What do you believe is or will be a significant environmental issue in the coming years?


Pictured from left to right: Lydia Dickinson, Connor Robinson, Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Gabriel Lord, Dr. Ingrid Stefanovic, Brea McCauley, Greer Vanderbyl. Jack Satzewich and Christine Leclerc not present.

The Faculty of Environment encouraged students to write an evidence-based research opinion editorial (op-ed) for its 2017 OpEd Writing Contest

The articles ranged from former class papers, part of current course work, or new work specifically written for the contest. Entries were reviewed by a panel of experts, including journalists and faculty, with particular interest and expertise in journalistic writing on environmental issues. Finalists were eligible to take part in a writing workshop with a leading environmental journalist and editor.

Contest Rules

  • The contest was open to all undergraduate students with a program in the Faculty of Environment AND any student from any program who was currently enrolled in a course offered by the Faculty of Environment.
  • In a short Op-Ed, students were asked to make a case for what they believed is or will be a significant environmental issue in the coming years.
  • Submissions had a maximum word count of 1000 words, with in-text hyperlink citations.
  • Submissions were judged blind.


We are grateful for the assistance of our judges who, in addition to choosing winners, provided detailed notes on the first drafts of the contestants’ submissions for improvement:

  • Dr. Zafar Adeel, Professor of Professional Practice and Executive Director, Pacific Water Research Centre
  • Dr. Meg Holden, Associate Professor, Geography
  • Alix Patterson, Social Entrepreneur and Author of Inspired and Within Our Reach
  • Dr. Mark Roseland, Professor, Resource and Environmental Management and Director, Centre for Sustainable Development
  • Robyn Smith, Editor-in-Chief, The Tyee


  • Monday, March 20: Deadline for student submissions at MIDNIGHT!
  • Saturday, April 1: Short list of students (up to 15) will be eligible for enrolment in a professional writing workshop with Robyn Smith, the editor-in-chief of The Tyee.
  • Saturday, April 22: Robyn Smith will teach participants how to write a strong, throught-provoking Op-Ed.
  • Monday, May 1: Deadline for revised final Op-Ed submissions.
  • Monday, May 15: Judges anounce the winners.
  • May - June: Winners will be published on the Faculty of Environment's website and may be published in The Tyee, as well.

The Faculty of Environment was actively seeking innovative ways to engage students in community-based learning while also contributing to the public discourse on important environmental issues such as climate change, ecological restoration, water, food and energy security, and natural resource management.

Writing for publication, whether in academic, peer reviewed journals or social media platforms, is rapidly changing. More than ever, concise, fact-based writing must cut through the plethora of misinformation that congests social media. Furthermore, undergraduate students desire opportunities to meaningfully share their innovative ideas, questions and theories with audiences beyond their course instructors and peers. Opportunities to write for a wider audience transforms course assigned essays from a single use, throw away activity, to a more meaningful engagement experience that links ideas with readers. And while undergraduate students are still developing their research, writing and critical thinking skills, they will gain even greater acumen in all these domains by having the opportunity to be mentored by a professional editor who will share techniques and methods and provide them access to a wider audience.

It was these ambitions that led to the sponsorship of the 2017 Faculty of Environment OpEd Writing Contest and we are beyond pleased with the outcome, as well as proud of our students.

I would like to thank all participants, judges and sponsors, and congratulate our contest winners here.

Joanna Ashworth
Teaching Fellow, Faculty of Environment

From the Students

“It was wonderful to hear directly from an editor who frequently needs to make tough decisions about what to publish. The Tyee's Editor in Chief shared many valueable insights about the role of the op-ed in public discourse as well as practical writing techniques.” 

–Christine Leclerc, first year Physical Geography (Hons.)


“I think [this was] a fantastic way to allow the participants to remember why they are in the Faculty of Environment. It allows them to remember their passions and why they should continue doing what they're doing.” 

–Fauzi Nisha, recent Environmental Science graduate


“The value of this contest in my opinion is to encourage undergrads to share their ideas and get published, I think there is a major lack of good writers in modern society. Another major value of this contest was the workshop and the personal feedback, I felt very lucky to be a part of it and meet Robyn and learn from her.” 

–Lydia Dickinson, third year Global Environmental Systems


“I thought [the contest] would be a great opportunity to practice writing for a non-academic audience while also spreading awareness about an issue that is important to me.” 

–Greer Vanderbyl, fourth year, Archaeology (Hons.)


The Tyee, established in 2003, is a well-respected, solutions-focused, digital native news site that publishes news, reviews and commentary not typically covered by BC and Canada's mainstream media. They aim to inform and enliven the democratic conversation necessary to improve environmental, economic and social conditions and are committed to engaging and mentoring students as part of their educational mandate.

YouFund.me is a social fundraising platform, utilizing the power of the crowd to support a variety of causes and charities.

Questions or Comments?

Please contact Joanna Ashworth <jashwort@sfu.ca>.