Why this communicator wants to expand her climate crisis knowledge

Photo by Dan Toulgoet

It was summer 2021 and Michelle Gaudet was panicking in the middle of a record-breaking heat dome making its way across B.C. As a communications coordinator for the City of Pitt Meadows, she needed to deliver emergency information to the public about local cooling centres—while dealing with her own anxiety. 

As a result of that challenging experience, Michelle says she felt compelled to do something about the climate issues that caused the heat dome in the first place. But she didn’t know whether she had enough background knowledge to make a difference. Thanks to SFU’s Climate Action Certificate, she now has reasons to be hopeful for the future. 

In her role, Michelle collaborates with several experts on climate change—from city planners to emergency managers. By expanding her own climate knowledge, she explains, she’d no longer have to rely solely on others’ expertise when writing city communications. 

After attending an online info session for the new SFU program, Michelle realized it was exactly what she had been looking for. “I was surprised that it didn’t exist before, because I thought there would be other people like me who had different backgrounds and just needed the science information.”

Still, Michelle admits to feeling apprehensive at first. “I went into the program with a lot of imposter syndrome and was concerned that I wouldn’t know what I was talking about,” she recalls.

But her instructor’s encouraging words during the Foundations in Climate Action course gave Michelle the confidence to dive deeper into climate issues. Rather than being overwhelmed by the severity of the climate crisis, she learned about solutions she could put into practice at work.  

“They did such a good job at making all of us feel so competent and knowledgeable,” Michelle says. “It was a really great introduction to the climate sphere, issues and solutions.”

She says she also loves learning from discussions with her classmates, who come from a diverse range of professional backgrounds, from working at environmental non-profits to city municipalities. 

“It’s taught me how to better collaborate between different departments,” she says. “It’s just taught me better group dynamics, recognizing who’s in the room and who’s not in the room, issues of equity.”

Because Michelle qualified for the StrongerBC future skills grant, she’s been able to fast-track her studies and finish the program in less than a year.

She encourages everyone to take climate action courses regardless of their profession, as it offers valuable knowledge for life. 

“When we’re scared and worried, we all collectively don’t do anything. When we have that feeling of hope or agency, that’s how things happen.”

By Bernice Puzon