Susan Tirone

A day in the life

Susan Tirone


Sustainability is really necessary in all aspects of our lives, whether you’re a student, working in government or an NGO, or as an entrepreneur. It’s also important in our consumer decisions and how we achieve well-being. Sustainability applies everywhere.

On July 1, 2011 Susan Tirone officially assumed a new role with the College of Sustainability, becoming the associate director of undergraduate programming. On top of her teaching duties, she’s involved in curriculum and program development, including the new RBC Sustainability Leadership Certificate.

Dr. Tirone still co-teaches Humanity in the Natural World: An Introduction to Problem-Based Learning (SUST 2000) and the ESS honours course (SUST 4900). She mentions with pride the students who recently completed their honours projects.

“They’ve been doing all kinds of really interesting work,” she says. “There’s one student who looked at how traffic and commerce impact coral reefs – she also did coral reef restoration in South America. Another student analyzed data her prof collected from monitoring water on First Nations reserves.”

“And another student, who graduated in 2013, Lars Boggild, analyzed vehicles for funding social enterprise,” she says. “His interest is in investments that promote social enterprise or social well-being.”

Social sustainability

After co-teaching SUST 2000 for the first time, Dr. Tirone noted her interest in social sustainability: “Social behavioural change is integral to issues of sustainability,” she said.

Now, she adds that “real change requires groups of people from all segments of society to work together to create sustainability in cities, rural areas and in urban-adjacent communities. Sustainability is about better public transit, good food, and access to healthy open spaces and buildings, as well as taking responsibility for children, youth, seniors and people on the margins of society.”

“We also need to be concerned with how to ensure and maintain well-being for as many people as we can in the near future and in the long term.”

Sustainable action - locally and globally

Dr. Tirone helps students think about how to approach behaviour change. “In SUST 2000, we conduct a case study based on Halifax,” she says. “Students tackle nine different topic areas and move the issues forward by writing a brief recommending what direction to take. Ten student briefs from the fall 2012 class were submitted to HRM. It was excellent – really great.”

She believes using this kind of problem-based learning approach helps students better understand the complexities of tackling large, real-world sustainability issues.

This approach, used “throughout the ESS program,” encourages students to be responsible for their own learning. “In using this approach, students learn to find the academic information they need to address a problem, to work in interdisciplinary groups, and to seek answers from their own learning experiences and their home communities, which is crucial to really understanding problems and finding sustainable solutions.”