“No university can lead globally in the 21st century without putting sustainability at the centre of its operations, research, and teaching,” reads the McGill University Strategic Plan 2017-2022.
And the McGill community agrees; in response to last year’s Sustainability Survey, 93 percent of students are interested in learning about sustainability themes and challenges, while 72 percent of faculty members are interested in incorporating sustainability in courses.
To address this cross-campus desire, the Associate Provost (Teaching and Academic Programs) and Office of Sustainability have established a new full-time position with a focus on supporting and expanding sustainability-related teaching and learning opportunities at the University. This position was made possible thanks to support from the Principal’s Office.
“Sustainability challenges are interdisciplinary in nature,” says Principal Suzanne Fortier. “We are proud to offer our students, irrespective of their area of focus, the opportunity to engage in sustainability and learn how they may play a role in creating a sustainable future.”
The incoming Sustainability Officer, Jessica Latus, comes to McGill from the University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm where she managed their knowledge mobilization and translation efforts, expanding upon her experience in program management and development, strategic planning, and stakeholder engagement and facilitation. She holds a Master’s degree in urban ecology from the University of Helsinki and a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Arizona State University.
“I am honored to take on this important role,” says Latus. “I feel passionately that universities are a key component in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To help meet this mission, universities need to ensure that sustainability is embedded across disciplines so that students can address the grand challenges of the 21st century.”
Advancing McGill’s sustainability objectives
The creation of the Sustainability Officer position aligns with the actions set out in the McGill University Climate & Sustainability Strategy 2020-2025. The Research & Education category objective is to identify strategies to increase learning and research opportunities in sustainability.
Latus will play an integral role in making that happen; one of her key responsibilities includes supporting an interdisciplinary, multi-faculty committee mandated with strengthening sustainability content in the existing curriculum, identifying sustainability learning outcomes, creating resources for faculty, among other items.
She will also be responsible in part for the Research & Education flagship action, which is to implement a sustainability online module available to all students, staff, and faculty members. The goal of the module is to provide foundational information about sustainability at McGill, while fostering a culture of sustainability on campus. The module will complement a new university-wide course on climate and sustainability that is currently under development.
“We are looking forward to enhancing the integration of sustainability in all its forms into McGill’s teaching and learning activities,” says Dr. Laura Winer, director of Teaching and Learning Services (TLS). “In doing so, we hope to encourage greater interdisciplinary learning as we prepare our students for the future.”
Latus will also bolster McGill’s leadership around the SDGs while supporting the development of an applied student research program aimed at advancing sustainability initiatives.
“I believe that one of the best places to not only implement sustainable practices, but to also instil sustainable practices, is in our university system,” Latus says. “I firmly believe that young people are our future, and if we can empower them to be sustainability leaders, no matter their fields of study, then I believe we will have a chance to live in a world that is more in harmony both with nature and with each other.”
Want to learn more about sustainability outside of the classroom? Participate in the Office of Sustainability’s workshop series, offered each semester in collaboration with SKILLS21 and Organizational Development, open to students, staff, and faculty.