People of SFU

Sustainability innovator expands impact from campus to community

March 09, 2023

Awarded for her inventive approach to sustainability research and her unwavering commitment to community, Kilim Park has earned the 2022 Staff Achievement Award for Innovation.

Research manager of SFU Sustainability, Park led the creation of SFU’s first Living Lab program, which paired researchers with SFU staff to explore solutions to complex on-campus sustainability challenges. Recognized by other institutions as an example of best practice, Park’s approach set the foundation for SFU’s partnership with the City of Burnaby to establish a Civic Innovation Lab, expanding our impact from campus to community.

Born and raised in South Korea, Park’s family relocated nearly every two years for her father’s career as an electrical engineer. Immersing herself in different cultures and regional dialects sparked a lifelong desire to create community and bring people together.

“I’m not interested in greatness,” says Park. “Innovation doesn’t thrive in cutthroat and competitive environments. For me, innovation is rooted in kindness, solving problems together and ensuring no one feels alone. We want to achieve great work, but it’s more important to be kind to each other. The results will follow.”

Joining SFU Sustainability in 2019, Park was tasked with designing the Living Lab for the university. While the living lab concept had already been well established, Park developed a model for SFU that reflected the university’s strengths and needs.

Abandoning traditional ways of thinking and doing, interdisciplinary teams, guided by a collaborative and just framework, co-designed, delivered and evaluated sustainability projects. Park’s model brought teams together in a unique way, solving the previous disconnect between researchers and practitioners on campus whose goals, deadlines and deliverables differed.

More recently, Park supported the design and development of a transformational initiative that leverages Community-Centered Climate Innovation (C3I) to amplify the impact of SFU’s critical sustainability and climate action, and climate resilience research.

“Every so often I meet someone who has an innovative spirit and finds ways to completely shift the standard, cutting through the clutter of business-as-usual thinking,” says Candace Ratelle (Le Roy), executive director of SFU Sustainability. “Kilim is one of those people. She has made significant positive and lasting changes to our models and programs, shifting the way we approach all our work.”