Applied Learning & Applied Values: Students Lead the Way on Camosun’s New Sustainability Plan
When Camosun’s new Sustainability Plan was launched earlier this fall, Maria Bremner, Manager of Sustainability, credited the collaborative process, and in particular student leadership, as vital to its success.
“What will make the plan successful is sharing responsibility and promoting cooperation and collaboration,” says Bremner. “We’ve been so heartened by the involvement from faculty, students and staff across the college. It’s been a true collaborative journey and we expect to see that continue in the future.”
A key part of the plan’s development was engaging students in a meaningful way, as change agents, decision-makers, and influencers. “It was about how we as students can do more and how we can know our power and engage more people about sustainability,” says marketing student Carla Monteiro, who was one of two students funded by Camosun to attend the prestigious AASHE conference. The international gathering in Pittsburgh brought together sustainability professionals working in higher education from around the world and focus on collaborative solutions to pressing global issues. “We heard loud and clear from the conference workshops that students have this power as resilient agents of change,” she says.
Monteiro is an international student from Brazil and came to Camosun to study marketing in a post-degree program. “When I started here at Interurban, I was happy to see the different projects connected with sustainability,” she says. “One of the reasons that I chose to move to Victoria and stay in Canada is connecting with the values here and learning more about and work in the field of sustainability.”
Applying her learning – and her values – on sustainability was a perfect fit for the development of Camosun’s new plan. “One of the biggest parts involved is regarding the engagement and how to help engage students and the college community on the plan and get more people involved,” she says, noting how the cultural, educational and environmental projects she worked on in Brazil helped to inform her work at Camosun. “Since I was a kid, bringing the community together on key issues has been important to me.”
Solomon Lindsay, former Sustainability Director for the Camosun College Student Society, also attended the AASHE conference with Monteiro and played a key role in helping to shape the new sustainability plan. “For me, the student engagement was important and I’m hopeful as we move into the implementation phase that we can break down the silos at the college,” he says. ”There are several different focus points on waste, transportation, energy and a lot of the focus is going to be on projects that advance sustainability in those areas, not only individually but as part of a cohesive, coordinated effort. That’s something I’m really excited about. Hopefully, as a result of this new plan, the college will be more connected and it will be easier to make more change in the future.”
Lindsay grew up in Victoria and has been shaped by the Island’s culture of respect for the environment. “I’ve lived my whole life in Victoria and I find the culture here is quite forward-thinking in many ways,” he says. “Sustainability is ever present and awareness of it is high, so with that ideal my moral compass as a result.”
His work at Camosun has given him important opportunities to put his values into action. “The more involved with sustainability I got, the more that I’ve learned and realized how pressing it is and how big the problems are,” he notes. “I’ve also realized how big the solutions are becoming and how innovative solutions are starting to make a difference.”
Both Lindsay and Monteiro have been encouraged by the opportunities that Camosun has given them and the boost to their education from the college’s emphasis on applied, real-world learning. “For me, it’s how higher education can show students the power that they have to be agents of transformation,” says Monteiro. Lindsay agrees: “Camosun is a community of people who believe in climate change and believe in the importance of sustainability,” he says. “With that acceptance and awareness, we are already ahead of many other institutions and our new Sustainability Plan has the potential to make a real and lasting impact.”