The passionate pursuit of sustainability

Michelle Angkasa (she/they), a fourth-year Environment and Business student explains their role in protecting the environment through co-op and dissects how they integrate their passion for policy in all their initiatives.


Michelle's co-op experiences:


An image of Michelle

Work term 1: Michelle worked at the House of Commons as a communication assistant. In this position, they oversaw social media and constituent correspondence. They were able to integrate their knowledge of environment-related topics and political advocacy.

Work term 2: They held the position of policy assistant at Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. They worked with developmental services organizations that helped adults with developmental disabilities.

Work term 3: Michelle worked at Good and Well as a student engagement intern. They learned about impact investment and met several influential figures in the field. Alongside this, they worked with a cohort of interns and carried out marketing initiatives as well.

Work terms 4 and 5: Michelle currently works with the University of Waterloo at the Sustainability Office as an outreach and communication assistant. They hold several responsibilities such as crafting social media posts, writing their newsletter and managing programs.

 

Q and A with Michelle


 Q: Reflecting on your co-op positions, in what area did you make the largest impact?

A: “My personal mission is to advance climate action and climate justice. Therefore, my impact has been greatest in my fourth and fifth co-ops. There was a good balance between bureaucracy and impact, which made me feel like I had a platform to advocate for the environment.”

“Overall, it is becoming increasingly important to find a job where there is tangible impact. I believe it ranks as high as income, perks and even work-life balance in terms of expectations from a job.”


Q: What were some challenges you faced during co-op?

A: “My first challenge was simply adjusting to the impacts of the pandemic. My first co-op was completely remote which was a big change for me. I noticed that we had to put in a lot more effort to maintain team culture, to promote a sense of cohesion and to encourage engagement.”

“My second challenge was figuring out how to leave an impact in environment and policy. Quite often, it is necessary to compromise on a few aspects of a job in order to ensure that you are able to have a positive impact in your field.”

“Additionally, when working in advocacy and activism, it is easy to burn out because you feel the need to give a 110% all the time, as the problems we tackle are so detrimental. I had to make some hard decisions about my capacity to find the right balance for myself. I recommend taking what you value and trying to figure out a way to balance that with a steady career.”

An image of Michelle

 

Q: What sparked your interest in the field of environment?

A: “I had been interested in the environment from a young age. I think it comes from my family and how I was raised. My parents were very particular about not wasting things and saving resources. That instilled a very strong sense of conscientiousness and I always felt responsible for my actions.”


Q: You are the recipient of The Starfish Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 Award. Can you give us an overview of your contributions that lead to you receiving this award?

An image of Michelle

A: “The Starfish is an environmental charity and they run this award to recognize environmentalists from around Canada. I had the opportunity to run a lot of campaigns and initiatives over the years. For instance, I was the national representative for the Not Going Back campaign that was led by a collation of youth-led climate organizations in 2020. We put forward a set of demands that would ensure equitable and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.”

 

“I also served as the first ever Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) sustainability commissioner in 2021. I was able to write a lot of policies and serve on advisory boards. I believed I helped in shaping what the role has become today.”

“Last year, I ran for the Green Party of Ontario in Mississauga, which was my first foray into politics. I knocked on hundreds of doors, conducted several interviews and connected with a lot of constituents on different issues. Coming from an environmental background, it was very interesting to learn what the average Ontarian thinks.  I was able to move out of my environmental bubble and see where people are at and how I could approach the conversation of improving our systems.”


Q: What is next for you?

A: “I am not too sure yet, but I am glad that I used co-op to explore different positions and organizations. Over the course of my co-op, I worked in the public, private and educational sectors. I will graduate with a lot of insight into what I want to do. I have also accumulated a lot of experiences to talk about. I care a lot about youth engagement and climate justice, so I am looking for a job with a combination of those elements.”

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