Vision 2020 Orientation

10 Sep, 2012

The Vision 2020 Frosh Orientation event provided first year students the opportunity to get an insider perspective on becoming involved in life at McGill and Montreal as a whole. While the event had a decidedly ecological flavour, being sponsored by the McGill Office of Sustainability and supported by the Sustainable Projects Fund, most of the discussion centered on finding your place in an environment that expects you to forge your own path and refuses to hold your hand.

“McGill is a place that focuses on theoretical learning, so some students may be frustrated by the lack of applied programs,” David Gray-Donald, SSMU Sustainability Coordinator (BASc ’10) told the crowd in a short speech on what he believes McGill is all about. “For those interested in things like creative writing, set design, filmmaking or journalism, you have to find a way to tap into student communities.”

While the following panel discussion often returned to topics that were purely academic in nature, panelist Brooke Nancekivell (Arts U2), Rez Life Community Engagement Coordinator, gave an example of how student involvement can serve to actively improve sustainability efforts on campus. “Midnight Kitchen resulted from students protesting McGill’s food monopoly in the early 2000’s and now provides free vegan meals and is a friendly environment to get involved in campus life.”

Started in early 2012, Vision 2020 is “a year-long consultation and planning process that builds on recent successes to set a sustainability strategy for—and from—the entire McGill community.” One of the goals of the Frosh event was to inspire students to become involved in this strategy and find ways to contribute to the school’s wide array of sustainability efforts.  The Vision 2020 name comes from a prompting question: Where do we see McGill in the year 2020, and how do we get there?

The past few years have marked shift among students, faculty and the administration towards committing to sustainability. As a result, McGill now has an Office of Sustainability, a published Sustainability Policy and a Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) of $800,000 per year to put towards creating opportunities for the McGill community to play an active role in this vision for the future.

Professor George McCourt (Environment), another panelist, spoke glowingly of the Projects Fund. “The Fund provides opportunities for very high profile student involvement. The ecological gardens on MacDonald campus started as an idea by some third year Bioresource Engineering students to get involved in local food production. They asked the Dean for some land, and seed funds were provided by the Mac Campus Students’ Society. Today the gardens sell food to McGill Dining Services and have a business plan that is moving them towards self-sufficiency.”

While we cannot see eight years from now to the year 2020, if current trends hold even remotely, McGill is positioned to become a leader in sustainability initiatives. Professor McCourt’s parting advice to the new undergraduates was a tip on becoming involved. “Professors are often reluctant to supervise independent projects that do not align exactly with their research as we are for the most part extremely busy people. However, faculty members may be able to point you in the direction of people and groups with similar goals to your own even if they cannot help you themselves.”

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