Policy Studies Students at KPU Offer Input for the Future of Newton Sustainability

Students in POST 4900 took part in public forums about environmentalism with the city government

POST 4900 student, Karin Wagner shares thoughts while student participants and instructor, Ellen Pond listen. (Lincoln Saugstad)

After receiving funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the City of Surrey recently began implementing the Newton Sustainability in Action Plan to make the Newton area more environmentally friendly.

Newton was chosen for its strong community and lack of pre-existing eco-friendly infrastructure. As part of the action plan, the city will be reaching out to Newton residents to help identify ways of making the area “a more thriving, green and inclusive community,” according to the city’s website.

Since the creation of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Policy Studies degree in 2011, students from the university—primarily those from the Surrey campus, located in Newton—have provided the city with research-based input on sustainability related efforts. Students in courses such as POST 3110 and 4900 gain experience solving real-world problems and working for professional clientele in their field.

This year’s students have focused their efforts on contributing to the Newton Sustainability in Action Plan. In October, POST 4900 students held an event at Strawberry Hill to get feedback from citizens about which improvements could be made to the area. They also held an on-campus sustainability workshop on Nov. 21.

According to the students’ PowerPoint presentation, the goal of the workshop was to “gain perspective of what students and guests feel are Newton’s assets and needs” in regards to sustainability. The students also hoped to start a dialogue with the workshop’s attendees about what can be done to address the needs as they were identified.

Russell Liu, a Policy Studies student who helped organize the workshop, said that “the event went well when it comes to the structure and execution, but that it definitely could have had a better turn out.”

He notes that, while their intention was to reach out to a broad section of the community, the workshop was primarily attended by other students in the Policy Studies department. Nevertheless, they were able to hear from a variety of students majoring in Archaeology, Sustainable Agriculture, and Urban Ecosystems.

“It’s good for anyone who is interested in improving their community and has ideas,” says Lincey Amora, a KPU Geography student who attended the workshop and a director with the Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group. “I feel if more people knew about this it could definitely be more popular.”

The students’ findings were presented at City Hall on Nov. 26. What they learned about Newton’s assets and needs will add to the overall responses received by the city and inform their priorities with the project in the future.

“Having the students assist with the engagement on the Newton Sustainability Plan this fall has been great,” says Anna Mathewson, Surrey’s Sustainability Manager. “I think it has helped the students build skills and get experience, but it’s also helping us do our work. To me, it’s probably the most successful one so far.”

Next semester, POST 4900 and 4110 students will be looking at Community Benefits Agreements—provincial agreements with local communities that are made when completing large-scale, public infrastructure projects. The details are still in the works, but Ellen Pond, Chair of the Policy Studies department, says that she is in contact with someone from the provincial government to lay out the groundwork for the course.

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