"Build an education guide,” they told me. “Easy,” I replied. Turns out, it’s not. While on the surface it may seem like a simple task, building an education guide is quite complex. For example, in this edition of the guide you’ll see we’ve included an indicator for whether or not a school has a sustainability co-ordinator. This one piece of information is important because if the school has a sustainability co-ordinator, it means that they’re investing in sustainability-based community development.
However, we need to be careful here. There are three growing activities and campaigns on campuses to increase overall sustainability: the sustainability co-ordinator or office is one, and the other two are farmers’ markets and divestment campaigns (campaigns calling on universities to move their investments away from fossil fuels). Because of these trends, the initial guide included all three as indicators for every school and college, until an unfortunate, but very real, problem emerged.
If you look up the schools with divestment student action groups, farmers’ markets, and (to a smaller extent) sustainability co-ordinators, you’ll see mainly the “big” schools, in big cities, and south of 60° latitude. A clear issue of distortion based on school size and privilege starts to emerge. Only schools with easy access to farmers can have farmers’ markets, or large enough populations to create enough demand for a campus market. Only schools with funds to invest can have divestment campaigns. Only schools with significant budgets can afford sustainability co-ordinators.
Meanwhile, all the advantages, both environmental and academic, of smaller schools go unnoticed if these three categories are our only indicators of sustainable action. Smaller schools’ environmental initiatives, while less visible, tend to have a comparably bigger local and individual impact. Schools of any size can meet your sustainability goals, but in different ways.
See? It’s complex.
So we’ve included a basic selection of indicators to help you narrow down your decision (see the legend). Our advice to you is once you’ve focused on your area of study and used this guide to narrow down your search to a few institutions, do some additional research. Look into what kinds of sustainability student groups exist, how often the students get out into the community, the school’s commitment to experiential education, and the research interests of the professors that will be teaching you.
After you’ve narrowed your search to a few schools based on their programs and sustainability activity, look beyond the campus walls into the community. Do you want to be close to water? A forest? A city centre? Tundra? Canada can offer all of these. Schools will also have opportunities for you to travel and study abroad. If that’s something very important to you, look into the school’s partnered destinations. Schools also partner up with companies, organizations and government bodies to provide co-operative education. Contact the school’s co-op education office to see if there are partnerships that appeal to you.
Never be afraid to contact the admissions office and ask them questions or for a tour. They’ll connect you with a student to take you around the campus. If you’re able, always visit a campus before you decide to apply to it. The “feel” you get when you’re on a university or college campus is an important part of the next few years of your life.
This guide is just the beginning of your post-secondary process. Don’t be dazzled by slick promotional campaigns. Instead, look deeper and think about the kind of community you want to be a part of. What kind of school promotes your values? Where will you get the best kind of education for yourself?
Get to the quick links of the colleges and universities here. Explore and have fun.
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