Cultivating Green Futures: Dr. Louise St. Pierre’s Journey to the YWCA Women of Distinction Nomination

May 13, 2024

Dr. Louise St. Pierre (PhD in Curriculum, Theory, and Implementation, 2021), a passionate advocate for ecological design and an Education alumnus, has been nominated for the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards in Environmental Sustainability. 

Her time at SFU, mentored by Dr. Heesoon Bai, profoundly influenced her integration of ecological principles with contemplative Buddhist practices into her professional and academic roles. At Emily Carr University of Art + Design, she led the creation of Canada's first Minor in Ecological Design and co-founded the nation's inaugural Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) lab. This foundation has enabled Dr. St Pierre to pioneer sustainable design education and practices, reshaping our interaction with the environment through innovative teaching and community engagement.

Q: How does it feel to be recognized for your contributions to ecological design?

A: It feels tremendously rewarding to be recognized. I have been working in ecology for my entire career, and I am surprised at how good it feels to have this effort noticed. I hope this recognition will inspire more people to look around at how our modern Western lifestyles are destroying the planet, to be critical about how unregulated our industries are, and to make changes to the political systems supporting the unravelling of the ecosphere.

Q: How did completing your PhD at SFU contribute to your professional development in design and sustainability? 

A: My experience was a complete joy! I was fortunate to have Dr. Bai as my supervisor. She was (and still is) a constant support and inspiration. As she told me early in my research, a PhD is an integrative experience. My PhD is where I integrated my diverse experiences in ecological design, my Buddhist and contemplative practices, and my understanding of animism and the agency of nature. 

Q: How did your education at SFU influence your approach to teaching and your involvement in community initiatives related to design and sustainability?

A: My approach to teaching changed considerably. Instead of being someone who set the terms for learning and enforced rules of engagement like attendance and participation, I began to open up to relationships with students, meeting them where they were and their current state/needs. This has changed the way I relate to students completely. I listen more. I enjoy them thoroughly, and I am inspired regularly by them. All my students are simply wonderful people. I now enjoy teaching in ways that surprise me.

Q: How has your doctoral research at SFU influenced your career in Design and Dynamic Media, particularly in relation to sustainability and design practices?  

A: Since completing my PhD, I have developed a minor in ecological design that goes beyond the standard and predictable "impact assessment/reduce materials/use natural dyes/locally harvested" approach and brings students into direct contact with local ecosystems, local creatures, and indigenous partners with the intent to change students' understanding of our relationship with the earth and inspiring a shift in worldview… a worldview in which we are part of a vast community of beings on an earth that is alive.

I have found the courage to incorporate guided meditations and mindfulness practices into my classes. Heesoon says, "If we change how we learn, then this changes what we know."