Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 71.76
Liaison Mike Versteege
Submission Date Oct. 10, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.2

University of Alberta
ER-12: Sustainability Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Naomi Krogman
Academic Director of the Office of Sustainability
Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer a program that meets the criteria for this credit?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive experience(s) offered by the institution:

The Department of Renewable Resources offers a course called International Forest Conservation and Management (REN R 456). This course involves participation in a trip to a selected region. Biophysical, social, historical and economic factors that influence forest conservation and management are examined; forest resources, ecological services, forest conservation and management practices, policies and regulations are evaluated and discussed. Students complete background research, participate in seminar discussions, and complete a report on the region visited. A different region is visited each year. In the past, students have travelled to Mexico, Germany, the Czech Republic and Romania. Key course components include biophysical characteristics, forest health, ecological issues, social aspects (recreation, economic and social importance), economic factors, ecosystem restoration/reclamation, endangered/threatened species, policies and regulations and the sustainable management of forest resources.

The website URL where information about the immersive experience is available:

The U of A also offers the following additional immersive experiences that focus on sustainability:


The Student Sustainability Summit is an annual conference that takes place over one and a half days. It is hosted by the Office of Sustainability, Sustain SU and the Students' Umbrella for Social Justice, and it is open to all students who attend post-secondary institutions in Alberta. The Summit explores sustainability on campus and beyond, and it provides a forum for like-minded individuals, student groups, and leaders to learn about tools, theory, and skills that will help them in both their respective initiatives and personal/professional development. Participants explore relevant issues and learn from community, academic and business leaders.

The theme in the winter term of 2014 was “Power & Prosperity: The relationship between energy systems and communities.” This theme looked at the varied and complex opportunities and challenges that result from energy production and consumption, and provided for an in-depth exploration of the environmental, economic and socio-political consequences of fossil fuels in our province and beyond. Keynote addresses were given by climate change educator Cara Pike and geographer Dr. Joe Arvai, along with a dozen experts who joined them for workshop and panel presentations throughout the Summit.

Responsible Party for Student Sustainability Summit: Lisa Dockman, lisa.dockman@ualberta.ca


Engage North is a University of Alberta organization that builds connections between university students from across Canada and indigenous communities in Canada’s North. It was founded on respect for the indigenous peoples and cultures of the North. It is committed to facilitating a stronger relationship between Canada’s North and South, as well as supporting the fulfillment of community-driven needs. The needs in Canada’s northern communities span technical, health-wellness, social-cultural, and educational challenges. Given the cultural, environmental and geographical context of the North, as well as the unique constraints on human and technical resources, solutions need to be creative, collaborative, interdisciplinary and context appropriate.

Engage North aims to act as a hub to connect Northern community-based organizations with Southern resources. It supports awareness and educational events in the southern provinces. Through the Engage North Fellowship Program, it also arranges for University of Alberta undergraduate students to live and work in northern communities during four-month placements. From May to August in 2014, seven Fellowship opportunities were available in three communities: Hamlet of Pangnirtung, Nunavut; Dene Tha’ First Nation, Alberta; and Beaver First Nation, Alberta. Prior to the placement, Engage North Fellows participated in a comprehensive pre-departure training program and were matched with a technical advisor/mentor who assisted them with any technical challenges that they encountered.

Responsible Party for Engage North: Janelle Morin, jnmorin@ualberta.ca


The Alternative Reading Week program is a co-curricular community service-learning initiative that takes place during Reading Week in February. In 2014, Alternative Reading Week Cuba program themes included ecology, agriculture and sustainability. Students travelled to Cuba for eight days and took part in service learning at dairy and herbal medicine farms, urban gardens, mountain communities and coastal ecosystems. Students assisted Cubans with sustainable food production and ecological restoration. During site visits and discussions throughout the program, students were exposed to concepts of environmental, social and economic sustainability, and they deepened their understanding of sustainability challenges and solutions.


The Alternative Reading Week program is a co-curricular community service-learning initiative that takes place during Reading Week in February. Alternative Reading Week India takes place in partnership with the Pipal Tree in Bangalore, India. Pipal Tree programs focus on personal, social, and ecological elements that lead to sustainable development practices. This program aims to immerse participants in local culture, and to challenge assumptions about issues facing families and individuals from diverse backgrounds. In 2014, students made contact with rural Indians working for change, visited a diverse cross-section of communities, and explored how the local peoples interact with their environment. Participants were encouraged, through reflection and analysis, to make connections between food sovereignty, social justice and environmental conservation with similar struggles in communities back home.


Environmental and Conservation Sciences and Forestry Field School (REN R 299) combines the concepts, theories and practices of environmental, conservation and forest sciences in an off-campus field experience. Field skill proficiency in planning, measurement, analysis and reporting is emphasized for biophysical and socioeconomic components of the environment. Students are given the opportunity for field application of the basic skills and techniques that they learned in the first two years of the Environmental and Conservation Science and Forestry programs. Students learn basic field skills (compassing, GPS use, air photo and map use, field orienteering), as well as specific field and measuring skills in the areas of vegetation, wildlife, insects, forests, soils and ecosite evaluation. Students also examine the human use and management of natural resources and the landscape.


The Urban Farmer, The University of Alberta Faculty of Extension and The Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation for Nature and Man have joined together to offer a powerful experiential learning opportunity for Canadians interested in exploring permaculture for urban areas. This seven week immersion experience provides a solid theoretical training in permaculture principles and design and a rare hands-on opportunity to work with Cuban permaculture practioners in the design and installation of new permaculture systems within the city of Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. Participants have the opportunity to develop close working relationships and friendships with the local permaculture community and to develop their Spanish language skills, gardening and building skills and a much deeper appreciation for Cuban culture, history and way of life. This program offers Canadian students the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the permaculture and urban agriculture movements in Cuba and thereby gain insight into the on-going efforts to create a more self-sufficient and sustainable food system within the country. The program may also be taken for course credit through the University of Alberta.


Selected Topics in Community Service-Learning (CSL 350/360 or 550/560) is a six-week immersive course that takes place each spring. Content varies from year to year, under the broad theme of community issues in an oil economy.

The 2013 topic was “Oil and Social Economy: Understanding the social economy and community engagement.” Students explored how businesses are embedded in a society, with complex relationships between the corporate and not-for-profit sectors. They examined how the reliance on oil development impacts social and economic participation in Alberta. Through coursework and community based projects with local and regional community organizations, students engaged directly with challenging questions and experienced firsthand how local groups imagine and construct the possibilities for social economy in the context of the energy economy. Topics included the scope and scale of social economy and oil development in Alberta, community economic development, social economy businesses and social enterprise, explorations of environmental and social policy, social and economic impact of resource development, power and privilege in community, and local/global perspectives on sustainability and community development.

The 2012 topic was “Oil and Democracy.” Through course work and community-based projects, students explored the thesis that “oil inhibits democracy” through the examination of three broad themes: the context of democracy in Alberta, rights claims in an oil economy, and governance. Students experienced firsthand how community organizations use their own knowledge to address, challenge and integrate democratic engagement and advocacy in the context of an energy economy and society. Topics included: class dynamics, the staples economy, and institutions of democracy; wealth distribution and worker safety; ecological and social consequences; gender; international activism; and progressive thought in Alberta.


India Tour (AUECO 254/AUREL 266) is a three-week study tour of India. It focuses on a chosen region of India in order to examine the intersection between religious belief and practice and development challenges. Students are exposed to various development projects as well as an array of religious sites. Students gain an in-depth understanding of India, its cultural and religious diversity, and the challenges it faces in the 21st century.

Course Objectives:
- To explore the basic philosophy, principles and processes of development.
- To understand the major development issues and challenges facing modern India.
- To explore how religious beliefs and practices influence the way people address the challenges of poverty, population, pollution, ethnic and linguistic diversity, rapid industrialization, and globalization.
- To develop the skills and insights required to enter into a different culture with empathetic appreciation and understanding.
- To learn the skills required to function constructively in a group, especially while in unfamiliar and stressful situations.
- To appreciate the particularity of one’s own culture in light of an encounter with another.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.