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WESEF Projects Spotlight: North Campus Community Garden and Waterloo Women Leading Academia

WESEF, or the Waterloo Environment Students Endowment fund, awards grants to projects and initiatives that contribute to the Faculty of Environment. You can check out some of their past purchases here. The North Campus Community Garden and Waterloo Women Leading Academia are two recent projects WESEF has funded. Read on to see what work they’re doing for Environment students!

Good Things Growing in the North Campus Community Garden

Organizer: Tim Alamenciak (PhD Candidate – Conservation and Restoration Ecology (CaRE) lab, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability)

Date of Project Launch: Work completed in August 2020. Currently live.

Description: It’s easy to miss the North Campus Community Garden, tucked away behind a cedar hedge at the busy corner of Columbia and Westmount.

But behind that hedge is a small wonder: individual community gardeners, a collaborative community plot, and a food garden tended by White Owl Native Ancestry Association and the Wisahkotewinowak Indigenous Garden Collective that produces food for the Indigenous community in the Region of Waterloo.

“The Wisahkotewinowak Indigenous Garden Collective is so thankful to have a garden at the North Campus Community Garden! This year we were able to produce around a ton and a half of food for the Indigenous community a third of which was grown in north Waterloo. We were able to share this food with approximately 20 Indigenous households on a weekly basis from August to December,” wrote Dave Skene, co-executive director of WONAA and member of the garden collective, in an email. 

The garden was a different place in 2020 thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but work continued once community gardens were declared essential. Thanks to WESEF, we were able to upgrade the water infrastructure by installing underground hoses. 

Before the new infrastructure, gardeners had to lug our aging and leaking hose more than 100 feet to water their crops. The new hose will also allow us to consider investing in a rainwater gathering system to replace the current well-water.

“Gardening is hard work but this year it was made a little easier through the support of WESEF and the new hose system. All our staff and volunteers want to thank you for making their work a little easier,” wrote Dave.

The work to install the hose was done by volunteers, including Shane May, the garden’s coordinator. Like everything in the garden, it was a collaborative effort that benefitted all who use the space.

“Installing the underground hose was fun and challenging,” wrote Shane. “It wasn’t just about digging a trench and burying a hose, it was also about healthy debates on how to protect and properly take care of the hose. For example, if the hose is not properly drained, the freeze and thaw cycle over the harsh winter will cause damage. If the hose is not buried deep enough then gardeners digging will damage the hose and plant roots seeking out water will eventually cause the hose to fail.”

The garden began as a collaborative initiative between students, staff and community organizations. Today it operates on people power – Shane coordinates the individual garden plots annually, and all who use the space work together to maintain and improve it.

It is a “do-ocracy” – those who do the work, make the decisions. Gardening is tough work that requires commitment, physical labour and care. Anyone who puts time and effort into the North Campus Community Garden will be rewarded by seeing plants grow and harvesting nutritious food.

The garden is open to new gardeners, whether you are interested in an individual plot, participating in the community-planned plot or helping WONAA and Wisahkotewinowak Indigenous Garden Collective with their important work. If you have an idea for research or a gardening project, the community at the North Campus Community Garden can help you bring it to life by providing space, guidance and a support network.

For more information on how to get involved, email Shane May at or Tim Alamenciak at

Empowering Women in Academia with Waterloo Women Leading Academia (WWLA)

Organizer: Vasundhara Saravade

Date of Project Launch: January 30, 2021 

Description: Although the idea of Waterloo Women Leading Academia (WWLA) began in the summer of 2020, the official launch of this mentorship platform will be at the end of this month. As an inclusive community, we are open to all students (especially women or those who identify as women) at the University of Waterloo that are interested in being mentored through their academic career. 

Given its mission of empowering women in academia, we hope to encourage more women to be leaders in their personal and professional lives as well as inspire the next generation to do so. Through the WWLA community, we believe that graduate and undergraduate students can create long lasting connections within their Faculty or Departments, as well as build a collaborative network to work with on future projects. 

Mentorship in academia has many benefits, including creating new opportunities in one’s career, allowing for better recognition and service to your community, fostering new friendships and providing support systems when we need them most (like in the pandemic)! 

We, at the WWLA, are hoping to use this platform to allow us to build a more inclusive community for women and others at the University of Waterloo. In the upcoming months, make sure to keep an eye out for future events like speaker series or skills workshops, as these will be open to the general public as well.

In order to know more about us, please check out our website:

You can also sign up to be a peer-mentor:

Or a mentee:


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