The Certificate in Sustainability rewards students for including sustainability issues within their current degree program. Open to undergraduates in ten faculties, it is designed for students to develop interdisciplinary thinking without increasing their course load. The capstone integrative project encourages experiential learning. It is a valuable credential for any student wanting to kick-start a career or pursue graduate studies in sustainability.
Interest in the Certificate in Sustainability remains high, with enrolment remaining triple the rate from before the Sustainability Council took ownership for the program. Interest has been driven in part by monthly information sessions which continued online throughout the past year.
Enrolment by year (July 1–June 30)
Graduations by year (July 1–June 30)
Enrolment by faculty
Howie Harshaw has been an advisor since the creation of the Certificate in Sustainability and this year has stepped into a leadership role as an associate director of the Sustainability Council. He is overseeing improvements to the certificate course offerings, and leads the advising team including Eva Lemaire, Sarah Peletier, Frank Robinson and the advisor from Augustana Campus. In fall 2020, Lars Hallstrom stepped down as advisor for Augustana Campus (thank you for your many years of service, Dr. Hallstrom!). Roxanne Harde filled this position for the remainder of the year, and Brandon Alakas starts as the new advisor on July 1, 2021.
Our biggest challenge this year was maintaining connection with and among enrolled students, given the university’s distributed learning environment. We increased our communication to students with a monthly newsletter between September and April, informing students of upcoming deadlines, presentation options, involvement opportunities, and to solicit feedback.
With more frequent touch points, we hoped to mitigate drop-off during this difficult year for student learning. The drop-off rate did rise from 16 to 24 per cent, within the levels we expected.
Students must present their integrative projects to complete the certificate. Typically, we facilitate in-person presentation opportunities. We adapted by providing online venues, including an exhibit on the Sustainability Awareness Week webpage and a 3-Minute Thesis session at the Alberta Student Leadership Summit, complete with training. In late March and April, we also gave over space on our Twitter and Instagram pages to present social media optimized slide decks of students’ work. In different ways, each of these online venues gave students the chance to share their work and meaningfully engage with a broader audience.
Selected integrative project presentations on Instagram
We continue to work to ensure undergraduate students can gain a foundational understanding of sustainability and sustainable development, across all faculties. Offering our own courses will empower students from diverse academic backgrounds to understand the shift to a more equitable and sustainable future at local, national and global scales.
Our proposed SUST course designator and suite of SUST courses have successfully moved through governance and are now listed in the course catalogue.
SUST 201 Introduction to Sustainability
SUST 202 Global Sustainable Development
SUST 410 Directed Studies in Sustainability
Active course development is underway for SUST 201 and SUST 202. Planning for SUST 410 is also underway. Plans are in place to offer all three courses during the 2021-22 academic year.
In addition to serving students in the Certificate in Sustainability, we are engaging other departments to identify where these courses could be integrated into other programs of study as core requirements or approved options.
Sustainability across the curriculum
The number of sustainability-focused and sustainability-related courses offered across all University of Alberta faculties has been calculated and published in the university’s STARS 2020 report.