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Celebrating our UM Sustainability Award Winners

March 17, 2022 — 

The UM Sustainability Awards recognize and celebrate the collaborative efforts of students, staff and faculty to advance UM’s commitment to excellence and leadership in sustainability. The following winners of the 2022 Sustainability Awards were selected by a committee and received their awards at UM Sustainability Day on March 10.


Undergraduate Sustainability Award

Award Recipient: Justin Langan

The Undergraduate Sustainability Award recognizes an undergraduate student who has led an initiative or project to advance one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This initiative or project can be a part of coursework or take place outside of the learning environment.

Justin has been a passionate advocate surrounding climate change and climate adaptation, especially here at the university. He was recently recognized nationally as one of the Top 25 Environmentalists under 25 by The Starfish Canada. Some of his involvements include participating in sessions with Indigenous Climate Action, and volunteering in dialogue sessions with community Elders and the Manitoba Métis Federation on how to better protect and sustain the environment, especially the boreal forest.


Graduate Sustainability Award

Award Recipient: William Dowie

The Graduate Sustainability Award recognizes a graduate student who has led an initiative or project to advance one or more of the SDGs. This initiative or project can be a part of coursework or take place outside of the learning environment.

Bill is a long-time environmental consultant who holds an applied management certificate for non-profit organizations, a certificate in project management, and is a certified permaculture designer, master gardener and an accredited LEED (Operations and Maintenance) professional. A former instructor in prairie horticulture (arboriculture), he continues to coach homeowners as an independent ecological landscaper. He is a past vice-president of the UM Graduate Students’ Association and has served on several boards and committees within universities, non-profits and government. In addition, he is a past president of the board of the Green Action Centre.


Student Group Sustainability Award

Award Recipient: Nursing Students’ Association

The Student Group Sustainability Award recognizes a group of students who have led an initiative or project to advance one or more of the SDGs. This group also has made and will continue making a lasting positive impact on the environmental, economic and social well-being of students at UM.


The Nursing Students’ Association worked on a project titled “Connecting One Conversation at a Time”. The initiative uses a multi-pronged approach to support student mental health by situating two designated benches on the UM campus that create safe places for peer-to-peer support, speaking to friends and colleagues, meeting new people, and searching for information about mental health and wellness through strategically placed Quick Response (QR) codes and website links. The project aims to advance the mental health and well-being focus within SDG #3 – Good Health and Wellbeing.


Staff Sustainability Award

Award Recipient: Joe Ackerman

The Staff Sustainability Award recognizes an individual staff member’s efforts to educate, advocate and advance one or more SDGs within their department and/or unit. This person shows a keen interest in campus-related activities and sustainability as a whole. Sustainability may or may not be defined in this person’s job responsibilities.

As the manager of the Sustainability in Action Facility (SiAF), Joe shares best practices of sustainable building and educates undergraduate and graduate students through tours and mentorship. He started a program to divert university furniture and construction waste from going to the landfill and is a living example of commitment with sustainable principles. He teaches students and peers through the example of his actions and goes above and beyond to create engaging videos that we all can relate to. He set up a monitoring system and informative posters throughout SiAF and amplified the educational aspect of the building and university sustainability strategies.


Faculty Sustainability Award

Award Recipient: David Van Vliet

The Faculty Sustainability Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional and continuous integration of one or more SDGs into their teaching, research and engagement activities. This individual creates engaging opportunities for students through experiential learning, course design, innovative research and assignment creation. This person also shows a keen interest in campus-related activities and sustainability as a whole.


During 24 years of research and teaching in the department of city planning, Dr. David van Vliet has focused on issues of sustainability – most closely addressing the SDGs concerning sustainable cities and communities, clean water, affordable and clean energy, and climate action. He has developed an in-depth and nuanced understanding of innovative approaches to sustainable urban environments. In his teaching, David has shared his wide-ranging knowledge about sustainability initiatives and technologies in courses about sustainable community design and urban ecology. He has supervised more than 60 master’s theses and capstone projects (plus served on committees for dozens more) in planning and the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources – most of his students are now practicing as professional planners or working with environmental organizations.


Collaborative Sustainability Award

Award Recipient: Science Students’ Association

The Collaborative Sustainability Award recognizes a unique collaborative effort between students, faculty, staff and community members to integrate one or more SDGs in a project or initiative. This unique category puts emphasis on interdepartmental interactions at UM in efforts to find solutions to sustainability-related issues and further advance the SDGs.

The Science Student Associate Courtyard project is an ongoing lifelong learning and living project that revitalized the outdoor courtyard to the rear of the Science Student Lounge in a unique collaboration of students, faculty from Science and Architecture and central staff (from General Services and Architectural and Engineering Services). This new university green space for students was designed as a locus where students can relax, and enjoy being disconnected from technology, in contact with the beauty of the natural world. This focal point for student welfare was developed as an ecologically sustainable garden space that will serve a research function as it evolves. This innovative space engendered goodwill and forward-thinking from students, faculty, administrators, staff, construction contractors and external landscaping firms.

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