SENS announces Certificate in Sustainability award winners for the 2019-20 academic year

Three students were recognized this year in two categories for their creativity, leadership, and dedication to sustainability principles

By Megan Evans

“Students are able to bring their unique perspective and experiences to the Certificate, and particularly to the final ENVS 401 project. I am inspired and encouraged by what I see in our classes each year,” says Dr. Colin Whitfield, SENS Assistant Professor and Member of the Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS). “Ultimately, a sustainable future means everyone contributing and living out sustainability principles in ways that make sense for themselves.”

Sydney Kuppenbender and Ashley Carlson were awarded the Outstanding Sustainability in Action Project award for an original video called Two-Eyed Seeing, the title a reference to using one eye for Western science and the other for Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

 “We knew immediately that we wanted the project to focus on Traditional Ecological Knowledge,” Carlson said. “We found that within most of our classes, there is a lack of Indigenous content and representation.  As Indigenous women who practice traditional methods, we thought it to be essential for Traditional Ecological Knowledge to be analyzed under an objective lens, to show how directly it ties in with Western sustainability principles and science.”

Kuppenbender agreed. “As Indigenous students in STEM, we bear witness every day to the lack of Indigenous content in curricula, particularly where it would be appropriate such as in retelling the history of sustainability and the foundational role Indigenous knowledge has played in building up the modern movement. The absence of this content is likely not as obvious to those that do not feel its absence, namely non-Indigenous students in STEM, and this gap is something we desired to address in taking on this project.”

“Most often, putting sustainability into action translates into some combination of applying scientific and expert knowledge to solve a problem with defined policy or economic solutions,” says Dr. Andrew Watson, Assistant Professor in the Department of History, and Associate Faculty member at SENS. “Kuppenbender and Carlson force us to take a step back from assumptions that lay at the heart of sustainability thinking and challenge us to consider how problems might be approached through the lens of a personal and intimate relationship with the land. The result is a well-crafted video that will prompt viewers to pause and reflect on their own thinking.”

Abby Chicoine, winner of the Certificate in Sustainability Excellence award, was chosen for her overall performance throughout the certificate program. Dr. Colin Laroque, ENVS 401 instructor and Professor in the Department of Soil Science says, “Abby exemplifies a long-standing perspective in sustainability, and walks the walk in everyday life. Her heart is huge, and her dedication and drive make people around her better. I don’t think there is a way of measuring how successful she will be in the future.”

Chicoine was praised for her quick action and thoughtful leadership when the pandemic forced students in the ENVS 401: Sustainability in Action course to move their project communication online. “She adapted overnight, signed up for a Zoom account, and sent her instructors a link to join her and her group to keep the project moving forward. Abby gets things done,” Laroque says.

For Chicoine, the certificate was a way to deepen her own commitment to sustainability. “I believe that sustainability is more than just a concept; it’s a lifestyle I want to live in every day of my life. The courses I took to complete the certificate were some of the courses that shaped my worldview the most throughout my undergraduate experience. I personally chose the Community and Sustainability stream and I’m very happy that I did so because I think the world needs social sustainability now more than ever.”

A new USask graduate, Chicoine, a sought-after SaskParks interpreter, will continue to keep sustainability top of mind. “Now that I have graduated, I am continuing to work for SaskParks where I have the opportunity to teach kids to love the outdoors. My group is also still working on our bat box project as we are getting our educational signage made. We’ve been so inspired by ENVS 401 that some group members and I are hoping to continue working on small sustainability projects in Saskatoon in the future.”

The Certificate in Sustainability is open to most undergraduate students attending the University of Saskatchewan. Students who are interested in taking the certificate are encouraged to speak with their program advisor, or email