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Resource and environmental management trailblazer shares how leaning into SFU connections enhanced her student experience

October 06, 2022

Incoming students nervous about committing to a major or making connections at SFU may feel more at ease meeting resource and environmental management (REM) honours alumnus Emeralde O’Donnell.  After spending her undergraduate years actively engaged with peers and mentors, she is graduating with degrees in both REM and English — a decision she made to pursue her passion for both the environment and language. 

Initially in the environmental science program, Emeralde later realized REM was a better fit for her interests and became one of the first students to enroll in the REM honours program. “To complement that, I chose to pursue a second major in English with a focus on writing and rhetoric so I could reflect on the ways we use language to respond to and communicate environmental issues,” she says. 

Over the course of her degree Emeralde balanced her courses, volunteering, co-ops and research projects. “They all contributed really positively to my experience at SFU,” she says. She completed a co-op in the Faculty of Environment’s Dean’s Office and worked at SFU Residence for three years supporting her peers and planning events.  She also volunteered with the Global Peer Education Program and her student union to improve student experience and connections at SFU.

She says her own experience at SFU was largely shaped by the connections she made. “I was lucky to meet lots of people that helped me become a better, kinder, person,” she says. If ever feeling disheartened or burnt out, Emeralde looked at the work her peers and supervisors were doing for motivation. “It’s really encouraging to see people around me who care and are doing really good work,” she says. “It’s good for the soul.”

Emeralde put both her majors to use last year, analyzing the language and content in City of Vancouver environmental planning documents for her honours thesis. This led to further research with her supervisor the following year, presenting some of the work to a local consulting firm and co-authoring a research paper that will be submitted to Ecology & Society. “When I started at SFU, I would not have expected I’d get the chance to see this side of the research process,” she says. 

Emeralde is proud and grateful she was able to pursue both her passions and advises current and incoming students to explore minors and certificates in other faculties. “Many environment students are fortunate to already have interdisciplinary degrees, but certificates and minors can help diversify your experience even more.”

Congratulations, Emeralde!