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“The student body … is craving to learn more about sustainability”

Series contributor: Laurianne Debanné, Student Fellow

Laurianne worked with Faculty Fellow Mylène Riva to redesign intro course Health Geography (GEOG 303). In this post, Laurianne reflects on her experience.

What did you learn about how sustainability relates to your course’s subject matter/discipline? Consider how you incorporated the three pillars of sustainability into the content, learning outcomes, assessments, etc.

Through this fellowship, I learned more about incorporating sustainability in the pedagogical tools and assessments used in the classroom. My studies and professional opportunities have allowed me to learn a lot about how all three pillars of sustainability relate to different topics, meaning I do not struggle to make these associations. Nevertheless, prior to this fellowship, I had never learned about how to teach, educate, and work sustainably. Thinking about different ways of knowing, learning, and doing was eye-opening for me. Expanding the classroom beyond four walls and essays was both liberating and motivating.

What was it like to be involved in curriculum design as a student? What did you find most interesting or surprising about the process of (re)designing a course to incorporate sustainability?

I was truly inspired through my experience as a student in this program. It was encouraging to see professors who have been in academia for many years challenge themselves and learn about sustainability tangibly. As I am still trying to figure out my professional path, I was enthused to find out more about course creation, and see how change can be taught and experienced in the classroom.

I also really enjoyed being partnered with my research supervisor in the fellowship. I was honoured to be listened to and trusted. She really wanted to hear my perspective as a recent graduate and someone passionate about her course topic and sustainability.

What did you gain from this experience that might not have been possible if you had not participated in the Sustainability Education Fellowship or if this opportunity did not exist?

From my experience, opportunities to work and learn about course design before you are actually in a teaching position are rare. I am so grateful to have gone through the process with my professor, as well as with a group of passionate individuals that have more tools and experience than I could have ever imagined. Through this fellowship, we questioned some of the siloes we are used to in universities. I had never worked with people from the Faculty of Education. I now see the wealth of knowledge available through their research and through the work of McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services and Office of Science Education. I look forward to exploring these resources more.

What do you think is the value of students having access to more courses at McGill that include sustainability at their core?

The student body at McGill University is craving to learn more about sustainability. From my experience at McGill, even in sustainability-driven programs, students want more options. We want to see that sustainability is addressed across all departments. While the goal is not to shove sustainability down everyone’s throat, prioritizing sustainability in the course offerings will continue to push McGill towards being a more inclusive, just, and environmentally conscious university.

What advice do you have for future Student Fellows? What would you like them to know about the program? What was it like to work with folks from different departments and faculties?

I would recommend this program to other students and early-career researchers without any doubt! Being a part of this fellowship is an opportunity to evolve and become stronger researchers and educators. I would encourage individuals to show up open-minded and to take the time to commit to this process fully (not that this is an unbelievable time commitment, but rather to allow one’s self to lean in and absorb the depth of knowledge being offered). Even though working with my professor was a great opportunity, I think I would encourage people to work with someone they do not know and/or someone from a department that is not their own. This dynamic would challenge our assumptions and would push sustainability beyond our comfort zone.

Learn more about including sustainability in your course content, teaching, or assessment approaches, by exploring the Sustainability Education Resources article in Teaching and Learning Services’ Teaching and Learning Knowledge Base.

Read more blog posts in this SEF series and find information about the McGill University Sustainability Education Fellows Program.

Image Credit: Image by freepik “Free photo sustainable development goals still life”

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