Thompson Rivers University

Learning through a unique lens

September 26, 2019

TRU offers two experiential learning certificates: Global Competency and Leadership in Environmental Sustainability.

This story first appeared in the spring 2019 edition of Bridges Magazine: The Sustainability Issue. Bridges is the official publication of TRU alumni and friends, and can be read online in its entirety at

Research suggests that students who include work experience in their studies are well-prepared for employment after graduation. TRU has made it a priority to increase these types of opportunities.

TRU offers two experiential learning certificates: Global Competency and Leadership in Environmental Sustainability. Undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in any credit program at TRU can apply to complete one or both certificates. Often, students who earn the Leadership in Environmental Sustainability certificate have undergraduate research experience.

One such student is Colton Stephens, whose passion for a research-centric approach in minimizing environmental impacts led him to apply for the Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP). UREAP is a $6,000 scholarship that helps students acquire full-time research opportunities over the summer and supports academic and professional success. Stephens’s UREAP work involved a global co-operative project on climate change and desertification in drylands worldwide. In addition to UREAP, Stephens was awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant which he is using to collect data for his honours project. His project is investigating if a link exists between the urban environment and disease-causing bacteria affecting wild birds, specifically mountain chickadees.

“My advice to students is to participate in hands-on learning. You can learn more about yourself and gain experience that you would not get by only attending lectures,” said Stephens.

Maris Fraser is in her final year of the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies and has completed both certificates. Her interest in the development of an environmentally conscious society and sustainable lifestyle led her to pursue a career, prior to attending TRU, in adventure tourism while combining international travel and volunteerism. These experiences led Maris to write an undergraduate thesis examining the intersection between spending time outdoors and pro-environmental behaviour.

“I believe that learning goes beyond the classroom. My diverse background has an important impact on my identity and the skills and talents I have today. It’s wonderful that TRU acknowledged my background and passions through these certificates.”

These experiential certificates give students a competitive edge in gaining employment after graduation. They are another avenue students at TRU have for making a difference and exploring their interests during their educational journey.

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