Lisa: Student Engagement Officer - Toward Community

Lisa: Student Engagement Officer


In the first of our “My Position” series, Lisa tells us about her work for a major UK university, working in student engagement.

I have always had a deep appreciation for sustainability and conserving the environment.  I believe it stemmed from travelling around to remote areas of Nepal, where I was born and raised, with my father who did development work for German NGO’s.  We visited communities who had been there for centuries and lived in harmony with their surrounding environment.  My mother herself comes from one of the hill tribes in the Northern Himalayas, having lived off the land for most of her life.

Map of Nepal indicating where my mother comes from near the Tibetan border

With my father being German, I have been privileged to experience both the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ worlds, eventually moving to the UK to study environmental management and sustainability.  My long-term goal is to expand on the experiences of my upbringing and advance my career in environmental management and sustainability.  I aim to become an international consultant on matters of sustainable development in both the developed and the developing world.  Sustainable development is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs- Bruntland, 87 .

At present, I am the Make a Difference officer working on student engagement at Manchester Metropolitan University.  My job involves getting students engaged with various extracurricular activities that are of benefit to their community, the environment and their own personal/professional development.  We encourage students to see their education as more than what they do in the classroom.

Moving from a science faculty, where I spent the entirety of my educational life, to my current position in humanities has highlighted some differences in the students of each.  Whilst this certainly is not always the case and may only apply to my university – those in humanities seem more passionate about their subject choices.  Those in sciences tend to be more economically-oriented.  But it is the economically-focused sciences students that have greater access to knowledge about climate change and sustainability.  This means that more of those choosing an environmental/sustainability direction do so out of economic motivations, giving rise to phenomenons such as green washing.  I feel that this is a serious imbalance that needs to be redressed not only in the education system but also in wider society.  Given the state of the world which I won’t drone on about, we need more passionate people to help create a more sustainable world.  By providing a platform for appropriate knowledge transfer within the humanities and increasing individual awareness and understanding of the issues, these individuals will be empowered to embrace pro-sustainable lifestyles.  Naturally they will then share their knowledge with others, creating a supportive network.

To plant the seeds of this supportive network, I am facilitating a series of workshops through a program called ‘carbon conversations’.  The approach of Carbon Conversations is to create a non-judgmental atmosphere within which people are encouraged to make serious lifestyle changes.  The supportive group experience helps students make lifestyle changes toward halving their personal carbon footprint.  We connect the issues with students’ personal values, emotions and identity using a methodology based around the psychology of personal change.  On completing these sessions, the students are empowered to spread the message through their own workshops – exponentially increasing environmental knowledge and decreasing carbon footprints.

I appreciate the efforts of these students as I also constantly strive to find balance between my passions and work life – this can be a challenge.  Despite being able to run certain sustainability-oriented projects within my working life, getting my ‘fix’ so to speak, it is difficult to immerse myself in projects such as Toward Community outside of work.  Prior to being in full-time employment I was highly involved in creating a sustainable existence for myself, being part of a group who owned and worked on several allotment plots in every spare moment we had.  As well as this, I attended as many environmental talks as I could in order to increase my knowledge and meet like-minded people.  Now that I’m working 9-5, 5 days a week it became increasingly more difficult to find time for the allotment.  The entire group are now employed full-time, which means we had to give up the garden spaces.  Instead I have downsized, taking over a neighboring friend’s garden and am growing what I can at home.  This isn’t ideal, but I am grateful for what I can do.

Communities such as this site are examples of the knowledge transfer platforms I mentioned above.  Engaging in community is a great way to assist the pro-environmental movement that I believe everyone should be part of if – contributing toward sustainable development on a global scale.  Being restricted from engaging with pro-sustainable projects outside of work, I am encouraged that websites such as this one are pushing ahead.  Supporting initiatives such as these gives me hope that a sustainable planet may be achievable a lot sooner than I could have hoped for.

This article is written in tribute to those affected by the April 2015 Earthquake in Nepal. Our thoughts are with you.

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Lisa Bach

Lisa Bach is a multilingual environmental management and sustainability graduate based in Manchester, UK, with vast experience in qualitative and quantitative field research and green project management. Looking for career enhancement in environmental management and sustainability consultancy.

2 thoughts on “Lisa: Student Engagement Officer

  • 29th April 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Very articulate and informative – the disparity that exists between the approaches of scientific minds and those of a more humanitarian disposition is something I’ve noticed myself. Sadly it does seem that many of the people equipped with a sophisticated understanding of environmental issues are least disposed to use that information in a progressive and impassioned way. I think this is partially due to a disproportionate focus on the scientific method itself – which favours emotional disengagement from subject matter in order to reach ‘objective’ conclusions. If you spend the better part of your time practicing a state of emotional detatchment then that is precisely the quality of mind you will develop (which in turn makes it far easier to prioritise monetary concerns over environmental stability).

    I think in our personal lives and in the educational system we all need to start pursuing a more balanced approach and begin breaking down the barriers that exist between both subject areas and prescribed thought processes. Pursuing rational deconstructive analysis or an intuitive activist approach to the detriment of the other undermines our ability to think holistically and to relate to each other in order to work together for the greater good. Very interesting stuff and I look forward to reading future articles!

  • 12th May 2015 at 8:29 am

    As Kevin has mentioned – interesting to note the differences between science and humanities students. I am currently studying Environmental Management – and there is a massive divide in values within that degree between conservationists and students with a more mining focus. I am also in the process of switching to science with an emphasis on conservation. Every now and then I am in classes that lump all the science students in together – and I am shocked sometimes at the disparity between my motivations and their motivations. What I do really enjoy though is that all science classes I’m taking discuss climate change, human impacts, ethics, sustainability etc – and I’m very familiar with the Bruntland Report!
    What you are doing sounds amazing – empowering young people with knowledge and giving them a voice :-)


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