This paper aims to determine whether high school students can become agents of change in their local communities by participating in a formal internship program implemented through a partnership between academia (high schools and universities), nonprofit organizations and key community stakeholders.
Pre- and post-assessments, activity journals and on-line interviews are used to measure the impact of internships on high school students’ sustainability leadership, using a train-the-trainer intervention led by university interns. A conceptual problem-solving framework is proposed and empirically tested to explore the linkages between complex problem constellations, sustainability transition strategies and sustainability visions.
The five core leadership competencies (systems thinking, strategic, anticipatory, normative and interpersonal) may not be as uniquely discrete as suggested in the literature. An effective learning experience depends on students’ developing competence in their ability to implement a strategic intervention, which is better acquired through hands-on experience rather than a classroom setting.
Students need experiential learning outside of the classroom to make sustainability come alive as a viable option for their communities.
The principles of social responsivity, engagement, experiential learning, capacity-building and entrepreneurialism can be executed by transforming the campus into a learning lab, which includes the local community.
This study empirically demonstrates that students need involvement in strategic interventions to imagine and conceptualize sustainability visions. It also shows how academia can help fulfill the United Nations sustainable development goals.
We would like to acknowledge the ten students from the Sustainable Energy Development (SEDV) Master of Science program at University of Calgary who participated in the program and made this research possible. Alonso Alegre, Connor Bedard, Jeff Coombes, Jillian Kareema Haneiph, Margarita Meza, Nic Ritchie, Namrata Sheth, Andria Panidisz, Cristina Vallejo and Kasondra Harbottle. We would also like to thank the SEDV program, the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership at the University of Calgary, and CPA Alberta, and University of Calgary’s Teaching and Learning Centre who provided financial support either for the internships or the research.
Meza Rios, M., Herremans, I., Wallace, J., Althouse, N., Lansdale, D. and Preusser, M. (2018), "Strengthening sustainability leadership competencies through university internships", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 739-755. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-06-2017-0097Download as .RIS
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