Environmental sustainability and the climate crisis will affect all of us - no matter what we study or what field we decide to work in. To truly work towards a just and sustainable future, we all have a part to play, and we need people who are willing to lead on sustainability in every possible sector.
Which is why the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) is once again offering students the chance to participate in the Oxford Programme in Sustainability Leadership.
The three-day course is offered to all current matriculated students at the University of Oxford, no matter what course they are studying. It's a chance to meet policymakers, charities and other like-minded students, and to find out how to become a better advocate for sustainable action.
It provides an opportunity to interact, share ideas and, as one former attendee described it, 'a chance to form lasting relationships with people who also want to save the world'. Many of the speakers are Oxford alumni, providing inspiration for current students as to where their degree can take them.
Guy, (BA Geography) said: "I was interested in hearing perspectives from professors and researchers, policymakers, think tanks, charities and businesses - it is rare that one can engage with stakeholders across the board working in the diverse environmental sustainability field, and the OPSL provided a great platform to do so.
"I greatly enjoyed the social at Wytham Woods at the end of the first day. Sharing a meal together with fellow participants and speakers, learning from each other and reflecting on the programme under the canopy of the forest was just incredible.
"The course allowed me to meet students here who I'm in touch with to this day and thanks to whom I have since learned from, and collaborated with on climate-related initiatives. The OPSL also exposed me to a variety of different professions and their different roles in tackling climate change, and as such has helped me to better understand which path I may take.
"The OPSL was interdisciplinary, thought-provoking and energising. In an issue which is so often complex and daunting, joining together with others interested in environmental sustainability, engaging critically yet openly with various different perspectives and reflecting on our own views on the topic, was both important and enriching."
Daniel, (BA Geography) said: While I was interested in a career within sustainability, I wasn't completely sure what the options where, or how I could become a better advocate for sustainable action.
"I think it's pretty much impossible for me to suggest that the course hasn't had a major impact upon me, not only have I taken what I have learned during the programme and brought it more into my everyday life, but I also spent my summer working directly under one of the speakers form the programme. After attending and looking at possible summer internships I saw the name of a speaker who engaged me in such a way, and despite not studying a degree that the position was advertised for, I reached out anyway and, in the end, got the position. The OPSL has hopefully started a very long and happy career for me but time will tell where I go next.
"I encourage everyone I can to attend the OPSL, I think it's a really rewarding programme that is the perfect step towards working in Sustainability or a related field. And if at the end of the course you decide a career in this field isn't right for you you've still built connections beyond your course and industries that may have piqued your interest on the way."
Amy, (DPhil, Translational Health Studies) said: "For me, one of the key insights of the course was that instead of framing climate change as something to be paralytically fearful of, I now frame it in terms of the multiple social and economic co-benefits we can gain from tackling the climate crisis.
"The course has also opened up other opportunities. For example, I was invited to give a talk on healthcare and its route to net zero after some of the organisers learnt about the work that I do in that space. I was also invited to attend the 2022 Climate Risk and Resilience forum at the Said Business School by someone who I attended the course with. So the course has provided lasting lessons, lasting contacts, and lasting opportunities.
"I would absolutely encourage others to attend OPSL in 2023. It is an incredible programme that covers issues of sustainability across a range of areas, spanning agriculture, water security, plastic production etc., as well as providing ways of viewing these issues with different lenses, including behaviour change, politics/policy, and social media. It provides a platform to interact with others, share ideas, network, and form lasting relationships with people who also want to save the world."
Dan Hall, course coordinator and Internships Officer for the ECI, said: "This course grows in popularity every year. It's the only one of its kind at the University, giving every student an equal opportunity to find out more about sustainability and to incorporate it into their academic subject and their lives.
"The doors this course opens, and the different paths students take after attending, is quite astounding, it has such an impact on them.
"We just want to show students the remarkable work that's being done by the ECI, by our alumni, and by the wider world of sustainability, and give them a chance to be a part of it."
The course is taking place 18-20 April 2023. You can find out more and sign up online.