SSAS Alumni Contributor

  • New Research from Master of Sustainability Alumni

    For Leaya Amey (above, R) and Alison Feist (L) (Master of Sustainability Class of 2019), publishing their research is an exciting way for them to integrate the knowledge they gained in the SSAS program with their professional careers in the field of sustainability science.

    Amey, who completed the program in December 2018 and graduated in June 2019, has been working for Maple Leaf Foods as a Sustainability Specialist after reaching out to a connection through LinkedIn. She credits the Master of Sustainability program for providing “a necessary foundation of knowledge regarding sustainability-related concepts and practices”. Amey is also thankful for the exposure she received through the program to how Brock University communicates and practices sustainability; “I was interested in how universities (or entities in general) were planning and strategizing for sustainable development now and in the future”.

    This interest is reflected in a recently published article that was co-written by Amey and her former SSAS co-supervisors Drs. Ryan Plummer and Gary Pickering. The study, according to Amey, “sought to better understand online communications related to sustainability by Canadian universities. Specifically, how many Canadian universities communicate about sustainability online, what types of features are offered on Canadian universities sustainability websites to engage users in sustainability-related topics, how many Canadian universities have a downloadable sustainability plan and what are the quality of those plans”. The study found that while 67% of Canadian universities communicate sustainability on their websites, only 22% have a downloadable sustainability plan, and that these plans range in quality. These findings are important because, as Amey explains, “[they] assist with understanding how higher education institutions (HEIs) can enhance sustainability communication via websites and sustainability plans.

    Coincidentally, Amey’s fellow Class of 2019 member Alison Feist is also interested in sustainability as it applies to higher education institutions. Feist currently works as the Mission Zero Coordinator for Sheridan College, which focuses on sustainability and engagement in an institutional setting. In addition to her work at Sheridan, Feist has also had the opportunity to contribute a case story from her thesis research in the Master of Sustainability program to the Atlantic Chapter of Canada’s National Climate Change Assessment.

    Feist’s research, co-authored by Drs. Ryan Plummer and Julia Baird, and Simon J. Mitchell, explored how collaboration works in climate change adaptation in New Brunswick to understand how people come together to work towards/implement solutions in a climate adaptation context. Specifically, said Feist, “exploring qualities in the collaborative process (i.e.  attributes of how people interact together like learning, or building trust), outcomes, and how these are brought about in the process was of interest”. Feist explained that the findings of this study “[identified] important themes around how these [qualities and outcomes] came about- which were centered around learning and becoming educated about climate risks and acting on this together as people recognized and began to understand the need for adaptation action. These findings provided some insight into the importance of certain qualities and outcomes to the complex process of collaboration, and it can help collaborative groups understand group dynamics as they work in climate adaptation settings.”

    Like Amey, Feist credits the Master of Sustainability program at Brock with teaching some of the important concepts needed for her research, “Collaboration is an important concept which is found in many sustainability topics, and it is also something that I did many, many times while working with a research team (and in class settings) during my time in the program!”.

    Dr. Ryan Plummer, ESRC Director and former supervisor for both Amey and Feist, is extremely proud of this accomplishment by his former students. “Publication of their manuscripts in international journals following rigorous peer review is a testament to the high quality of their research and their contributions to scholarship”, said Plummer. Plummer believes that the research published by Amey and Feist demonstrates their intellectual capacity and tenacity. It reflects very positively on the important concepts, skills, and critical thinking that are taught in the SSAS program.

    Amey and Feist’s research are both available to read for free through the following links:

    Leaya Amey’s research on Website communications for campus sustainability can be found here.

    Alison Feist’s research on Examining collaborative processes for climate change adaptation in New Brunswick, Canada can be found here.

    Categories: SSAS Alumni Contributor, SSAS Program

  • Meet SSAS Alumnus: Nicholas Fischer

    Blog Contributor: Meredith DeCock

    For our first instalment of the ‘Meet SSAS Alumni’ series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Fischer, a former Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) master’s student who entered the program in September of 2016. As a current student in the program, it was a pleasure to hear about where he came from, his time in the program, and what he is up to now.

    Nick Fisher

    Photo: Nicholas Fisher, SSAS Alumnus who is now working as a Policy and Planning Officer for Conservation Ontario.

    Q1: What path did you take to end up in the Brock SSAS Master’s Program?

    I decided to attend Trent University for International Development Studies and Political Studies. I really wanted to take the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary field of education, which broadened my understanding of the social, economic, and political dynamics of our modern world. In my third year, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador, and I jumped on it! While our first semester was regular classes, the second involved an intensive four-month placement with a local agency. Luckily, I was accepted to work with an incredible organization named Kallari (Kay-yar-ri) (best chocolate of my life, Google them!). Deep in the Amazon, I worked with local communities who participated in a cooperative-structured chocolate company and I received a great education in polyculture crops, community sustainability, effective resource management and overall respect for shared natural systems. Upon my return to Trent for my fourth year, I made sure to fill my timetable with as many environmental courses as I could to further develop my knowledge and passion for the sector. The SSAS program at Brock seemed like a natural next step to further develop my knowledge and passion for the environmental sector in an interdisciplinary setting.

    Q2: What stream of the SSAS program did you complete and what was the focus of your MRP or Thesis?

    I decided to enter the Co-op and Major Research Paper option at Brock. It is hard enough for a young graduate out of school to be competitive in the environmental field, so I knew I wanted to take advantage of the work experience during my education. As for my MRP, I was lucky enough to work with Dr. Tim Heinmiller and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau. With Dr. Heinmiller’s guidance, we settled on assessing the impacts of the Greenbelt Plan to the Niagara Region agricultural community and support network. I have always enjoyed local advocacy work and wanted my MRP to be reflective of my time in Niagara, hence focussing the impact assessment to the Region. I set out to identify key impacts or barriers posed to the agricultural community in Niagara as a result of the Greenbelt legislation and used my project as a means to identify potential areas of improvement to future iterations of the Plan to protect the agricultural industry, a cornerstone in many rural economies. Both Dr. Heinmiller and Dr. Jollineau were incredible mentors to me throughout the process. Both encouraged me to use completely new methods of analysis for my project and provided me with the resources I needed to succeed.

    Q3: How would you describe your overall experience in the SSAS Master’s Program at Brock? And is there a particular highlight that comes to mind during your time in the program?

    I would say my overall experience in the SSAS program at Brock was positive, although challenging at times. The incredible nature of an interdisciplinary program is that you are exposed to members of your cohort who come from vastly different educational backgrounds. This diverse mix allows you to have some really interesting conversations and address environmental issues from an array of angles, but also poses challenges when you are asked to work in a group setting. Of course, this is a mirror to the realities of the workforce, so I came to appreciate the practical application of this style of education. There were many highlights during my time with the SSAS program; however, the one in particular which stands out is being able to present my Three Minute Thesis in from of the staff and students of the ESRC. In the MRP stream, you don’t defend your final body of work, so the 3MT gave me a small taste of an academic defense. Don’t get me wrong, it was the most vulnerable I had felt during my whole time at Brock since I was putting my research out in the open for criticism and comments, but at the end I was so proud of how it went.

    Q4: What is your current job? Please provide a job description of what you get to do in your current role.

    I currently work at Conservation Ontario as a Policy and Planning Officer, and I am absolutely loving it! I have been in my position for 8 months now and have learned so much along the way. Conservation Ontario is a not-for-profit environmental association which represents Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities. In my capacity, I am responsible for advocating on behalf of the Conservation Authorities on all applicable provincial proposals, such as those related to Climate Change, Development, Provincial Growth, Drinking Water, Great Lakes Protection, and Endangered Species and Fisheries. I work with Conservation Authorities to develop key messaging to the province to ensure that the core mandate (to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats) can be effectively achieved. In addition, I work with Conservation Authorities to address questions related to our Class Environmental Assessment process and represent Conservation Ontario at a number of conferences and on provincial working groups. The most interesting thing about my job is that I get to work alongside some of the brightest people in the environmental sector who are challenged with balancing population growth with protection for natural resources and drinking water across Ontario.

    Q5: How do you feel the SSAS program helped prepare you for this position?

    Aside from the interdisciplinary setting which I already spoke to, my co-op placement is most likely largely responsible for my success in this new role. I was fortunate enough to complete my work placement with the Ministry of Transportation’s Environmental Policy Office in St. Catharines. There, I worked on files related to Environmental Assessment reform, and assisted on a number of other projects and initiatives, such as the provincial biodiversity strategy and road ecology. Much like my team now, the team with the MTO needed to incorporate planning decisions into their policy work, which allowed me to gain an understanding of the interrelated nature of the two fields. I will always be thankful to the SSAS program for this opportunity because, not only was able to apply my education in a practical context, but I have maintained some amazing professional and personal relationships with the staff from my co-op placement.

     

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