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The Environment Community in Quarantine: Co-op Edition

By: Michelle Angkasa

The UW Radicle is highlighting stories and experiences of the Environment Community during the pandemic. 

This month, as part of this series, we’re featuring Ben Muller, a 3B GEM student who was on co-op this Spring term with the Faculty of Environment. 

My title was “Online Learning Experience Coordinator” for the Faculty of Environment, School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability. It involved three things.

One was developing course content material for student-led integrated learning. It’s a new teaching framework that’s going to be implemented into ERS 101 for the Winter 2021 term. This framework is a lot more focused on how you’re learning, versus the deliverable learning outcomes. So there are more reflections and it’s more of a project-based approach that aims to tackle different aspects of sustainability and implement them into the broader Living Lab for Sustainability. This already exists in different institutions, and it uses the campus as a testing bed for sustainability ideas. There are a lot of things that go into that, like making a database of projects and working with campus partners and student groups to identify their needs. 

Second was generally identifying sustainability needs on campus. I wrote some project statements, met some people from Campus Compost and WUSA Sustainability Project. Part of that also was including the Radicle in the video for student engagement. 

Third was the student engagement piece, trying to think of ways to get people involved, informing students, and coordinating things. I also did some Q&A live sessions. I set up meetings with co-op students representing the other schools in Environment, like Planning, ENBUS, or KI. We all would share what was going on and see if there were any projects we could support each other on. A lot of cool ideas came out of that. One was the need for centralization, especially for a virtual term. MATLAB is developing a communications calendar so you can see what kind of events are going on in the Faculty. 

There’s definitely a learning curve to it. You’ll get adjusted to it eventually. I was really happy to have a job and my co-workers were awesome. I felt like it gave a lot of purpose to my day, where in other areas I just didn’t know what to do with my time. It was nice to have somewhere to be and to feel like I was contributing somehow. 

I also tried to make things fun. I organized weekly socials and stuff for the co-op students to try and create a work culture that’s often lacking when working virtually. That lack of social opportunity is also why asynchronous learning is so difficult. It’s because you’re not seeing people face to face, and it’s way easier to disengage if there’s no one around. But I think the social ties that keep us connected to our jobs and education really make a huge difference. I definitely think that it’s going to be one of the things that people struggle with this term.

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