McGill recognizes sustainability champions with 12th Annual Catalyst Awards

Awards celebrate McGill community members who transform the University’s campuses into a more sustainable place to work and study

As McGill enters its third century of education and research, it is more important than ever to recognize the progress the institution has made and the McGillians who have worked to make those meaningful changes happen. The Catalyst Awards for Sustainability allows the University community to come together and celebrate these individuals and communities for demonstrating innovation, collaboration, and resiliency.

This year, McGill has awarded community members an Emerald Key Award, a Group Initiative Award, and a Staff & Faculty Award. Recipients are decided annually by a review committee, whose membership includes staff and student representatives.

Making an impact

Members of McGill’s Bicentennial teamKelsey Litwin

Managing sustainability initiatives in a blended-learning environment that was repeatedly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic was no walk in the park this year. Despite the challenges, impact200, the Bicentennial Student Sustainability Challenge (BSSC), inspired students, staff and community members to get involved and participate in McGill’s sustainability legacy.

Awardee of the 2022 Catalyst Group Initiative Award, impact200 challenged students to come together to pitch innovations in sustainability that could have wide-reaching impacts on the city, the province, and the world. It set a new framework to think about how students, staff, and community members could sustainably chart McGill’s next 200 years.

The challenge saw hundreds of students submit proposals and ensured that the challenge did not end at its awards gala in December 2021, ensuring that teams may continue to develop their ideas and institutionalize their projects for sustainable innovation on campus and within the Montreal community

“Despite the many challenges we faced throughout the planning and execution phases of impact200, the project made a real difference for countless students and young alumni,” said Gérald Cadet, Director, Bicentennial. “If students are provided opportunities, they will come up with incredibly innovative and exciting projects.”

Encouraging community

With a student body of nearly 40,000, one of the most crucial elements to successful change is collaboration. Catalyst Emerald Key Awardee Quang Anh Nguyen is a fourth-year undergraduate student who is working on just that.

Quang Anh NguyenKelsey Litwin

Studying Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Nguyen was drawn to McGill to pursue his passion for connecting disciplines in hopes of solving pressing societal challenges related to climate and sustainability. Throughout his time at McGill, Nguyen has immersed himself in student life and focused on creating opportunities for others to connect as well.

“Recognizing McGill as a great concentration of young talents and passionate individuals, I wanted to help other students take their learning of socio-environmental issues beyond the classroom and make real-world impact with such knowledge,” said Nguyen.

Co-President of the Research and Sustainability Network which connects staff, faculty, and students through discussions and collaborations in sustainability research and practice, Nguyen has fostered inter-campus connections, mentorships, and competitions in the spirit of building community.

“I think the award is a reminder that, at the end of the day, it is about doing something you’re truly passionate about,” said Nguyen upon receiving the Emerald Key Award. “The recognition will come and go as you pursue more projects and create more initiatives. What truly is worthwhile is the impact you leave behind.”

Pushing for change

Catherine PotvinKelsey Litwin

Catherine Potvin, a professor in the Department of Biology and Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Mitigation and Tropical Forests (Tier 1), has embodied the principles of sustainability throughout her career, going above and beyond the requirements of her position as a biologist and professor.

Recipient of this year’s Catalyst Faculty & Staff Award, Potvin has made several long-lasting contributions to McGill’s culture of sustainability. She creates transformative partnerships for the University that bring academia and science to the field of practice, and was instrumental in the Bayano-McGill Reforestation project which has led to the planting of more than 44,500 trees to help offset McGill emissions related to air travel and commuting, contributing to McGill’s long-term target of carbon neutrality by 2040.

“It’s amazing to see the institution recognizing efforts within,” commented Potvin upon receiving the Catalyst award, “One feels like we push, we push, and sometimes it even feels counterproductive… it’s nice to see a change that recognizes that science and publishing is important, but something else too.”

Learn more about the Catalyst Awards for Sustainability and past winners, and how you can get involved in sustainability at McGill by visiting the McGill Office of Sustainability website.