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-10: Support for Research

Status Score Responsible Party
4.00 / 4.00 Kurt Borth
Project Planner
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability? :

A brief description of the student research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:


The Office of Sustainability provides funding to students through the Undergraduate Research Initiative (URI) under the banner Learning Experiences through Applied Projects (LEAP). An example LEAP project is “Energy Efficient Classrooms in General Services Building – 2016.” A masters student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering conducted this project with Facilities & Operations. The research led to the installation of occupancy counting sensors in classrooms in the General Services Building. Using the sensors enables control of the HVAC system based on actual occupants. Energy savings are obtained when the classrooms are not completely full to their maximum occupancy or when the room is empty during regular building hours. The data from the classroom occupancy sensors is also being used for piloting the optimized scheduling of cleaning staff.


Sustainability Scholars sponsors graduate students to work on applied sustainability research projects with the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta. Edmonton is Canada's second-fastest growing city and has committed to ambitious sustainability goals with The Way We Green environmental strategic plan. The majority of Sustainability Scholars projects were developed by City of Edmonton staff who need research to advance their sustainability goals. This applied research is key to helping the city understand its options for meeting its sustainability goals.

The program started in 2015 with 6 graduate students working with the City of Edmonton. In both 2016 and 2017, 18 graduate students worked on projects with the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta.


The Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative conducts collaborative research in the field of energy and environment with the goal of expanding fundamental knowledge, and developing innovative technologies and system solutions that provide for the efficient and environmentally sustainable use of energy resources of global relevance.

The growing demand for energy in the 21st century poses significant economic and environmental challenges at the forefront of the global agenda. Modern economies are dominantly still based on fossil energy resources and hence fossil fuels will play a prevailing role in the foreseeable near future. The main challenge is to balance between energy security, reduction of energy consumption, green house gas abatement, increase of energy efficiency and a more sustainable use of water and land resources.

The purpose of the Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative is to deliver world-class research and to unlock key technical limitations in order to advance the energy production processes, mitigate the environmental impacts and contribute to a sustainable development of these resources. Energy and environment research within HAI takes a holistic approach, explicitly combining pure and applied research based on principles of sustainability.

Numerous projects and publications have been completed by graduate, undergraduate and faculty on: upgrading of biogene and fossil energy sources; geological carbon storage; scale independent risk assessment and site remediation; CO2-separation and gas purification; geothermal energy; and ecosystem and landscape development.


Dr. David Schindler Undergraduate Scholarship in Environmental Science – $1,000
Awarded to an undergraduate student with superior academic achievement entering fourth year Honours or Specialization in an Environmental Science degree who is considering graduate studies in an environmental science field.

Syngenta Graduate Scholarship in Sustainable Agriculture, endowed by Syngenta Crop Protection Canada, Inc. – $6,000
Awarded annually to a student registered full-time in the second year of a PhD program whose research pertains to sustainable agriculture, which is defined as a balance between social, environmental and economic priorities. Projects may include environmental quality and resources management, land management, introduction of new technologies, economic viability and rural community sustainability.

John and Patricia Schlosser Environment Scholarship – $7,800
Awarded annually to a student in a graduate degree program whose research, scholarship or creative work is judged to be a most outstanding contribution to our understanding, appreciation or amelioration of our earthly environment.

Bill Shostak Wildlife Award, endowed by Bill Shostak – $8,000
Awarded annually to a full-time doctoral student at the University of Alberta to research the conservation and management of fish and wildlife in any or all of the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Margaret (Peg) Brown Award in Environmental Studies and Wildlife Resources, endowed by Mrs Margaret (Peg) Brown – $1,600
Awarded annually to a graduate student in Agriculture and Forestry whose academic and/or research interest is in the area of wildlife conservation and environmental studies.

Does the institution have a program to encourage faculty from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability topics?:

A brief description of the faculty research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:


LEAP describes a collection of experiential learning opportunities linking learning, teaching, and research to the campus and broader community through sustainability-focused “living lab” projects. Living lab projects create opportunities for problem-based teaching, research, and hands on experiences. They use the natural, social, and built environment of the campus as a testing ground to develop solutions to address sustainability goals on campus and beyond. Faculty can be aided in exploring sustainability related examples or methods for their classes, finding students to work on sustainability research projects, and accessing funding and opportunities to conduct sustainability research on campus.


The Sustainability Enhancement Fund supports collaborative projects that improve the university's operational performance, foster campus engagement, and demonstrate the viability of best practices and technologies. Awards must have a link to the university’s strategic priorities (e.g., Sustainability Commitment & Guiding Principles; "For The Public Good" institutional strategic plan; the Sustainability Plan; or Academic Companion Document to the Sustainability Plan).



The Kule Institute for Advanced Study (KIAS) is a major endowed institute supporting collaborative and interdisciplinary research in the social sciences, humanities and fine arts, and focusing on research with the potential for national or international recognition.


The Discovery Mall is a key feature of the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy. This entire space (2,500 square meters) was purpose-built to support interdisciplinary research teams. Flexible spaces are easily adapted to meet the changing need of team research. With demountable walls, adjustable furnishings and a free address system, the Discovery Mall provides prime space for team work. The Health Science Council manages 800 square meters of this dedicated space.

TD Bank Financial Group has established an endowment fund to be administered by the Health Sciences Council. The fund will provide three $10,000 studentships for 2016-17 to support students or trainees at the masters, doctoral or fellowship level. The studentships will be awarded to students in the health sciences faculties who have active roles with an interdisciplinary (cross-faculty or multiple health/allied health disciplines) health research team, who will be taking part in a health research project and who describe or demonstrate interest and potential to excel in interdisciplinary health research. The recipients will be chosen based on the recommendation of a review/selection committee appointed by the executive director of the Health Sciences Council.

Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A brief description of the institution’s support for interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The University of Alberta’s institutional strategic plan, "For the Public Good", outlines the university's goals for the next ten years. Objective 17 outlines core interdisciplinary goals.

OBJECTIVE 17 - Facilitate, build, and support interdisciplinary, cross-faculty, and crossunit
engagement and collaboration.
i. Strategy: Identify and remove systemic barriers to interdisciplinarity, and where
necessary, expand or create policies, resources, infrastructure, and strategies to encourage
and reward academic and administrative partnerships and collaborations.
ii. Strategy: Incent the development of interdisciplinary and cross-faculty graduate
and undergraduate teaching and learning initiatives, including programs, courses, and
embedded certificates.
iii. Strategy: Develop mechanisms for identifying research expertise at the institution for
more effective cultivation of emerging research opportunities and funding programs,
particularly those requiring interdisciplinary research teams.

The university's prior academic plan, "Dare to Deliver 2011-2015," promoted interdisciplinary research across the institution. One of the metrics in place for recognizing progress being made is: "further development of collaborative and interdisciplinary research programs" (page 8).

Specific examples from faculties include:
- Reorganization of interdisciplinary programs and Office of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Faculty of Arts.
- Increased collaboration across departments, development of cross-disciplinary core graduate courses in the Faculty of Arts.
- Interdisciplinary graduate studentships in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.
- Theme-based (e.g., sustainability, mountains, Northern studies, international studies) and skill-specific (e.g., teaching and learning in higher education) certificates that enable students to pursue multiple interests and interdisciplinary learning.

There are also several examples of infrastructure that supports interdisciplinary research, including the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, and the Kule Institute for Advanced Study.

Of the university's 18 faculties, 11 were previously determined to consider interdisciplinarity in their tenure and promotion decisions. This means 61% (greater than 50%) of the faculties consider interdisicplinarity in their tenure and promotion decisions.

Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:


University of Alberta Libraries provides a guide for education students looking for sustainability resources related to teaching sustainability to primary and secondary school classes. This guide is an introduction to finding resources about sustainability, as well as teaching sustainability and environmental education in Alberta schools using sources and services available via the University of Alberta Libraries. There is also a section on academic sustainability and environmental education for university students and faculty.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Method: The STARS technical manual indicates that incentives should encourage students to conduct sustainability research.

The responsible party reviewed and updated the list of incentives from the University of Alberta 2014 submission and did a review of all current sustainability student research incentives to update the information and verify that the listed initiatives were indeed incentives as defined by the STARS technical manual.

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.