Master of Sustainability in Energy Security
The Master of Sustainability (MSs) in Energy Security with the University of Saskatchewan School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) is empowering a network of northern, Indigenous, remote, and career professionals to lead sustainable community energy development in communities across Canada and globally.
Over 60 community and industry leaders from all over the world contributed to the design of this unique educational and experiential program, making MSs the only one of its kind in North America. Learning from faculty who work directly in the industry provides graduates with purpose-driven practical experiences that guide them to launch into exciting careers leading the renewable energy transition.
The Reasons for the Program
Given that the federal government would be investing over a billion dollars in renewable energy systems in Indigenous and northern remote communities, it became clear that there was a capacity building gap in Canada.
Embracing societal responsiveness laid the foundation for SENS to develop professional programs in water security, regenerative sustainability, and energy security—focused on indigenizing the experience. This approach initiated many conversations between the university, energy and power organizations, and First Nations communities to help build energy champions across Canada and the globe.
“What the university did was reach out to organizations such as FNPA, Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, Northwest Territories Power Corporation, SaskPower, along with companies in the electric sector to build partnerships. We had utilities, Indigenous communities, developers, and other folks working on remote energy and canvassed, ‘if we’re going to meet the needs of our constituency, how can we set them up for success?’”
About MSs in Energy Security
MSs in Energy Security was built from the ground up, working with 68 different organizations and individuals, as well as workshopping the program with Dartmouth College’s energy center and other reliable institutions and labs. With layers of expertise and curriculum content, this partner-driven program has become unlike any other in the world.
If the student body consisted of a single mom working for her band and she’s remote, how do you deliver a program to ensure she’s successful? How do you provide her with the skills to lead energy projects in her community? These essential questions moulded the practical program to provide students with all the building blocks they need within a cohort model that creates a lifelong community.
This shorter, course-based Master’s degree is a 2-year part-time program (or 1-year, full-time) that offers many of its courses online, making it accessible for students balancing full-time jobs, being home with their families, community obligations, etc. Students also receive project placements that provide them with practical experience working in energy sector-related activities as part of their training.
Program Goals and the Pathway to Indigenization
“The goal is to get 50% Indigenous students, 25% international students, and 25% other Canadians from rural and other communities,” said Dr. Poelzer. “This year, with our third cohort, we actually achieved that—50% of our student body is Indigenous. There is no other program like this in the energy space in North America to have this level of Indigenous engagement.”
Indigenization and Indigenous-led go hand in hand. Economic and Environmental Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples must empower learners to become the leaders in the transition to a net-zero carbon emissions economy by 2050 and beyond.
Much appreciation and credit go to Suncor and Natural Resources Canada for their generous funding into the program to co-develop the curriculum and continue the work dedicated to indigenizing it. Through these efforts, SENS has been capturing stories around energy through Indigenous storytelling and elder perspectives.
Because ideas, words, and phrases are culturally specific, building these concepts fundamentally into the MSs curriculum opens up greater accessibility for people to understand and experience the program in their language.
Dr. Poelzer explained, “This is the practical, heavy lifting around reconciliation happening through the program.”
The Future of the Program
We’re capacity building through the individuals themselves taking the program, and they are building capacity in the community as they go after research grants to develop sustainable energy opportunities in their own communities or wherever they choose to.
Having a student body comprised of Indigenous learners, international students often coming from rural communities, and other Canadians create a wider lens where people aren’t only thinking, “my country and my region have problems different than yours.” Instead, MSs opens a dialogue to discuss how energy security is a global issue affecting humanity in remote and marginalized communities everywhere.
We can take great pride in Saskatchewan for working together and achieving this remarkable program through all the partnerships—you can always do more together than you can individually.
As Dr. Poelzer put it:
“Saskatchewan people can move mountains, and that’s why we don’t have any.”