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Sustainable Practice graduates work for a better future

26 February 2014

Sustainable Practice graduates work for a better future

Now in its fourth year, Otago Polytechnic’s Graduate Programmes in Sustainable Practice is providing New Zealand companies, organisations and a variety of projects with graduates qualified in implementing sustainable practice. Many of the programme’s first students are now working in areas where they can apply frameworks for strategic sustainable development to work towards real solutions to real issues.

Amelia Smith (Graduate 2011) is an Evaluation Advisor for EECA (Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority) who in her spare time works as Head of Community and Content for Do Good Jobs (NZ) – New Zealand’s number 1 ethical jobs network. Jennifer Nickel (Graduate 2012) goes to work each day to help reduce the environmental impacts of the dairy industry in her role as an Environmental Advisor at Fonterra, while Sofia Robinson (Graduate 2012) works as a Community Development Advisor for the Upper Hutt City Council. Dave Watson (Graduate 2013) is a Sustainability Consultant at the Change Collective and has been involved in projects such as setting up Auckland’s Sustainability Streets, and implementing sustainability initiatives for music and arts festival, Splore.

Collectively the graduates agree the programme was inspirational and offered a way of practically and positively working on some of the major issues facing the world today. Mr Watson says the programme has had the on-going benefit of developing a dynamic community of practitioners across the country.

“As more and more people graduate with this qualification, we build a stronger community of people who understand the language of sustainability and can apply the frameworks to any given situation. For me, the Diploma has offered an effective, strategic framework for sustainability that I can apply to the businesses and community groups I work with as well as my own consultancy business,” he says.

Ms Smith says the science based, systems focus is useful. “I gained a much better appreciation of ‘the big picture’ and learned to look at things from a systems perspective. This is important in my work evaluating the effectiveness of energy efficiency programmes,” says Ms Smith.

For Ms Nickel, the Grad Programme offered a solid platform for her on-going learning and understanding of sustainability. “The scientific basis of content mixed with genuine support heightens the chance of success for any project undertaken during the course and beyond,” she says.

Sofia Robinson said the design of the programme supported the development of her skills in cross cultural and organisational engagement. “The ability to engage on many levels within communities and organisations is what allows systemic change to begin, and has proved invaluable in my current role where I engage with stakeholders ranging from community groups, to youth organisations and governmental departments.”

As well as highly capable graduates, the inspirational and innovative programme has produced a wide variety of projects, some of which have become successful businesses or funded projects with others showing potential. Projects include an eco-friendly campground which during term-time becomes an eco-education campus, a comprehensive food shed analysis, a future focused veterinary profession, a system for sustainable facilities management, a food forest, a community development project, a business that turns trash into footwear and many others.

In the collaborative nature of the programme, the projects are generally publically available for others to build on or work with at

Programme Director Steve Henry says the diverse range of projects and career directions of the graduates demonstrates the flexibility of the programme and its application across any field of endeavour.

“This is a future-focused, principles based programme designed to create capable, inspired people who can apply the basic frameworks to anything. It is flexible and practical and provides a highly useful qualification that offers real capability,” says Mr Henry. “It also connects people through a common language and decision making framework, developing a community that has the potential to influence New Zealand’s future in a positive way.”

Fully integrated into modern technology, the graduate programme is offered online and is available anywhere in New Zealand. Blended delivery means students attend up to three block courses a year around New Zealand. The first optional block course starts on February 24.

The Centre for Sustainable Practice is the newest school of Otago Polytechnic and offers Diplomas and Certificates in Sustainable Practice as well as a series of business programmes and consultancy services. Prospective participants can contact Barbara Emmitt on 0800 7659276 for more information or to enrol.


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