By: Eden Chipperfield, News Writer
In the fall of 2019, the SFU School of Sustainable Energy Engineering (SEE) established its first cohort of students. In June 2023, the program celebrated its first group of graduates who walked across the stage. The SEE program is the first in Western Canada, and is offered at SFU’s Surrey campus.
SEE mainly focuses on researching sustainable engineering practices that are ecologically, socially, and economically responsible. The school prioritizes vital issues, including gender equity within research, teaching, and community for a cleaner and greener future.
“When I first applied to the SEE program, I was drawn to its interdisciplinary nature. I knew it was important for me to gain exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship with the rapid developments in the clean tech sector,” said Hannaford. “Sustainable energy refers to energy from a source that can provide for generations to come and is generated in an equitable way. The introduction of the SEE program brings awareness to the global challenges our world currently faces and helps develop the skills necessary to tackle these issues.”
The Peak asked the graduates what the word sustainable means for them after their graduation. For Arciaga, sustainable energy is the ability to supply the population now, and future generations, with the energy they need. “The program recognizes areas that need improvements and gives us the knowledge to approach these problems and develop innovative solutions.”
The Peak asked how sustainable engineering works with other engineering fields to produce a sustainable future. “We need to work collaboratively with other fields of engineering and disciplines to achieve this common goal. For example, if we look at a building, numerous fields of engineering are required to make a building,” explained Arciaga. “If the goal is to ensure the building emits less emissions than its counterpart, coordination is required from the mechanical and electrical engineers to use efficient equipment, the architects and structural engineers to select local, low emission materials [ . . . ] We need everyone to play a part in shaping a more sustainable future.”
Regarding the program’s cohort experience, there were many positive outcomes for the small class. “Something I did not foresee during my time in SEE is how close our cohort would become, said Hannaford. “With only 20 students making up the first intake of students back in Fall 2019, it is rewarding to look back and see how we’ve all grown together and supported each other over the past four years.” Hannaford also prided SEE’s commitment to gender diversity. Their student cohort comprised over 40% women which helped foster an inclusive environment and further a commitment to gender representation in academia.
The SEE program addresses gender inequality with classes such as SEE 110 Energy, Environment and Society, where the social impacts of climate change are discussed. This course also conducts a privilege walk, where students become aware of their privileges and biases. This helped deepen students’ understanding of the importance of diversity in engineering and in sustainability while addressing challenges and solutions.
The Peak asked the two graduates what advice or insight they would give to oncoming SEE majors and prospective interested students: “For first-year students considering SEE as a major, my advice is to reach out to the SEE student ambassadors or members of the Sustainable Energy Engineering Student Society if you have any questions regarding the program,” said Hannaford. “SEE is unique as it is a new, tight-knit program. As the program grows, it adapts to the needs of the students. If you are unsure what to focus on, SEE is good at showcasing different aspects of sustainability and allows you to try various fields of engineering,” added Arciaga.
For those interested in learning more about the SEE program, visit www.sfu.ca/see.html for more information and stories regarding the cohort.