Supporting the Next Generation of Sustainability Leaders
Giving back is at the heart of KEEN. But you could say that KEEN Canada's newest partnership is more like giving forward.
Earlier this year, we established KEEN Global Citizen Internships and KEEN Graduate Entrance Scholarships through the University of Waterloo to support students entering the Master of Climate Change, Master of Development Practice, and Master of Economic Development and Innovation programs. What better way to make a difference than by supporting students who are bettering society.
Janet Song, a student in the Master of Economic Development and Innovation program, was awarded this year’s 2019 KEEN Graduate Entrance Scholarship, and we recently caught up with her to get into the mind of one of our grantees and see the impact she’s already making in the world.
Q&A with Janet Song, 2019 KEEN Graduate Entrance Scholarship Recipient
Tell us a little about yourself.
Janet: I am a social innovator who is looking for ways to make bold strategies and actions in how to support the development of a more sustainable and inclusive future that involves better healthcare outcomes, connected communities, and financial security.
In my first year of undergrad, I was a project manager for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Neon Nights Carnival to fundraise for childhood cancer research. In my second year, I lived in the Jane and Finch Toronto Community Housing area where I worked on programing for a subsidized summer camp in a high gang activity area. I then further grew in my communication skills as a client and research intern at Public inc, a social impact marketing agency where I wrote marketing strategies and briefing notes for five different clients including World Vision, DUCA, and NBC. Most recently, I refined my problem-solving skills as a sustainability marketing and events intern with Global Compact Network Canada, the Canadian branch of the UN global compact. I organized the Making Global Goals Local Business Conference which mobilized c-suites to make realistic sustainability action plans in our annual conference.
What inspired you to go into environmental studies?
I am passionate about environmental studies, and I have the opportunity to apply these theories into action into my graduate program. This drive was ignited by my interest to enact local change, and the urgent needs for sustainability practices to be embedded into communities.
According to the 2019 World Economic Forum's Global Risk Report, environmental threats dominate the list in terms of impact and likelihood. Therefore, economic development of the current and the future needs to be redefined into sustainable development which meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This retires the past outlook of economic development that focuses solely on the profit side, and also accounts environmental and society considerations on the same weight of importance.
I am currently fascinated to learn more about the development of SMART Cities where resource management efficiencies are found through making data-driven decisions by exploring, tracking, and comparing key insights within cities and their neighbouring cities. These places will need smart economy, smart people, smart governance, smart mobility, smart environment, and smart living. This will help support a better quality of live when growth is aligned with supporting UN sustainable development goals.
What gets you excited about the environment?
I hold a deep curiosity in understanding how to support the economic growth in Canada, in an environmentally sustainable manner. In this program I am conducting three areas of research with three different professors in the faculty of environment.
The following topics:
a. The labour force transition from its current concentration in the oil and gas extraction industry in Alberta into an emerging renewable energy and green infrastructure industry
b. The international geopolitical and economic interests in Canada’s Arctic region, the Northwest Passage, and how these interests effect the environment and the neighbouring northern communities
c. Understanding the well-being status of communities in Canada’s three Northern Territories by comparing its socio-determinants of health factors to the average Canadian population.
I will be presenting my research results at the annual student conference shown to the environment faculty members of the university and to guests from the Economic Development Council of Ontario.
My next steps after the 8 months of course work in this program is to get an internship placement that supports business development opportunities in fast-growing Northern cities like Whitehorse, Yukon during my co-op term. I found the importance to not ignore the social, economic, and social opportunities in the North, as I found major resource disparities between northern and southern Ontario. Overall, I hope this educational opportunity will support in building an economy that cultivates Canada to become a community that fosters equality and environmental sustainability by supporting Canadian business owners to think and act globally with this mindset.
This is just one of the students KEEN Canada has had the pleasure of watching have an impact and passion for change in today’s society, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for Janet and the University of Waterloo, and the impact they’ll have on our planet.