Fostering innovation, inspiring change: 4 schools making a global impact

“We have nowhere else to go…this is all we have.” – Margaret Mead

The Industrial Revolution was an age that endured a huge societal shift. It began in 1760, when human manufacturing procedures switched from manual methods to machines, new chemical and iron production processes. This era announced a colossal advance in technology and development, but it also marked the start of our descent into global contaminants and pollution…

Like sticky-fingered kids who can’t resist but dirty every surface after playing in the mud, we’ve continued to pump filth into our planet despite its damaging effects. Now, the Earth and its atmosphere lies under constant threat. Environmental change occurs so fast we often struggle to keep up, but we must strive to be aware of the complex web of issues facing life across our planet.

That’s why environmental awareness and sustainable practice have become ‘buzz-phrases’ for a connected, modern world. Environmentalism has become one of the time’s defining movements, with knowledge and understanding representing the key to its universal success.

“By teaching our friends and family that the physical environment is fragile and indispensable, we can begin fixing the problems that threaten it,” the Pachamama Alliance states.

“When learning about the environment’s declining health it is easy to feel discouraged,” it adds, “but what keeps us fighting for a healthy world is the future of our children. They should not have to inherit our environmental problems and in order to keep the future bright, spreading awareness is imperative.”

It really isn’t all just doom and gloom. Through dedicated minds and powerful research, we have the widespread capability to fix the destruction we’ve created. Consider the hole in the ozone layer. Discovered in 1985, it was a revelation that caused a wave of global panic, threatening to spread and increase levels of cancer-causing radiation from the sun to reach the ground. In January 1989, the Montreal Protocol was subsequently introduced, banning the manmade chemicals that caused the ozone to deplete.

Fast-forward more than three decades, and university researchers have confirmed the first signs of elevated ozone levels. The findings, published in the Science journal, show the average size of the ozone hole each September has shrunk by more than 1.7 million square miles since the year 2000. Scientists now predict the hole will heal, permanently, by as soon as 2050. This is a prime example of the power of higher education; of research and development in action. This is how you become part of the environmental solution.

Here are 4 schools making a global impact…


The School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan presents a real-world living laboratory for aspiring environmental thinkers. Empowered by off-campus field research sites, students here begin their quest to heal a hurting world, striving to protect and preserve the Earth’s resources to achieve a sustainable future.

“Through research, teaching and outreach, faculty, staff and students are devoted to generating knowledge and developing policies, techniques and skills to help practitioners manage and conserve natural and environmental resources to meet the full range of human needs on a sustainable basis,” the school’s mission discourse states.

In terms of sustainable practice, the SEAS has been leading by example for more than 100 years. The university cultivates a campus-wide sustainability culture, with more than 2,400 Blue Planet Ambassadors pledging their commitment to a more sustainable way of life. Meanwhile, the Dana Building demonstrates a cutting-edge example of a ‘green’ renovation, cementing U-M as a known trailblazer of the environmental field.

And in terms of reputation, U-M currently ranks as the number one public research institution in the United States, also coming in number six for students studying abroad, and number 12 for the most LGBTQ-friendly campus. If you hope to become a sustainable change-maker, there’s no better place to begin.


This faculty represents the largest of its kind in Canada. Named the third-best provider of environmental education by Macleans in 2017, this Ontario-based institution promises proximity to several Great Lakes and the US border, allowing students to learn and grow from the environment that surrounds them.

The school’s 2,334 undergraduates are offered a choice of eight world-class subjects – including Geography and Environmental Management, Knowledge Integration, Geomatics, International Development, Planning, Environment, Resources and Sustainability. All programs are delivered with a practical approach, with field courses complementing the regular class schedule, plus student access to a world-class ecology lab, a fully-outfitted workshop, multiple computer labs and multi-media resources.

For graduates here, prospects also look great. Many choose to undertake the hugely successful co-op program that boasts a placement rate above 90 percent. Set on building a greener tomorrow, both undergraduate and postgraduate courses teach the fundamental skills required to drive social and environmental change.

The University of Waterloo takes great pride in its provision of global partnership – something that greatly benefits students from beginning through to end. As its motto proudly states: “Waterloo will shape the future by building bridges with industry and between disciplines, institutions and communities.”


The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester is renowned for its high-calibre research and teaching. With an unrelenting commitment to innovation and an exciting range of degrees, students here leave inspired to make a difference in the world.

With separate research groups for specific environmental issues, this school leaves no sustainability stone unturned. Its Planetary and Earth Sciences sector identifies the mechanisms operating the Earth’s subsurface, allowing students to work out the most efficient and sustainable means of extracting vital resources. The Molecular Environmental Science sector, on the other hand, teaches students the importance of mineral-water-organic matter reactions in surface and subsurface environments.

To support research activities, the school supplies learners with a healthy selection of Master’s degrees. The MSc Petroleum Geosciences scheme, in particular, is of great interest to applicants. As graduate Ruairidh Salmon explains: “This MSc provided me with a technical understanding of petroleum systems, geophysics and sedimentology along with experience of working within an international team!”

The school boasts strong links with industry that provide students with an extensive range of opportunities. All research activities, which are focused on delivering business or government benefit, were judged to be internationally excellent or world leading through the REF2014 exercise.



The Fenner School at ANU boasts a strong long-term tradition for research relating to the environment, working with NGOs, governments and research institutions to drive positive global change. It’s a school that offers diverse expert perspectives, providing both past and future narratives that help construct science, policy and management.

Graduates of this school are known to be informed and capable, developing career-focused expertise through real-world field opportunities. Offering an expansive portfolio of undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate study routes, the ultimate goal of the Fenner School education is to produce impactful alumni members.

“There are few places in the world where economists, hydrologists, historians, ecologists, foresters, geographers and climatologists all work together seeking solutions to some of contemporary society’s most significant challenges,” the faculty explains.

“[ANU’s] Fenner School of Environment and Society is one such place and provides a forum for the rigorous exploration of diverse ideas, perspectives, and methods of identifying and solving problems at the interface if the natural and social sciences, including the humanities, as they apply to the environment and sustainability.”

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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