SSAS Program

  • Panel Discussion: Exploring Careers in Sustainability

    On January 21st at 11AM, The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre’s Sustainability Seminar Series will continue with a panel discussion focused on exploring careers in the field of sustainability. This panel will be moderated by Marilyne Jollineau and will consist of four professionals that will share their experiences navigating the transition from graduate school into their current fields, how their co-op positions helped facilitate the transition, the key skills that have been the most helpful in their roles, and the challenges or opportunities they faced throughout their journey from graduate student to where they are today.

    The panelists include three SSAS alumni: Leaya Amey, Kelsey Scarfone, and Nicholas Fischer.

    Leaya Amey

    Leaya Amey graduated from the SSAS program in 2019 and is currently a Sustainability Reporting Specialist at Maple Leaf Foods Inc. In her role, Leaya leads the development of the Annual Sustainability Report and all communications related to the company’s sustainability performance to its key stakeholders through various channels.

     

     

     

     

     

    Kelsey Scarfone

    Kelsey Scarfone graduated from the SSAS program in 2017 and is now a Policy & Campaign Manager at Nature Canada, one of Canada’s oldest national nature charities. Through her role, Kelsey advances conservation across the country by advocating for the expansion of protected areas for lands, freshwater, and the oceans.

     

     

     

     

     

    Nicholas Fischer

    Nicholas Fischer graduated from the SSAS program in 2018 and is working at Conservation Ontario as a Policy & Planning Officer. Nicholas’ work focusses on policy subject areas that may impact conservation authority business, including: Integrated Watershed Management, Land Use Planning, Endangered Species, Water Quantity and Quality Management/Protection, and Environmental Assessment.

     

     

     

     

     

    Kara Renaud

    The panel will also include Kara Renaud who is the Supervisor of Career Education at Brock. Kara is a graduate from the Master of Education Program at Brock and as Supervisor of Career Education, Kara oversees the staffing and operations of CareerZone and supports the career development of students through 1:1 consultations and workshops.

     

     

     

     

     

    This panel will be extremely informative for anyone looking to secure a co-op or a full-time job in the field of sustainability and is definitely an event you do not want to miss! Join us live on January 21st at 11AM to learn more about working in sustainability and receive valuable advice from SSAS graduates by clicking this link.

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, SSAS Program

  • Experiential Education in a Virtual Year

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

    2020 orientation

    In an academic year quite unlike any other, the first year Master of Sustainability students experienced experiential education in a very different form, the virtual kind. Three virtual experiential education components took place in SSAS 5P01 (Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society), focusing on sustainability at Brock, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, and the ESRC’s innovative partnerships.

    Sustainability at Brock usually would have involved a tour of Brock’s Central Utilities Building, but instead involved Mary Quintana (Director, Asset Management & Utilities) and Amanda Smits (ESRC Centre Administrator) virtually joining the class to discuss how Brock is committed to sustainability through management of facilities. The students were virtually walked through Brock’s District Energy Efficiency Project (DEEP), which involved replacing old co-generation engines with state-of-the-art energy efficient units. The students were walked through how this project had increased energy efficiency and lowered Brock’s carbon emissions, helping the university stay on track with their sustainability targets. The students were also introduced to the sustainability initiatives on campus through BU Sustainable, including the @busustainableInstagram and other social media platforms. Even though the students couldn’t walk the underground tunnels of Brock instead, they still got to learn and experience all of the ways in which Brock is currently enacting sustainability every single day through a virtual presentation.

    The second experiential education component focused on UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, including the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, a reserve in which Brock University is situated. The students were virtually joined by Dr. Liette Vasseur who is a faculty member at Brock University and Lisa Grbinicek, a Senior Strategic Advisor at the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Through their presentations we were taught about the Ontario’s Greenbelt, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, and natures contributions to people. The discussion was kicked off by highlighting the vast expanse that is the Greenbelt, which is 1.8 million acres of protected land spread across Ontario, including the Niagara Escarpment. The unique biodiversity within the Niagara Escarpment was discussed, including thousand-year-old trees, rare flora, and multitudes of mammals, birds, and reptiles. The students learned about the early plans put in place to protect the greenbelt and its designation as a biosphere reserve in 1990. From there, new developments in UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves were discussed, including the ongoing conversation around the colonial implications of the term and the aim to change the term to Biosphere Region. The students also got to learn about ongoing developments in the field of biodiversity, including the differences between ecosystem services and natures contribution to people. Overall, the students got to hear from two professionals who have spent years in the field, protecting and researching biodiversity, and got to learn about the natural wonders that surround Brock.

    The final educational component highlighted the innovative community partnerships in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC). While in any other year this would have involved the students visiting these partnerships in person through an interactive field trip, instead this course component took place virtually this year. The students were joined by Ryan Plummer (Director of the ESRC), Amanda Smits (ESRC Centre Administrator) and Erica Harper (a second year SASS student and ESRC co-op student). The students were walked through each of these partnerships and learned how the ESRC is actively integrating transdisciplinary research into the surrounding community. The ESRC is currently involved in 8 community partnerships, including the Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Niagara Adapts, Trail Assets and Tourism, and a new Living Planet @ Campus partnership with WWF. As transdisciplinary research is a pillar of the SASS program and the ESRC, it was very important for the students to experience how the centre is integrating the transdisciplinary approach into their own partnerships. So, while the students did not get to visit these partnerships, they were still able to experience and learn about all of the work that the ESRC is doing within the community and learn about these partnerships.

    In a virtual year, experiential education can be a difficult thing to accomplish but the SASS students were still able to learn about and experience all of the ways in which sustainability is lived out at Brock, including through the facilities management, Brock’s place in a Biosphere Reserve, and the ESRC’s innovative partnerships.

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Interview with SSAS Co-op Students

    Our Master of Sustainability students have been hard at work during the summer and fall terms to complete their co-ops and major research papers. In this blog post, we interview four students who have either completed their co-op or are expected to complete it in the coming weeks. They will introduce their respective roles, responsibilities, how their courses in the SSAS program contributed to their success throughout their co-op placements, as well as how their role enriched their understanding of sustainability. The featured students are Pulkit Garg, Samantha Gauthier, Erica Harper, and Michaela Jennings and they will provide you with an idea of the various co-op roles available for Master of Sustainability candidates.

    Pulkit Garg

    Your title and the company you work for: ​Project Manager, Co-op at RBC

    What are the main duties or the projects you’ve been working on? As the lead project manager for a regulatory project to serve Seniors (ages: 60+), I fulfilled a wide array of responsibilities including:

    • Leading and overseeing all project activities throughout the term
    • Developing and defining project deliverables
    • Building the project schedule, implementation plan, assessing business requirements, and conducting project reviews
    • Identifying and resolving project issues and risks
    • Determining when and how to escalate issues accordingly
    • Establishing and maintaining strong relationships with Sponsors, Senior Business Leads, third-party vendors, and other core members to meet project deliverables
    • Providing ongoing support – generating alternative solutions to the initially proposed recommendation when issues arise

    How did your course work in the Master of Sustainability program contribute to the success you experienced in your co-op role? The SSAS program has been pivotal to the success of my co-op because of its transdisciplinary and experiential nature involving complex problem solving, teamwork, and leadership. More importantly, the course on Project Management during the Winter 2020 term (SSAS 5P03) played a key role in my success at RBC as it provided a first-hand PM experience through a course consulting project, where we were tasked with addressing Lincoln’s irrigation concerns. Finally, my Masters’ research project (MRP) has taught me resilience and the importance of openness to feedback and continuous learning, along with research/analytical capabilities.

    What was one thing/lesson you learned this summer that you hope to bring into your career? It is okay to feel uncomfortable and it is okay to fail. The important thing is to learn continuously and be open to feedback.

    How did your co-op role enrich your understanding of sustainability? ​My Co-op helped me to move out of the myopic view of sustainability that often gets regarded as “environmental sustainability”. Through a regulatory project aimed at improving banking services and safeguarding one of the most vulnerable segments of our society (seniors), I could leverage my sustainability background to improve the social and economic sustainability at a macro scale. My co-op also helped me to realize the important role that corporates (and specifically banks) can play in improving the sustainability in Canada.

    Sam Gauthier

    Your title and the company you work for: This summer, my placement as a survey student and inspector took place at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

    What are the main duties or the projects you’ve been working on? During my placement I was responsible for two different surveys. The first survey was looking for invasive pests, such as the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA). This took me to many beautiful places in the forests surrounding the Niagara region, and I even got to explore many of the local waterfalls. The second survey I was responsible for was looking at the peach and plum orchards sampling trees for Plum Pox Virus (PPV).

    How did your work relate to sustainability? Both of these surveys relate to sustainability through the health of ecosystems and of the people of Niagara. The spread of pests and viruses such as both the HWA and PPV can have detrimental effects to ecosystems, people, and even the economy. By monitoring these issues and managing outbreaks it allows us to maintain healthy environments and control future outbreaks.

    How did being a student in the SSAS program contribute to your success in your co-op role? Being a student in the SSAS program has given me the skills to be able to adapt to new situations. This co-op placement was unfamiliar to me but being a student in the SSAS program taught me how to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to adapt to new roles and work through tasks that are unfamiliar to me.

    What was one thing/lesson you learned this summer that you hope to bring into your career? One thing that I took away from my co-op in relation to my career is to be open minded when looking for future job prospects. My co-op role was in a field that I am not familiar with (agriculture), but I learnt a lot and really enjoyed my time there. It will allow me to be more flexible when looking and applying for future jobs.

    How did your co-op role enrich your understanding of sustainability? My co-op role allowed me to enrich my understanding of sustainability through a different lens. It showed me that sustainability is used in many positions and that the opportunities are endless. This showed me that sustainability is a growing field and is needed in all industries in order to be successful.

     

    Erica Harper

    Erica Harper

    Your title and the company you work for: Sustainability Communications Specialist, The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre – Brock University

    What are the main duties or the projects you’ve been working on? As a Sustainability Communications Specialist, I have a wide variety of responsibilities. For example, I am responsible for developing email, blog, and social media communications on behalf of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. These communications are sent to SSAS students, our community partners, as well as guest speakers for the virtual events that we host. Since I have marketing background, I have been involved in advertising the SSAS program through social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. One project that I’ve been working on is developing a “best practices” document for stakeholder communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    How did your course work in the Master of Sustainability program contribute to the success you experienced in your co-op role? My course work, specifically what I learned through my MRP, Foundations of Sustainability Science (SSAS 5P01), and Climate Change Adaptation (SSAS 5P12), has helped me to communicate complex topics in accessible language. These courses taught me how to write in a way that is effective and appropriate for the target audience, which is an essential skill in any communications role. Thanks to the courses I took in my first year of my master’s program, I am confident in my abilities to successfully tailor my communications about upcoming events, social media campaigns, and “best practices” in an online world to a wide variety of people.

    What was one thing/lesson you learned this summer that you hope to bring into your career? Throughout this co-op (and this entire year), I learned that it’s important to plan but it’s also important to go with the flow when your plan does not materialise. I have always been someone who likes to know exactly what will happen at a given event or meeting but completing my co-op during a global pandemic has changed my perspective. I am now an even more adaptable colleague who can rapidly shift my plan on the spot depending on changing situations within and outside the organization. I’m excited about bringing my skills of adaptability and problem-solving that I have developed through this experience into my career moving forward.

    How did your co-op role enrich your understanding of sustainability? My co-op role is directly related to implementing environmental sustainability at the local and community levels, which was very rewarding for me. It enriched my understanding of sustainability by providing me with the opportunities to connect with professionals in the field of sustainability through networking and attending conferences such as one hosted by the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). These experiences allowed me to gain a more well-rounded appreciation for sustainability and how I can affect change at the local, governmental, and organizational levels.

    Michaela Jennings

    Michaela Jennings

    Your title and the company you work for: Research Assistant, Environmental Sustainability Resource Centre- Niagara Adapts

    What are the main duties or the projects you’ve been working on? I have been working with the partners to help them in creating their Climate Change Adaptation plans, which will be implemented in their community. My tasks include, providing feedback, research materials, drafts, templates, and assisting in creating materials for the workshops Niagara Adapts provides for their partners. In this position I have also been working with the partners and the Brock Team to create a stakeholder engagement piece. This will be able to provide the partners to engage with their community and staff in order help them in the planning process.

    How did your course work in the Master of Sustainability program contribute to the success you experienced in your co-op role? Many of my courses, including my MRP term over the summer, have been useful in providing me with an understanding of the different elements of sustainability and society, but also the methods and tools that are useful. My role has been greatly impacted by what I had learnt in 5P12 Climate Change Adaptation and Transformation. This course provided the groundwork and the hands-on experience that introduced us to creating a municipal plan. This course, paired with the others in the program, have allowed for me to expand on what I learnt and apply it in real-world settings.

    What was one thing/lesson you learned this summer (Fall) that you hope to bring into your career? I have learned that sometimes things do not go according to plan, and you have to be adaptable and be able to think of solutions. This is beneficial for me in my future career because I will have developed stronger problem-solving skills, which allow for me to look at situations a bit differently, and will it be beneficial in any role.

    How did your co-op role enrich your understanding of sustainability? My co-op has allowed for me to be engaged in a variety of approaches to sustainability. From academic, political, and a consulting point of view. Each has increased my understanding of a different element of sustainability, and primarily the real-world possibilities that exist beyond the classroom.

     

    As you can see, since the students in our Master of Sustainability program have such a diverse educational background, there are a wide variety of co-op roles available for them in fields such as banking, education, and ecology. To learn more about the Master of Sustainability program at Brock, click here.

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Niagara Adapts, SSAS Program, Sustainability at Brock

  • Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development: Expert Perspectives

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    On October 22nd, the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre hosted their second Sustainability Seminar Series event of the term. The event consisted of a panel discussion with three professionals in the green infrastructure and low impact design space with decades of rich experiences and knowledge bases. The panelists were: Safdar Abidi, Principal, Practice Leader at Perkins and Will, Dr. Janani Sivarajah, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and Paul Leitch, Director, Environmental Sustainability Services at Blackstone Energy Services.

    The panel kicked off with an important question – “what do ‘low impact’ and ‘sustainability’ mean to you?”. This question allowed the panelists to provide the audience members with their perspective and lens when it comes to working in the low impact development and green infrastructure industry. The responses varied greatly, but one common theme was that sustainability and low impact design need to be synonymous with social, ecological, and economical resilience. Another key aspect of sustainability that Dr Sivarajah, Mr. Abidi, and Mr. Leitch pointed out was that buildings and designs must be “low impact” not only for humans, but animals, plants, and all other ecological systems for us all to thrive.

    The second questions asked panelists to identify challenges that they perceive as roadblocks to implementing low impact development and green infrastructure. Mr. Leitch highlighted that many facilities and organizations have conflicting priorities that get in the way of integrating green infrastructure and low impact development, but that we must properly communicate the benefits of sustainable design for it to be implemented “from the boiler room to the board room”. Additionally, Mr. Abidi stated that as long as we see sustainability as an optional choice instead of a priority, we will not be able to move forward in terms of green infrastructure and low impact development and we must debunk the myth that “climate change is a subjective issue”. Lastly, Dr. Sivarajah mentioned that sustainable design is often an afterthought and we try to fit it in after the “grey” infrastructure is set. Dr. Sivarajah also stated that we need to go back to our roots, making sure that low impact development and green infrastructure are planned from the onset of a development with transdisciplinary perspectives as stakeholders must work together to implement radical green infrastructure.

    The event’s last question allowed the audience to get a glimpse into how the experienced panelists view the future of low impact development and green infrastructure. To begin, Mr. Abidi explained that the pandemic has provided humans with a strong signal to take a step back and reflect on the value of being part of a community. For a thriving community, we must have the following: healthier and active lifestyles, equity in terms of access to public spaces, and community building. Dr. Sivarajah drove home the importance of planning urban spaces with intention and in a holistic manner that accounts for accessibility, equity, and sustainability for all living beings. Lastly, Mr. Leitch believes that although the transition towards prioritizing low impact development and green infrastructure will be a gradual one, as behavioural changes expand, green infrastructure and low impact development will become expected standards that offer great benefits tied to wellbeing.

    The panel discussion concluded with each professional’s closing statement for audience members. Mr. Leitch stated the importance of generating solutions for complex issues in a “people-oriented way” and to hold strong when it comes to our path with sustainability in school and in our careers. Additionally, Dr. Sivarajah told the students in the audience that they were the future of sustainability and that it is crucial to prioritize your values as they will guide you in the professional world. Lastly, Mr. Abidi left us with the fact that we are in a position of privilege to even have the knowledge to find solutions to climate change and reverse the damage that humans have done to our planet. Mr. Abidi also asked students to think of themselves as “healers of the Earth” as they go on to pursue different career paths in sustainability, low impact development, and green infrastructure.

    All in all, this was an inspiring event that helped students gain a deeper understanding of the major current challenges that professionals face in the space of green infrastructure and low impact design, while also being exposed to ways in which we can overcome them with transdisciplinary solutions.

    This panel was live-streamed – a recording is available on our YouTube channel.

    Categories: Blog, Brock Lincoln Living Lab, Experiential Education, Prudhommes Project, SSAS Program, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock, Town of Lincoln

  • Congratulations to our Fall 2020 Graduates!

    The ESRC is proud to announce that three students have officially completed the SSAS program and are graduating on October 16th, 2020! Emma Baker, Meredith Caspell, and Seyi Obasi made important contributions to the field of sustainability science through their research projects while also engaging in other scholarly activities during their time in the SSAS program. We are very proud of them; it’s been an honour to be a part of their academic journey.

    Emma Baker joined the SSAS program in 2018 after receiving an Honours BA in Environmental Governance and Geography from the University of Guelph. Her research project, entitled “Resilience in the City: An Analysis of Urban Water Resilience in Strategic Documents for Toronto, Canada” was supervised by Dr. Julia Baird. In addition to this research work, Emma also completed a co-op position as a Camp Director at the Royal Botanical Gardens Discovery Camp in Hamilton. In this position, Emma helped to emphasize experiential, outdoor learning and write programs to focus on various elements of environmental education. Emma was also recently featured on CHCH News for her work at Royal Botanical Gardens!

    Meredith Caspell joined the SSAS program in 2018 from Pincher Creek, Alberta. Meredith’s thesis project, titled “Visualizing climatic and non-climatic drivers of coastline change in the Town of Lincoln, Ontario, Canada” was supervised by Dr. Liette Vasseur, and successfully defended by Meredith on June 9th, 2020. Meredith has presented her research at numerous conferences throughout her time in the program, including the CatIQ Connect 2020 conference, for which she was one of only three Canadian graduate students chosen to present. Meredith was recently named recipient of the Esri Canada GIS Scholarship for an interactive ArcGIS StoryMap she created as part of her thesis research. She has also been named recipient of the 2020 Fall Distinguished Graduate Student Award.

    Seyi Obasi travelled all the way from Lagos, Nigeria, to join the SSAS program in 2018. Along with fellow graduate Emma Baker, she joined Dr. Julia Baird’s Water Resilience Lab and began her thesis research. She successfully defended her thesis, titled “Determining Individual Endorsement Levels for Water Resilience Principles – A Case Study of the Town of Lincoln, Ontario” on May 26th, 2020. In addition to her work in the SSAS program as a student and a research assistant, Seyi was also very active with Brock International and the Brock University Graduate Student Association (GSA). She was also a recipient of the International Student Ambassador scholarship for the 2019-20 academic year.

    In addition to these three SSAS graduates, we would also like to acknowledge two undergraduate students, Ekamjot Dhillon and Jessica Marlow, who will be graduating with the Minor in Environmental Sustainability. All five of our graduates have worked exceedingly hard to reach this important academic milestone, and we hope you’ll join us in expressing our heartfelt congratulations!

    Categories: Blog, Event, SSAS Program

  • Congratulations to our Spring 2020 Graduates!

    The ESRC is very proud to announce that three students have officially completed the SSAS program and are graduating on June 19th, 2020. Jocelyn Baker, Qurat Shahzad, and Connor Thompson have all worked exceedingly hard throughout their time in the program, and we are so proud to have been a part of each of their academic journeys.

    Jocelyn Baker joined the SSAS program in 2018 and brought with her a number of previous degrees and certifications, including a BA in Geography and Fine Art (Guelph University), a certificate in Terrain and Water Resources (Sir Sanford Fleming College), and a certified Project Management Professional. Jocelyn’s research was supervised by Dr. Liette Vasseur and investigated Management in Canadian Ramsar sites and sustainability through adaptive governance. Jocelyn’s interest in Canadian Ramsar sites was also reflected in her co-op placement, where she worked as a Project Manager, Niagara River Ramsar Designation for the Niagara Restoration Council.

    Qurat Shahzad travelled to St. Catharines all the way from Dubai, UAE to join the SSAS program in 2017. Her research was supervised by Dr. Marcel Oestreich and built on the knowledge she had through her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the American University of Sharjah, UAE. Qurat’s final research investigated the dynamics between the current economic system and sustainability goals.

    Connor Thompson joined the SSAS program in 2018 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Western University). His research interests aligned with those of Dr. Todd Green, who supervised Connor’s MRP research about the attitude/behaviour gap in low-impact housing development. In addition to his work on his MRP research project and as a research assistant on the ESRC’s Charter with Facilities Management partnership, Connor spent his co-op placement working as an Educator with the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

    In addition to these three SSAS graduates, we would also like to congratulate our 10 undergraduate students who have completed the Minor in Sustainability. All 13 of our graduates have worked extremely hard to reach this important academic milestone, and we hope you’ll join us in expressing our heartfelt congratulations!

    Categories: Blog, Minor in Sustainability, SSAS Program

  • 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

  • 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