Hometown: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Program: Environment, Resources, and Sustainability
Recipient of the 2017 Dean of Environment's Scholarship for Excellence
As head of her high school’s ecological society, Charissa has had a large hand in transforming her local community’s attitude towards environmental sustainability. Through implementing terraforming, recycling, and other programs, she has opened her peers’ eyes to the importance of initiatives such as recycling, responsible consumption, and waste reduction.
In her spare time, Charissa has also spent a lot of time tutoring younger students on subject matter relating to geography and environmental management.
Why did you choose to study Environment, Resources and Sustainability at Waterloo?
"I chose ERS at Waterloo because of its flexibility and its consideration of an inter-disciplinary approach to understanding environmental issues. I like that I can look forward to classes focused on technical programs like GIS as well as classes about socio-economic and political ideas related to the environment."
What are you most looking forward to during your time here?
"I’m looking forward to growth: to coming closer to the best version of myself. I want to get better at questioning myself, seeking wisdom and knowledge in order to do my best for the Earth. I’m excited to discover more of the world, and find my place in it."
What do you plan to do after completing your degree?
"I don’t have a concrete path – I don’t know if I’ll do something in politics or go into conservation biology. All I know is that I do not want to settle for average, and that whatever I do, the intention will be to do good unto the world and to use my skills to help the vulnerable."
What do you think is the most significant environmental challenge or opportunity facing society today?
"I believe that the most significant environmental challenge is the possibility of a refugee crisis on a scale never seen before, and with it the possibility of large-scale degradation of standard of living and civil liberties. The inherently unjust and frustrating core of this is the fact that the climate change effects resulting in the refugee crisis will affect those who are least to blame for causing climate change. We must address the out-sourcing and off-shoring of accountability by wealthy nations in order to enact real change."
How do you hope to personally address this?
"Change needs to be affected from all sides: it needs include personalized, grass-roots movements that challenge individual consumption. This means we need to undertake actions that help spread information and opportunities for small-scale sustainable action (e.g. recycling). We need to question and re-formulate the current basis of our society and its economic ideals. Those in countries unfairly insulated from the worst elemental and societal pressures of climate change need to come together and mitigate the problems felt by those caught in disasters like famine or floods."
What do you like to do in your spare time, when you’re not trying to change the world?
"I like to read books about history. I’m also trying my hand at film-making and writing, with the hope that I’ll one day be able to produce comedy sketches."
Apply for the Dean of Environment's Scholarship for Excellence.
Disclaimer: responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity purposes.