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2017 Sustainability Award Recipients

The annual University of Calgary Sustainability Awards recognize and celebrate the outstanding contributions and cooperative efforts of students, faculty and staff in advancing our institutional commitment to excellence and leadership in sustainability. Nominations are completed by students, staff and faculty to recognize individuals or groups that are contributing to research and education for sustainability, leading the way in daily campus activities, and/or advancing the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of sustainability in the governance and operations practices of our institution. 

Nominees are evaluated on a wide range of criteria including commitment, peer engagement, impact, complexity, innovation and collaboration. How projects are building student core-competencies for leadership in sustainability through experiential learning and how research or research initiatives are engaging local and/or global communities to find innovative solutions to grand challenges are also evaluated. 

Congratulations to our 2017 Sustainability Award winners!

Awards were presented by President Elizabeth Cannon on Wednesday March 22, 2017. 

This project award recognizes initiatives that utilize our campus as a learning-laboratory for applied practice in sustainability as articulated in the new Institutional Sustainability Strategy and the Framework on Engagement for Sustainability. CLL projects aim to build core-competencies for leadership in sustainability through experiential learning in the campus context. Projects may be co-curricular, course based or a research initiative.

Academic Sustainability Implementation Committee (ASIC)

ASIC was instrumental in the development of the Integrated Framework for Education and Research on Sustainability which includes two key goals directly linked to the Campus as a Learning Laboratory award category.  The first goal is the integration of education and research in sustainability through project-based learning and providing opportunities for undergraduates to participate in interdisciplinary research.  The second is the development of an embedded Certificate in Sustainability Studies. The committee has since developed this new interdisciplinary certificate, which includes a mandatory experiential learning project – on campus or in the community.  The framework and the certificate provide a critical platform that will enable many UCalgary students to enhance their understanding of sustainability and their skills to solve complex contemporary issues through project-based learning experiences. 

“The Sustainability Certificate Program took many, many hours of work on top of our regular work,” says Diane Draper, professor of geography, who sat on the committee. “It’s a group effort so its recognition for something that everybody took part in and I am very glad to be representing them but it’s’ really about 30 people who did this.”

Getachew Assefa

Getachew Assefa is the Athena Chair in Life Cycle Assessment and an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental Design. Getachew worked with his student Chelsea Ambler and the University of Calgary Facilities Development team to investigate and compare the potential life cycle environmental impacts of different scenarios for redevelopment of the MacKimmie Library Tower. Scenarios included demolition and new construction versus selective deconstruction and renewal of the tower. They found that repurposing scenarios have 20 to 40 per cent less impact in six out of seven environmental impact categories. These results assisted in the decision to undertake selective deconstruction and renewal of the tower saving significant embodied energy within the concrete structure among other environmental benefits.

“The award means a lot,” says Assefa. It’s great and I feel happy and I wish my student was here but she couldn’t make it. She’s the one who did the real job.”

Read story: Understanding 'cradle-to-cradle' impact

This research award recognizes research initiatives that directly engage local and/or global communities to find innovative solutions to grand challenges situated in the context of sustainability, while concurrently providing students with experiential learning opportunities to apply theory and build core-competencies for sustainability leadership.

David Lertzman

David Lertzman is an assistant professor at the Haskayne School of Business and senior associate with the International Resource Industries and Sustainability Centre. His decades of work with indigenous communities has inspired the creation of innovative leadership courses that bridge traditional ecological knowledge and Western science in sustainable development. His Haskayne Wilderness Retreat Course, is a week long immersive experience in Kananaskis with the support of Native elders. Students are challenged to deepen their reflective capacity and discover their leadership potential through experiential outdoor activities, group dynamics and strategic self-reflection. He also runs an Applied Leadership course where MBA students are partnered with teams of undergraduates to work on projects for not-for-profit and social venture enterprises that connect them with the community at large to solve real world problems. 

“I am honoured and humbled to receive this award,” says Lertzman. “It's such a privilege to work in the field of sustainability and teach leadership in the way I do learning on the land with indigenous peoples. There’s much more we can do in this space to engage indigenous communities as learning partners. It’s a tremendous opportunity with so much to offer.”  

Read story: Teaching future leaders about social values | Haskayne Wilderness Retreat

In this category, students have nominated faculty members that have provided outstanding and inspirational instruction and mentorship in sustainability. Nominees were evaluated on sustainability integration and teaching, commitment, enthusiasm, inclusion and learning outcomes.

Eduard Cubi

Eduard Cubi, a research associate in the Schulich School of Engineering, has transformed the delivery of the Energy and Environment Engineering 503 course on life cycle assessment to enrich the student learning experience while providing useful insights for improving the University of Calgary’s sustainability performance. Cubi led efforts to create opportunities for students to work directly with the Office of Sustainability on projects that could inform tangible decisions for the university’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy and help them have a stake in executing the strategy. Over 100 students completed over 20 group projects that studied waste reduction options at campus food services, design choices for more energy-efficient buildings, reducing campus fleet emissions and more. Cubi dedicated over 50 hours to refine course project ideas, in addition to his already busy work load, and met with every student about 2-3 times per semester to help them develop their research abilities and ensure that their work would provide relevant information for campus sustainability needs. 

“It’s good to be recognized for the work that you do. I was not expecting to be nominated. It was nice to get some recognition both ways—from the university but it’s also just getting nominated that’s important,” says Cubi. “It’s certainly gratifying.” 

Jason Donev

Jason Donev is a senior instructor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.  In his course – Physics 371 (Introduction to Energy) – he prepares students for careers in the energy sector by helping them understand fossil fuels, their alternatives and the associated costs both direct and indirect. An example of his commitment and enthusiasm for energy education and sustainability is the development of an online encyclopedia ( which he developed with help from his students and uses to teach his course. The site provides data visualizations that allow students to explore how different countries get their energy, how it is consumed and who has access to it. His students most appreciate his open mind and creation of a learning environment that supports free thinking and discussion while ensuring that ultimately every student understands how to obtain solutions to problems while understanding the significance behind those problems in the first place.  

“We have over 1000 pages on energy use, sustainability and climate change. We have been visited over 200,000 times from over 200 countries,” says Donev. “It’s wonderful that the university is acknowledging the hard work of, quite frankly, my students. They’re awesome and I am privileged that they nominate me for things like this when really they are doing a lot of the work.” 

Julie Drolet

Julie Drolet, associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work, teaches a number of courses ranging from sustainable social development to social work practice with immigrants and refugees. Drolet seeks out every opportunity to provide students access to meaningful hands-on learning and broadening their knowledge from multiple perspectives. Her practicum courses give students meaningful fieldwork that connects them with communities in which they can acquire practical skills while making a difference by addressing societal, natural and economic issues. Drolet employs students as research assistants to expose them to the practical and theoretical aspects of social work and collaborates with several teams of scholars to provide research opportunities that are interdisciplinary in nature. Students are challenged to integrate social and scientific theories and to think about how local issues are connected to global issues. 

“It’s a real honour to be nominated by a student in the Faculty of Social Work,” says Drolet. “The issues of social, economic and environmental justice are very close to my heart and something that I am able to integrate in my teaching and research work.”

Read story: Recovering from a natural disaster is tough. Is it sustainable?

This category recognizes an individual student or student group for advancing sustainability on campus by significantly engaging their peers in sustainability through sustainable practices, initiatives, projects, or ideas with substantial outcomes. Nominees were evaluated on impact, complexity, innovation, collaboration and commitment.

Crowsnest Composting Team

Stephanie Bachewich, Luis Welbanks, Eliana Elkhoury, Erika Lemon, Sahil Sharma, Zizhen Ping, Laura Mcnight, Belinda Tindyebwa, Taha Afyouni and  Simin Wu saw a need for composting in Crownest Hall and rose to the challenge. They researched programs at other campuses, secured GSA Quality Money funding, engaged a diversity of campus partners, and successfully implemented composting - including education and engagement programming. In six months, the team carted out more than 1,600 litres of compost, reducing waste going to the landfill by 30 per cent. Through events, conversations and programming the Crowsnest Composting Team has educated approximately 200 graduate students. This project is the first of its kind implemented in a residence building at the University of Calgary.

"Winning this award is confirmation of our efforts and it means the campus is really accepting and looking for new initiatives,” says Luis Welbanks. “It was a challenge to find people who were willing to jump in and help us but eventually when we found those key partners it was just phenomenal to see the project work, and the award says the work is worth it.” 

This category recognizes Students' Union clubs who have engaged the campus community in sustainable practices by educating and encouraging individuals to take actions that reduce emissions, waste, water and energy use, and promote health, wellness, human rights and equality. Nominees were evaluated on impact, complexity, innovation, collaboration and commitment.

Students Against Domestic Abuse Association (SADAA)

The Students Against Domestic Abuse Association is the first club of its kind in Canada. The club organized an End the Cycle Summit, partnered with the Ori-Aid club to raise more than $2,000 for the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, and is part of the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective. The club helps reduce stigma and provides students who have experienced domestic abuse with an outlet to share their stories. With more than 100 members, they have invested hundreds of hours to organize awareness campaigns, fundraisers, and volunteering opportunities.  

“When I founded this club less than a year ago, I never could have dreamed that we would become a recipient of this award in such a short span of time,” says Tina Guo, the club’s president. “Being a recipient of this award highlights what a tremendous privilege it is to not only advocate for such inspirational marginalized individuals, but lead such a passionate and devoted team.” 

Like SADAA on Facebook


This category recognizes an individual or group of UCalgary staff members who have advanced sustainability on campus or engaged individuals in sustainability through sustainable practices, initiatives, projects, and ideas with substantial outcomes. Nominees were evaluated on impact, complexity, innovation, collaboration and commitment.

Steven Grossick 

Steven Grossick, a supervisor in Residence Facilities Maintenance, has been instrumental in many waste reduction initiatives, including the annual Residence Move Out (which began as a student-led initiative). Over four years this program has diverted seven metric tonnes of food, clothing, appliances, furniture, electronics, paper and cardboard from the waste stream. Another example is the implementation of single stream recycling in Aurora and Crowsnest Halls which now divert over 14 metric tonnes annually. A tireless supporter of students, Steven has also assisted student-led projects to introduce organics composting in graduate and undergraduate residence halls.

“It’s always a pleasure just to be nominated and I think it’s a great honour to be recognized,” says Grossick, who has worked at the university for 11 years and remembers when waste diversion was ad hoc, at best. “It’s starting to become part of our modus operandi, our standard operating procedure. Now we’re trying to divert stuff before we even get it on campus, reaching out to new students to think twice about packaging.”