An environment of ideation

Building sustainability, one revolution at a time

When Miila applied to Waterloo, she was worried – although not about what you’d expect. While most students were concerned about being admitted, she was already thinking bigger.

“There’s this sense that every student comes to Waterloo with an innovation,” says Miila, a Planning major within the Faculty of the Environment. But while she applied to Waterloo precisely because of its entrepreneurial spirit, she wasn’t sure she had what it takes. “To be honest, I was nervous.”

Discovering ideas

Her confidence and ability to think differently was quickly put to the test in PLAN 102, a first-year Planning course that asks students to conceive and develop a new way to drive sustainability. Working with a small group, she helped devise a detachable bicycle pedal that not only encourages an active, gas-free form of transportation, but doubles as a portable power supply for on-the-go phone charging. The more you pedal, the faster it generates power.

 A close up of a bike pedal.

It was an impressive idea, good enough to earn entry into Waterloo’s annual Jack Rosen Competition, where Miila and her team competed against students throughout the entire faculty, including some already well into PhD and masters’ programs. “We thought we didn’t stand a chance, and then we won second place overall.”

Gaining confidence

The win did more than lift Miila’s confidence and confirm her decision to come to Waterloo. “What struck me most was the collaborative community here, not just within my year and faculty, but across campus. It’s incredible what can happen when you’re given the resources, support, and encouragement to develop ideas.”

Milla working on her computer.

It’s incredible what can happen when you’re given the resources, support, and encouragement to develop ideas.

Now in her third year, Miila has pursued Waterloo’s entrepreneurial opportunities both in the classroom and in her two co-op work terms, which included a semester spent in Calgary working with invasive species management.

Integrated learning

“Planning is such a diverse program, with great flexibility in terms of specialization and industry,” says Miila, who hopes to do a master’s degree in sustainability and climate change after finishing her undergrad. “By combining my coursework in finance, policy and the history of planning, with actual, real-life experience, I have a much better sense of which industries I like best, and where I want to be.”

More than this, co-op also means she’ll be graduating with 21 months of relevant experience, plus money earned along the way. “You can’t really apply for a planning job without experience. Co-op makes all the difference.”

Love where you live

Of course, like many Waterloo students, Miila isn’t in a rush to leave. She loves spending time with friends on campus, many of whom she met in her first year while living in residence. “Waterloo is such a fun city, and the campus feels like a real community.” That’s a message she shares with others, volunteering as an ambassador for the Faculty of the Environment, leading tours and helping guide future students as they navigate their own futures.

Milla at LRT stop.

Sharing her experiences

“I get a lot of questions about what it’s like at Waterloo, and university in general,” says Miila, who often speaks with students worried about not having time for activities outside school. “I think back to when I was leaving high school, meeting new friends and coming to a new city.”

With a part-time job, plus a new puppy to take care of, Miila has found balance and friendship both on and off campus. “You can work hard at school and have a life beyond school. I take my puppy for hikes. I go out with friends. I work part time at a ski hill. I have the freedom to be myself and carve my own future.”

I have the freedom to be myself and carve my own future.

Spoken like a true entrepreneur.

#BeyondIdeas #PedalPower #NoPlanetB