Undergrad projects stuck on paper

Communication gaps block student research from real-world implementation

The McGill Office of Sustainability wants the University and the community at large to benefit from undergraduate research, the results of which are too often wasted within the current academic system.

The Sustainability Office aims to serve as a nexus for campus sustainability projects by cataloguing student research. Director Dennis Fortune hopes the office will bridge the communication gap between students and the people who can actually implement their plans.

“We’re looking for ways to integrate ideas. We want people to come with ideas; we’re ready to encourage opportunities,” said Fortune. He maintains that the student body is buzzing with ideas about how to make their school more sustainable, but students encounter logistical obstacles when implementing their ideas.

“The problem is, how can we communicate to students in a better way?” Fortune said.

While the projects of many McGill faculties involve professional analysis of real-world subjects, the results and conclusions of these intensive projects regularly go unnoticed by their subjects, said Amelie Dinh, U3 Arts.

“Projects, and specifically group projects, are a huge part of the management faculty,” wrote Dinh.

“Students are not often asked to make additional presentations [to the subjects of their projects].”

Despite the generally short life- span of student projects at McGill, Dinh, a management minor, said that certain classes and professors do encourage students to submit projects to their subject. For her Marketing 438 Brand Management class, Dinh participated in a “brand audit” of the Green Party that she later presented to the Green Party at a conference.

“Bronfman professors…work extremely hard to connect their projects and assignments to the world outside of McGill,” said Dinh.

Dinh was confident that channeling results from undergraduate work toward the community in question would benefit students in the long run.

“The [MRKT 438] professor [Robert Mackalski] has had past students submit their projects to the companies that were the group’s focus. He encouraged students to use the project as an opportunity to develop a portfolio of sorts, something that students could show to companies during job interviews.”

“It is definitely beneficial if students are asked to apply their work to the ‘real world’ upon completing a project.”

Fortune said there have already been some instances of student ideas being implemented on campus to increase sustainability. He said students have come to him with ideas about converting trucks to the use of vegetable oil fuel, and also to alter the mufflers on the Macdonald Campus buses to make them more sustainable.

Fortune said that the Office of Sustainability has made contact with the architecture and management schools, but admits that communication with students is a significant problem for the Office of Sustainability.

“Individual actions do make a difference,” said Fortune.