Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 69.54
Liaison Mike Versteege
Submission Date June 30, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Alberta
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
2.00 / 2.00 Kurt Borth
Project Planner
Office of Sustainability
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Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive program(s) offered by the institution, including how each program addresses the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability:


This field school 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 Sciences and Forestry programs. Students learn basic field skills (compassing, GPS use, aerial 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 website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Additional immersive experiences that focus on sustainability include:

Land reclamation professionals are increasingly in demand. Our escalating human population parallels a rapidly degrading arable land base caused by urban sprawl, soil erosion, resource extraction and industrial development. Thus, one of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century is to reclaim disturbed lands around the world to secure the livelihood of future generations. The Land Reclamation International Graduate School (LRIGS) helps to meet this challenge.

LRIGS provides interdisciplinary and international training to create highly qualified land reclamation professionals with the education and experience necessary to take on leadership roles in academia, consulting, government and industry.
LRIGS is the first graduate school of its kind in Canada and around the world.

Responsible Party for LRIGS
Dr. M Anne Naeth
Director, Land Reclamation International Graduate School (LRIGS)


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 undergraduate students to live and work in northern communities during four-month placements. From May to August in 2015, seven fellowships were available in three communities: the Hamlet of Pangnirtung, Nunavut; Dene Tha’ First Nation, Alberta; and Beaver First Nation, Alberta. Prior to the placement, 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. In 2017 the projects included five opportunities for students to work in first nations communities on sustainability related projects from land consultation with oil and gas companies to internships working on first nations Community Greenhouse and Gardening programs.

Responsible Party for Engage North:
Maggie Glasgow
Program Coordinator


The Faculty of ALES' Alternative Reading Week is a co-curricular community service-learning initiative that takes place during 10 days over the February reading week. 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 February 2017, 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.


The Faculty of Extension, Faculty of ALES 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 optionally be taken for course credit.

Responsible Party:
Dr. Mary Beckie
Associate Professor, Faculty of Extension


This six-week immersive course takes place each spring. Content varies from year to year, under the broad theme of community issues in an oil economy.

The 2015 topic was "Oil and Building Resilient Communities." Alberta boasts high population growth rates, has a lucrative yet volatile oil and gas sector, varied employment and business opportunities, an abundance of natural resources, and a policy framework that is based on a single commodity: oil. However, amidst this context, the province faces much vulnerability in its economic, environmental and social sectors. Resilience, then, becomes impetus that drives Alberta communities to think about how to respond, recover and revitalize, both now and into the future. What are the unique policy and innovative changes required to address these vulnerabilities? How can Alberta communities, both non-profit or governments, become more resilient?

This course engaged students on building resilient communities in this context. The community service-learning component (requiring a 30 hour placement outside of classroom instruction) allowed students to link theoretical aspects of resilience with practical application and reflection while working with local community partners who are working on small to provincial-scale projects. Topics included: economic development of boom-bust economies; provincial policy for small towns; climate change and impacts of oil industries; the psychology of growth and decline; and emergency or disaster risk management. Course delivery was a combination of lectures, peer discussions, active learning, case studies and presentations from participating project partners.


Augustana Campus' India Tour 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 will examine the issues of development, environmental sustainability, and globalization within the Indian context and 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.

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