#MyImpact: Sustainability Projects Assistant

Kate Marriot in front of a tree

Graduating from Leeds with a degree in Sustainability was a bit daunting. Any student graduating from University feels a bit lost when applying for jobs, trying to find one that will enable you make the impact you want in the world and that will use all the skills you’ve developed throughout your studying. But I was lucky enough to find both purpose and challenge over the past 11 months as a Sustainability Intern at the University’s Sustainability Service.

My role within the service has been so varied, allowing me to explore a huge breadth of sustainability in action. Throughout my degree, learning about climate change, circular economy, social justice, environmental politics and so much more, I began to feel more and more eager to have a practical impact on these elements of a sustainable future.

Through my role, I was able to support the University’s Climate Plan, embed sustainability across the University through our Blueprint programme, celebrate sustainability successes at the University and beyond through organising the Sustainability Awards, support connections with the community with the PIP programme and be involved in the University’s travel work, such as our emission reporting and work towards a sustainable return to campus. All this gave me a brilliant insight to a huge range of work streams within Sustainability.

My role working alongside colleagues surrounding the University’s travel was particularly interesting and enjoyable for me. Having an insight into the data collection for emissions reporting and being able to work in a small group to tackle problems was extremely rewarding. Similarly, I was able to take the time to up skill myself in using Arc GIS Pro, a software I was keen to learn more about, in order to support the return to campus work as part of the active travel working group. All the elements of the travel project work challenged me to expand my data management skills, stay up to date with national and regional travel updates and to learn a lot about good teamwork!

The Sustainability Service were bold enough to put a lot of trust in Hatty and myself, giving us the space to explore interesting topics, make suggestions and generally get stuck in. I was fortunate to have been able to perform a review of the Blueprint programme, talking to people in sustainability and beyond to gain their insights. With fantastic support from the team, I was able to suggest some improvements and deliver training sessions on these changes. Having this chance to explore how a project is run and be critical to make improvements was a brilliant opportunity and I am grateful to the Service for putting that trust in me.

One of the most valuable things this role has given me has been an insight into the amazing work done by people at the University at every level, both in academic and operational areas, and seeing what can happen when they can be enabled to work together, such as through living lab projects. It is so motivating to know that the University is home to people who work their socks off every day to try and make the University and the world a more equal and sustainable place. I know that whatever career I pursue in the future, that I will remember the wonderful people within the Sustainability Service and everything they have helped me learn.

#MyImpact: Sustainability Projects Assistant

 

Harriet Matthews stood by a tree

My name is Hatty and I have been one of the Sustainability Interns this year for the Sustainability Service.

I initially applied for the role because I wanted to gain a diverse experience and understanding of what it could mean within the incredibly broadly-termed ‘sustainability’ sector. I can definitely say I got a taste of this!

Coming to sustainability with a greater interest and experience of the social, rather than environmental side, of sustainability, I both enhanced and furthered my interest in this area, and pushed myself to explore more of the areas which were often confusing – and slightly scary – to my non-science-y brain. Throughout my role, I have worked heavily on the #2023PlasticFree campaign, student citizenship programme, co-organising this years digital (suprise!) sustainability awards with Kate, and assisting in the coordination of the University’s submission for the 2020 Times Higher Education Impact Awards. Myself and Kate have also done a lot of work in enhancing the use of social media to better engage with students.

This year has hugely broadened my understanding of both sustainability – crucially, encompassing  both environmental and social elements – and ways of working towards sustainable solutions in such a huge organisation. The diverse range of work I was able to help assist with over the course of the year highlighted to me the need to look holistically at the ways in which we create sustainable change in an educational setting, be that through research, operations, teaching, or leadership – all are equally vital. My role offered me the chance to look at all these areas, for example through how we combine the exciting ongoing research into plastic reduction and alternatives with how this can be implemented operationally.

My role in gathering the required data for this year’s submission for the Times Higher Education Impact Award was also a hugely rewarding project to work on. It involved me working across vast sectors of the University, seeking out data used as evidence for how the University is tackling the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It was a hugely striking insight into the broad — and fascinatingly specific — areas of what goes on behind the scenes to create a such a far-reaching sustainable impact at the University.

I have relished the opportunity to be a member of such a forward-thinking sector of the University, and the chance to provide insight as a recent graduate is something that enabled me to contribute to team discussions on a range of issues, from student engagement, stakeholder engagement, and even strategic direction of the team.

This year has instilled in me the sense that whatever career go on to pursue, sustainability has to be at the forefront; I have worked with countless of inspiring people across the University, and if anything, working within the Sustainability Service has demonstrated the importance of sustainability as an embedded component of how we all operate, in whatever field that may be – and wherever I end up!