Program Reflections

  • 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

  • Master of Sustainability Reflection

    Nolan Kelly

    Blog Contributor: Nolan Kelly

    Background

    It is very hard to believe that it has been 8 months since I started my journey as a Master of Sustainability student at Brock. Although I am all done my in-class portion of the program, I still have the Major Research Paper and co-op placement to look forward to. While this is exciting, it also marks the end of my time attending classes at Brock University after 5 years here. As a result, I have decided to reflect on this time by looking back at how I got to where I am, and the influence that the program has had on me. The route I decided to take in my undergrad and masters was a little bit different, and I think that by highlighting my experience and the pathway I took, I can help other students who don’t know what to do next or need a little guidance. Hopefully this can also give students some perspective on the Master of Sustainability program itself to see if it is the right fit for them. This blog will reflect on my background, how I became interested in sustainability and some of the main takeaways that I have learned.

    Minor in Environmental Sustainability

    One of the most difficult and important decisions a person has to make is deciding what educational path they want to take. I was heavily torn between choosing the Sport Management program at Brock or choosing an environmentally based program elsewhere. I ended up choosing the Sport Management program and although I was happy with my decision, I was unsure of how I was going to have any environmental component to my education. During my first year I was thrilled to find out there was an environmental sustainability minor being introduced. I jumped on the opportunity and was really pleased with the amount of choice and diversity there was amongst these minor credits. The two introductory environmental courses were online and did a great job at building up my base of knowledge and first showed me the transdisciplinary aspect of sustainability. In researching this minor, I discovered that there were aspects of science, history, geography, sociology and political science that all came together to give me a better understanding of sustainability science. In fourth year, the contemporary environmental issues course that was the last mandatory credit needed for the environmental sustainability minor, really drew me in. The course was extremely engaging, informative, and left me feeling inspired every time I left. The combination of all the minor courses and especially this last course paved the way for me committing to the Master of Sustainability program.

    Sport Management

    As mentioned above, I came to Brock for their Sport Management program and I really enjoyed it. As I progressed with each year, I found myself drawing upon the knowledge I learned in my environmental sustainability minor and applying it to sport. By third and fourth year I really became interested in the intersection between sport and the environment and took sport management classes that would let me further explore this topic. There were also professors along the way that highlighted the importance of sustainability and the environment which furthered my interest in the topic. When I told people what I was minoring in most would have the same reaction of thinking it was an interesting topic but very different than my major. While I could see how many would think this, I saw the correlation between the two and wanted to explore the ways in which this gap between sport and the environment could be bridged. As a result, I researched the impact and reliance that sport has on the environment and the opportunities that exist within sustainability in sport. I took this interest into my master of sustainability program and decided to make it the central focus of the major research paper that I am writing this summer. While sport management is just one example, it highlights that sustainability has a place in everything.

    Takeaways

    My experience in the master of sustainability program has only solidified this as the transdisciplinary nature of the program was very evident. This allowed me to develop new perspectives in many different areas and further expand my knowledge in sustainability. At the start of the year I was a little reserved and felt like because my background was not more closely related with sustainability science, that it would be an area of weakness for me. However, this was not the case as I learned that my different background added to the conversation and offered a different perspective. While the imposter syndrome many students feel can be difficult to overcome, the professors did a great job at encouraging our ideas and reinforcing the transdisciplinary nature of sustainability. Collaborating with my cohort on projects and assignments was definitely one of the most enjoyable aspects of the program. Not only were we able to play to our strengths and be creative but it was a great example of how sustainability works in the real world. We were able to further see this firsthand in our transdisciplinary seminars with professionals in the field. Without collaboration and different perspectives, sustainability could not be successful.

    Categories: Blog, Minor in Sustainability, Program Reflections, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor