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Sustainability on Campus: A Project Led by Four Students from Mexico

by Eva Rizk

Pictured from left to right: Luis, Kenia, Denisse and Lizandro - Picture taken by Gisela Frias

Lizandro, Kenia, Denisse, and Luis are university exchange students from Mexico who are leading sustainability projects on Dawson’s campus. They are partaking in the Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) for students. This Canadian government’s program funds research projects for college and university students from all over Latin America and Canada to help develop sustainability projects in schools.

Dawson’s exchange program began in 2012 when the school sent one of their students to a school in Mexico. Now, thanks to the funding from ELAP, the college receives a handful of students each year who stay for one semester. It gives the exchange students a list of projects the school needs help developing and they choose which ones they’d like to take on. Dawson benefits from these student’s research projects, which show the ways in which the institution can achieve its sustainability goals.

During their stay, each student writes small articles on their individual blogs to keep their school, friends, and family updated with what they are learning here in Montreal. The websites are in Spanish, but viewers have the option to translate the pages to English.

Whilst here, the students attend five classes, which are chosen beforehand by Gisela Frias, a teacher in the Geography Department and the Coordinator of the exchange students. Having received information about the students prior to their arrival in Canada, Frias ensures that the classes she selects are related to the environment and sustainability, as well as to the field of study the student is pursuing.

Lizandro is studying Educational Intervention at the National Pedagogical University. His project focuses on reviewing the course outlines of the Community, Recreation and Leadership Training (CRLT) and Geography Departments, in order to see which courses correlate with sustainability and how to improve them. He is working with The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), an organization which provides future leaders with a number of resources for the advancement of sustainability within higher education.

Two other students that are a part of the program are Kenia and Denisse. They are currently studying environmental technology engineering at the Polytechnic University of the State of Morelos. With the assistance of Chris Adam, a coordinator in the sustainability department, they are both conducting research for their thesis projects by creating an inventory of rainwater management, which will help the college with their organization of campus plant watering.

Finally, there is Luis, a Biology student at the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos. He is here to help develop a webpage on the invertebrate species diversity at Dawson, working alongside Brian Mader, a teacher in the environmental science department. Students will be able to collaborate on the website and to update the information posted over the years. Luis hopes his project will help towards the preservation of these species, as well as towards the promotion of their presence on campus. He says that he learns a lot of information as a biology student and that by being here, he is learning how to transmit it.

Being in Montreal for the past few months, the students have already partaken in two camping trips, one hike, and activities they’ve found around the Island. They were even invited to their first Thanksgiving dinners at the houses of a couple students and of a staff member. Since Dawson has no residence for students, the exchange students live in the CÉGEP Saint-Laurent dormitory.

Life in Montreal is much different than what the students had expected. Lizandro explained that, when they first arrived, he tried to convince the others to invest in a rental car because he was so tired of walking everywhere. However, he now states that, “I’ve walked more in the past months than I have in the last ten years,” and even does it for fun. This is something he would’ve never expected to do back home. For Kenia and Denisse, being separated from their families was hard to get used to. In Mexico, Denisse lives with her mom. Being here, she has had to get used to handling her finances, as well as to cooking meals for herself.

Each of the exchange students have learned different things during their time here, but they have the same advice for future participants in this program: take the opportunity to learn things from a different perspective and to see Canada’s beautiful scenery – but make sure you know how to cook and prepare yourself for the cold weather!

Links to the student's blogs:

Kenia’s blog:


Lizandro’s blog:


Denisse’s blog:


Luis’ blog:




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