Sustainability course aims to connect Edmonton 'change agents'

Successful campus program expands into new course for anyone looking to lead the way to a greener workplace.


UAlberta’s new Leading Sustainability at Work course is for anyone who wants to lead meaningful change in their workplace.

(Edmonton) Working professionals from across the Edmonton region now have access to the University of Alberta’s sustainability leadership program, thanks to a partnership between the university’s Office of Sustainability and Faculty of Extension.

EXCPE 5441: Leading Sustainability at Work transforms the successful ecoREPs program into a three-day course held at the U of A’s downtown campus, Enterprise Square.

Emily Dietrich, program lead for outreach and engagement with the Office of Sustainability, says the program had always been open to U of A staff, faculty and graduate students, but she wanted to expand its reach and bring in an even greater diversity of participants.

The Faculty of Extension was a natural partner, according to Christie Schultz, assistant dean (academic). “Our continuing and professional education program development always begins with learner needs—and in this regard, the Office of Sustainability’s process was a match,” says Schultz.

As a formal credential, the course fills a gap in professional development opportunities for many of the region’s large employers, including the City of Edmonton.

“The course will now be open to a growing community of learners interested in leading sustainability initiatives,” says Schultz.

Anyone can be a change agent

Leading Sustainability at Work is carefully named, because it’s not a program restricted to “leaders” like directors and CEOs. Enrolling in the course can help anyone find a meaningful way to foster change in their workplace.

“I’ve learned we all can be change agents,” says Dietrich. “Change agents are ordinary people who take simple steps that produce powerful results. This course builds the capacity for change agents to act and celebrates their work.”

Change agents aren’t specialized in sustainability, but they are people with influence in their workplace. The course brings together and creates a network of change agents—and these connections are the most powerful benefit that past participants have taken away.

Local solutions to tangible problems

Participants at the U of A have the chance to get even more out of the new course. Not only can staff, faculty and graduate students receive an honorarium through their department, but they will also be able to put their learning to work on campus. The ecoREPs name will live on in these projects.

“ecoREPs projects are place-based solutions rooted in our present needs,” says Dietrich. “When we’re talking about the environment, I think that sometimes the future can feel like a black hole, and it’s easy to feel powerless when you’re facing that,” said Dietrich.

Dietrich notes that focusing on solutions to tangible, localized problems can be a manageable way to make change. Past participants have improved air quality in their office by holding a plant sale, instituted their own office-wide organics collection and networked to reduce waste from local theatre productions.

“With place-based solutions we can see real impact—and I think, ultimately, it’s more likely to succeed.”

Leading Sustainability at Work is open for enrolment until April 16, 2015. To find out more, visit sustainability.ualberta.ca/leadership