at the university I have been able to achieve so much…and with my second year approaching, I am looking forward to new opportunities that I’m sure will continue to challenge me both academically and personally.

    This coming year, I am hoping to make a trip out of province to support my thesis project, and will be participating a graduate student experiential learning program through the university of Guelph.

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

  • Survive and Thrive: Advice to my First-Year-PhD-self

    Blog Contributor: Norievill España

    Venturing outside of your comfort zone is said to be where the magic happens, and as an international student at Brock University, I can attest to this firsthand. It was a challenging journey, from complying with university requirements and immigration regulations to adjusting to a new environment, yet it was a period of tremendous growth and discovery! As I reflect on my first year, here are a few valuable pieces of advice I wish to offer my former self.

    Keep in mind the 3Cs

    The opportunity for learning is boundless, but so is the fear of the unknown. Embrace collaboration, communication, and cooperation to overcome obstacles. You are fortunate to learn this valuable lesson through the research assistantship with the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative, coursework, and networking with community partners and peers from outside the university. You will appreciate the value of building strong relationships, working towards common goals, and embracing diverse perspectives. Experiential learning will bring you an immense sense of fulfillment. Acknowledging that you don’t know everything and being humble is vital to the learning process. You’ll find constant support from your Environmental Sustainability Research Centre family, and you’ll never feel alone with a team that has your back.

    Self-management is the key

    You’ll come across an interesting perspective on time management that will shift your thinking. Remember that time is a constant and cannot be managed, but we can manage ourselves and our actions within the time we have. Shift your focus from busyness to intentionality and use your time effectively. Doing so lets you take ownership of your actions and avoid frustration over unfinished tasks. Remember that stepping away from busyness doesn’t necessarily mean being less productive.

    Strive for work-life harmony

    While work is important, it is equally important to take time to reconnect with yourself. Make sure to rest, turn off your computer, stretch, prepare and enjoy proper meals, meditate, and get enough sleep. These activities can help reduce stress and improve productivity when you return to work. Take time to unplug, go outside for fresh air, or watch that movie!

    Your adviser is your ally

    Regular check-in with your adviser is instrumental in keeping you on track with your research, providing constructive feedback on your work, and offering guidance in overcoming challenges. Establish a strong relationship with your adviser that is based on trust and mutual respect.

    Family and friends: your best source of positive energy

    Connect with your strongest support system, your family and friends, who are deeply committed to your happiness and success. They will keep you grounded, focused, and motivated.  They are always ready to lend a hand and an ear, offering fresh perspectives even if they don’t always understand your ramblings. Keep these people close and celebrate small or big wins with them.

    Remember your whys

    As part of the inaugural cohort in the PhD Sustainability Science program, you may experience moments of pressure and feel overwhelmed. Moving from natural to social science can be a challenge, but it’s important to remind yourself of the positive reasons why you started this journey. Your passion for helping vulnerable communities, learning the art of science communication, and the dream of creating a better and sustainable world is what drives you forward (and let’s not forget that you’re rooting for The Ministry for the Future!).

    Finally, stay persistent

    Remember that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Take it one step at a time, trust the process, and keep moving forward. It’s important to celebrate your progress, such as completing two semesters, and pat yourself on the back. As you continue on the next loops, hold that torch of motivation burning brightly to inspire others.  Always be excited and slightly terrified, and keep your eyes on the finish line!

    Categories: Blog, Program Reflections, Student Contributor

  • 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

  • My First Year in the SSAS Program

    Blog Contributor: Sanjida Amin

    I still remember the sense of gratification I felt when I accepted the offer letter from Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS). I was looking forward to learning and enhancing my knowledge of sustainability while studying with a bunch of my peers from around the world. As an international student, I was nervous about moving across the globe and attempting to fit into the classroom of sustainability which is one of the most diverse classrooms in the entire world. However, I had no time to worry once my experience at SSAS started. I was able to find my groove and build my confidence with the help of my awesome supervisor, encouraging peer group, amazing faculty members and the supportive administration. It’s hard to imagine that I joined the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) programme only a few months ago and now I am almost done with my first year.  I must say that time surely flies! Since taking that very first class, I have learned a lot about sustainability, encountered with some amazing individuals, made some life-long memories, achieved valuable work experience, and successfully submitted my thesis proposal. Throughout this blog, I will be sharing my experiences which I have gathered through the completion of my first year of the program here at Brock.

    First and second term:

    I am in the thesis scheme and I had to take four courses in total throughout the academic year. The design of the SSAS masters course are truly appreciated since all those courses cover a variety of topics including basic sustainability concepts to research methodology. SSAS 5P01: Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society was one of my favourite classes which introduced the core ideas of sustainability science and society. I also really enjoyed SSAS 5P02: Methods for Environmental Inquiry since it provided me with opportunity to learn about the methods of research and explore my research methodology ideas, particularly in the context of sustainability science. SSAS 5P04: Transdisciplinary Seminar course was very helpful for me because every seminar discussion was full of relevant knowledge, information and practical experiences which illustrated the transition period along with the challenges and opportunities to become a sustainability graduate throughout the whole journey. I had another interesting course namely SSAS: 5P80 Directed Study which was taken under the direct supervision of my supervisor, specifically to explore the previous literature and to accumulate the knowledge in the field of my research areas. All of these courses provided me with a deeper understanding of the diversified dimensions of sustainability science and really highlighted the programme’s goal to be transdisciplinary.

    My thesis and research proposal presentation:

    Understanding my research interests and working on my thesis proposal took up a significant portion of my first year in the graduate program. My research is on “Predicting Consumers’ Sustainable Food Consumption Behaviour”. This proposal presentation session was the most interesting component of my SSAS masters journey. We the students from SSAS, 2022 cohort shared our preliminary research (Thesis/MRP) proposals and research ideas with the audience in the area of sustainability. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for this proposal presenting session, which was both exciting and nerve-wracking. Finally, after getting valuable feedback and great compliments from my peers, supervisors and faculty members, I felt relaxed. It was extremely impressive to see how faculty members, supervisors, former students, and ESRC staff members attended and took an interest in each issue that was discussed. I am grateful to my supervisor Dr. Todd Green to be extremely supportive, to motivate me to present my research proposal in a room full of scholars and to guide me to the right direction throughout my journey. Throughout my first year, I have come to realize how much I enjoy doing research. I am looking forward to finishing my thesis with some outstanding findings. I can’t wait to take on the challenge of research, even though it offers its unique set of challenges and I still have a lot to learn.

    Research Assistantship position:

    I have worked as a Research Assistant for The Brock University Project Charter in addition to taking classes and doing my thesis for this year. I have got an excellent team in this project to work with whom I developed social media contents, wrote blog posts, hosted multiple events, submitted data for Times Higher Impact Ranking, and worked on several initiatives to advance sustainability and awareness around the campus. Moreover, I worked on promoting, measuring and tracking the social media platforms for the Sustainability at Brock initiative as a part of this. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Amanda Smits, Madison Lepp, Alexandra Cotrufo and Kassie Burns for their immense support and kindness while working for the project.

    People and Relationships:

    Last but not least, the relationships I have made with my cohorts, faculty members, my supervisor and administrative staffs here at the SSAS have been the most favourite part of this academic year. I have gathered a bunch of wonderful memories while studying, working, discussing and enjoying time with these amazing people of the SSAS program at Brock. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the loveliest people who are all passionately committed to advancing sustainability and making a positive difference for the environment. Each and every individual I have met through this programme has taught me something new, motivated me through their kind words and supported me in every single way. Coming abroad for study, moving away from home country for the first time, adjusting to new weather, copying with new academic, cultural and social challenges, and getting used to the unknown surroundings was not an easy journey for me initially. However, with the help and support of this people mentioned above, I made it to increase confidence and courage beyond my imagination. Wherever I will be, I believe that the strong bonding I have established with this group will stay with me for the rest of my life. I would love to cherish all these memories forever!

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

  • 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

  • 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