Sustainability Council Annual Report 2021

Experiential and Work-Integrated Learning

Experiential learning connects students to their field of study through direct experiences that lead to challenge, reflection and personal growth. Students engage in self-discovery and learn how to use their talents, creativity and curiosity to contribute to collective action on sustainability.

Sustainability Scholars
Sustainability Scholars are University of Alberta graduate students who complete 250-hour applied research projects as part of a work placement with Edmonton-area corporate, institutional and government partners. They work directly with professional mentors, gaining real-world experience and insight into their field of research and a possible career path.
We worked hard to maintain strong partnerships in the face of pandemic-related capacity and budgetary constraints across the city’s institutions and corporations. The City of Edmonton stepped down as co-organizer in January 2021. The City of Edmonton was a founding partner in 2015 and the program has since expanded, gaining momentum and new definition. Asa result, the Sustainability Council has taken on primary leadership for running the program.
Growth in positions since 2015
Overcoming these challenges, we successfully placed 19 scholars with ten organizations focused on smart city technologies, naturalization, supporting Indigenous women entrepreneurs, community gardening and more.
Of these, three positions were created for a first-ever January cohort created to serve longstanding mentors with the City of Spruce Grove, Town of Stony Plain, and Energy Management and Sustainable Operations. For the May cohort, we identified new organizations in underrepresented sectors and topic areas, successfully recruiting two new organizations (Alberta Women Entrepreneurs and Clark Builders) and four new mentors inside the City of Edmonton.
Career trajectories for former Scholars
While many Sustainability Scholars are still completing their studies, we are seeing a strong trend that program participants go on to successfully start a career in sustainability-related fields.

Internships with the Sustainability Council
Sustainability Council internships offer part-time work experience to undergraduate and graduate students over the course of the academic year. Interns learn through applied project-based work, outreach activities, by leading volunteers, and through engagement with senior staff and faculty members. Our internships are investments in promising students and frequently lead to careers in sustainability.
In 2020–21, Hussain Al-Rikabi (MSc immunology) returned for another year to help run online events at Sustainability Awareness Week and for the lecture series throughout the rest of the year. Olivia DeBourcier (BSc environmental science) contributed her writing, design and video making abilities to our editorial. Sara Haidey (MSc urban and regional planning) was instrumental in completing the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. Her post was picked up in May by recent BSc graduate Kaila Belovich.
Career trajectories for former interns
Of 60 interns over the last decade (including interns from the Office of Sustainability), 30 have entered sustainability-related careers. Some have now risen to sustainability leadership positions in organizations such as Leadnow, Creative Destruction Lab, Canadian Pacific Railway, RecycleSmart, the Government of Alberta and the University of Alberta.

Volunteers with the Sustainability Council
The Sustainability Council’s long-running volunteer program for undergraduate and graduate students was restructured this year. This was partly in order to continue providing opportunities during remote schooling. More generally, broadening out from an exclusively team-based model to include one-off projects means students have more flexibility in terms of how much they can commit to the council. Regardless of their level of involvement, volunteering helps students enhance their skills, improve career prospects and gain a fuller understanding of sustainability.
The current volunteer group includes 40 students with 13 of those students being new sign ups in 2021. The group spans various disciplines which include: nursing, kinesiology, agriculture, business, engineering, science, education, public health and arts.
As part of the restructuring, our volunteers are now more closely integrated into the student union’s volunteer program, able to take part in Sustain SU community hours, professional development sessions, and services such as the Campus Community Garden.
Volunteer Activities in 2020-21
Active volunteer teams included the Recycling Street Team, Campus Saint-Jean Team, and the Workshops and Presentations Team.
Volunteers began to lay the foundation for a Sustainable Development Goals Student Alliance to launch in fall 2021.
With an intern’s support, volunteers developed and presented a Sustainability Kahoot! game for participants attending the Alberta Student Leadership Summit.
Volunteers developed and delivered a Sustainable Development Goals workshop for students in the the English Language School.
With the Augustana Campus sustainability intern, screened the documentary film Chasing Coral and moderated a live discussion.
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