The Sustainability Scholars Program is managed by the UBC Sustainability Initiative, providing qualified graduate students the opportunity to work on a range of sustainability topics such as climate adaptation, local food, green procurement, sustainable transportation, zero waste, GHG emissions reduction, green buildings, biodiversity, and wellbeing

Participation in the program provides UBC graduate students with a unique educational experience working on real-world sustainability problems. Students benefit from the opportunity to work with a mentor and apply their academic program knowledge and research skills in ways that contribute to advancing the partner organization’s sustainability goals. 

UBC benefits from the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded partner organizations so that together, we can move the dial on sustainability across the region.


The program started in 2010 with a cohort of 10 students working on City of Vancouver projects in support of the Greenest City Action Plan. 

In 2014, the program expanded to include the Sustainability Scholars doing research for organizations other than the City of Vancouver including BC Hydro, Fortis, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people, Metro Vancouver, TransLink, and several UBC departments.

Since then, more partner organizations have participated in the program and provided internships to over 345 students. And, the summer cohort has grown to over 60 students. Our current partners include the City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, BC Hydro, TransLink, Fraser Health, UBC Wellbeing, and several local governments.


  • Over 675 Scholars have participated in the program since 2010
  • Over 675 sustainability-related applied research projects have been completed since 2010
  • Over the past 10 years, scholars from 87 different programs and 11 Faculties have participated in the program.

The program has resulted in many positive outcomes beyond the project work. For example:

  • Many former Scholars are now project mentors guiding new Scholars on projects. 
  • Many claim that their experience as a Scholar boosted their career prospects after graduation.
  • Many students have been employed at the organization they worked for as a Scholar.

What we do

Scholars are paid to conduct a project for a group or organization (on or off campus) to advance their sustainability goals.

Partner organizations provide funding for and develop proposals for applied research projects that support their sustainability goals. The projects must be suitably challenging to students studying at the graduate level and must clearly result in an action of some kind.  The work the students do is supervised by a staff member (mentor).

UBC recruits students for the roles through extensive outreach campaigns and provides a shortlist of suitable candidates to the project mentor who in turn interviews and identifies their preferred candidate.

Students are hired as UBC student employees, but they work directly with the project mentor to fulfill the project deliverables.

Projects are used in many ways: to inform development of a new policy or program; expand the body of knowledge in a certain area; establish the “case” for a new program or policy; secure funding or partners, etc.

The final deliverable for each project is typically a report of some kind, however the type of work Scholars perform is wide ranging and can include:

  • conducting literature reviews
  • developing  case studies
  • preparing feasibility studies
  • building and assessing lifecycle costing tools
  • writing business cases
  • conducting and developing environmental scans
  • preparing emissions inventories
  • developing tool-kits
  • drafting policy