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Alan’s Notebook
↗<br><br>Last spring, Western and local community members planted hundreds of native shrubs along Medway Creek to help mitigate flooding and improve water quality. The live staking initiative is a partnership between Western, the Upper Thames River Conservation Area and local First Nations. Pictured here: Caitlin Oh, integrated science student.

One of the best things about universities is that they enable lifelong learning—whether it’s related to your discipline or gaining new perspectives on the world. 

Take sustainability. 

It’s an incredibly complex topic. Yes, it’s about recycling and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. But sustainability involves every aspect of our existence and the elaborate interconnection of all life on Earth. 

That’s how the United Nations sees it. The UN Sustainable Development Goals—better known as SDGs—cover issues that impact all forms of life: for example, poverty, education, clean water and sanitation, industry, innovation and infrastructure, and climate action. 

The UN calls the SDGs “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future.”

That’s how we see sustainability at Western, too. 

We’ve made it a key pillar in our Towards Western at 150 strategic plan and we’re getting noticed for this work. 

In 2023, Western was the only Canadian institution to place in the top 10 for sustainability in both the QS and Times Higher Education international rankings, ahead of schools such as MIT and the University of Edinburgh. 

These rankings are based on the tremendous work of Western scholars directly relating to the SDGs—from homelessness to clean energy to gender equality. 

In 2024, our Ivey Business School was also ranked third in the world for its research aligning with the UN targets by the Financial Times’ Responsible Business Education report.

These rankings are significant, not only because they’re points of pride but because, collectively, they represent a global recognition that sustainability is at the top of Western’s agenda. 

Sustainability is the future. The next generations will move us ever closer to a sustainable global society. 

That’s why Western has more than 2,700 courses focused in one way or another on sustainability, including a major in climate change in society, and Canada’s first multi‑disciplinary climate risk graduate program.

And it’s why we offer a climate change action course free of charge to anyone, anywhere in the world, that combines traditional science with Indigenous ways of knowing. 

Sustainability has become part of the global conversation. When I talk with students, alumni, faculty and staff, I hear it clearly: this is at the core of their passions. They want to learn, and they want to see we’re taking action. 

That brings me to this issue of the Western Alumni Magazine. There is great reading throughout, with two features in particular—on birds and plastic—that speak directly to the brilliant scholarship and ingenuity of Western researchers on this crucially important topic. 

I hope you enjoy this issue.

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Alan Shepard
President & Vice-Chancellor

Headshot photo of Alan Shepard