Blog Contributor: 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!