SERS Alum Q&A - Emma Hawley-Yan

Emma completed her Bachelors of Environmental Studies in 2018 and is currently working as an Outreach Coordinator for Earthroots, an environmental NGO focused on the protection of Ontario's wildlife, wilderness and watersheds through research, education and advocacy.

Emma Hawley-Yan

What years were you at SERS?


What degree did you complete in SERS?

B.E.S. Joint Honours Co-op ERS with Biology

What was your favourite thing about your program/time at SERS?

My favourite thing about the SERS program was the variety of interdisciplinary opportunities afforded to me as a student, and the flexibility I had that allowed me to try so many things. I was able to gain practical field research skills through the Huntsville field courses, work in outdoor education, for the government, for environmental NGOs, and in biology labs through my co-op terms, deeply research and explore a topic I'm passionate about through my senior honours thesis, and learn from incredible individuals with diverse experiences and unique knowledge in my courses. SERS is so interdisciplinary, and truly prepares us to pursue any and all interests. The SERS program also offered such flexibility that I was able to complete a double major with biology. This pairing meant I was able to graduate with a hard science knowledge, ecology field research skills, the ability to think critically, and a unique set of tools that prepared me to effectively tackle our world's toughest environmental challenges.

What was your favourite course and/or learning experience (and why?) in SERS?

My favourite learning experience while in SERS was my senior honours thesis. As environmental studies students, there are so many issues and topics we could dedicate ourselves to exploring and working towards solving. An issue that's always been important to me is animal rights, and even though it's not directly related to environmental issues, the senior honours thesis opportunity allowed me to explore this in a deeper way than I'd ever been able to before. My thesis was a critical analysis of the exclusionary language and behaviours within the mainstream vegan activist movement, using an epistemology informed by intersectionality theory. Having the opportunity to do independent research on this topic of my choice, develop my own unique thesis statement, and create a thesis paper that holds potential to affect change in an activist movement, meant so much to me, and was the perfect way to finish off my time in SERS. My thesis is one of my proudest accomplishments, and the freedom and support offered by SERS was so critical to that accomplishment.

What are you doing now that is meaningful to you?

I'm currently working for Earthroots, an environmental NGO focused on the protection of Ontario's wildlife, wilderness, and watersheds through research, education, and advocacy. As Outreach Coordinator, I get to engage with the public on a daily basis and ensure that critical environmental issues are addressed and paid proper attention. I get to visit schools and talk to students about our roles as environmentally literate citizens, and work with them to make sure our environment is cared for now and in the future. As someone who's never been satisfied doing only one thing (which is perhaps why the interdisciplinary nature of SERS was so appealing to me!) I am also working hard at my side hustle, as a freelance artist and illustrator! Bad news seems to bombard us every day, and painting beautiful flowers and happy animals is how I remind myself why we continue working so hard to protect our environment. I feel very fortunate being able to spend my time doing environmental outreach and education by day, and painting and drawing nature things by night!

If applicable, how did what you learned/experienced in SERS assist with what you are doing now?

During my time in SERS, I did two co-op terms with the Toronto District School Board at their outdoor education schools. I've always loved teaching and working with kids, and these co-op terms really inspired me to find a way to combine my love of teaching with my passion for environmental protection. That's exactly what I'm doing now, with Earthroots, and I couldn't be happier! I don't think I would've found my way into environmental education and outreach if not for my co-op terms during my time in SERS.