Green jobs and a great experience: Event connects students with leaders in sustainability

Image of, Leilani Xue on the left and Rishwa Thakkar on the right

Social psychology student Leilani Xue (left) during her summer internship at an organization serving newcomer and marginalized communities and humanities student Rishwa Thakkar (right) during a three-day immersive course on carbon sequestration and nature-based solutions.

McMaster’s Academic Sustainability Programs Office hosted the Green Jobs Networking Event this spring, connecting students with local sustainability professionals from a broad range of fields.

The event led several students to summer opportunities.

Social psychology student Leilani Xue met Joana Fezjaj, the manager of Community Development and Partnerships at community organization Empowerment Squared, at the Green Jobs event.

It led her to a summer internship with Empowerment Squared, an organization that works to create positive change and empower newcomers and marginalized communities through mentorship, skills development and sports and recreation.

At Empowerment Squared, Xue developed a sustainable inventory system, facilitated donations of stock items and participated in interview and hiring processes.

“My experience has helped me conceptualize a workplace and an environment that stems from humanitarianism,” she says.

“Many Empowerment Squared members share racialized and immigrant backgrounds. My lived experiences are why I work towards changing misinformed, discriminatory systems that alienate BIPOC and newcomer communities.”

Empowerment Squared works hard to foster community partnerships that empower students to enhance their leadership capabilities, Fezjaj says.

“Leilani is brilliant, creative, hard-working, and well-prepared to tackle the challenges of our nation. We are grateful for her efforts to advance our mission of building a world where everyone is empowered with the tools and opportunities to thrive and contribute to society.”

For humanities student Rishwa Thakkar, the Green Jobs event offered an immersive learning opportunity.

In May, Greg Zilberbrant, executive director of Beyond21 Academy, hosted a three-day Carbon Sequestration & Nature-Based Solution course at Long Point Eco Adventures.

Beyond21 Academy works in partnership with McMaster University’s W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology to deliver relevant and practical sustainability training to students and working professionals.

The course changed Thakkar’s perspective on carbon sequestration, carbon offsets and the advantages of such solutions.

“It is so enlightening to see how more countries are implementing carbon offsets on a larger global scale,” she says.

“We went into the forests to measure their carbon mass. Making significant decisions to improve forests to support wildlife and getting one step closer to a net-zero planet is a life-changing journey. I had the time of my life and an academic experience like none other.”

The three-day, immersive experience with industry professionals allowed students to network in an intimate environment, Zilberbrant says.

“The students had a clear passion for sustainability that energized the room. We would not be able to reach such a targeted group of learners and have their engagement without the Green Jobs event.”

The success of the Green Jobs Networking Event demonstrates that such initiatives can contribute to shaping a more sustainable future. The Academic Sustainability Programs Office is looking forward to hosting future iterations of this event to continue fostering connections and providing students with valuable opportunities.  

To stay informed and take part in sustainability initiatives at McMaster, follow the Academic Sustainability Programs Office on Instagram @MacSustain


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