The University of Lethbridge introduced political science student Sydney Whiting to a community of student advocates who taught her about justice, equity, privilege, and intersectionality in practice outside of the classroom. Through their guidance, she has been able to apply these learnings to her volunteer positions and in her personal life, enhancing her university experience and preparing her for a future career in environmental policy.
I aspire to work directly on environmental policy files in a job that allows me to interact with both the community and with government. After my undergrad, I’m hoping to pursue graduate studies in a master of public policy program, while continuing to work for community-level organizations and non-profits.
Meet Sydney | Community Organizer. Advocate. Volunteer.
Program: Bachelor of Arts | Major: Political Science
Why did you choose ULethbridge?
I grew up in Lethbridge, so the ability to stay close to my community, friends, and family was a huge part of my decision to attend ULethbridge. The small class sizes and the many work opportunities also made me apply!
Did you know what you wanted to study before you came to ULethbridge?
Yes! I loved social studies in high school, and as I got more involved with activism, I knew I wanted to better understand political systems and styles of governance. I started in the BA political science program, and over time, I’ve narrowed my interests to environmental and climate policy.
What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience so far?
I just finished my term as the Engagement Coordinator with the Campus Collective Centre, one of the ULSU levy groups. The Centre provides student resources, free personal and sexual health supplies, hosts events, and engages in campus advocacy initiatives. I’ve had a lot of cool experiences with the Centre, but my favourite was our recent Advocacy 101 Student Conference in partnership with LPIRG, another awesome organization on campus. This was a full day of presentations and workshops to help young people get involved in social and climate justice advocacy, meet others, and learn how to build their own campaigns.
Not only did I get to organize this with two friends of mine, both of whom I met at ULethbridge, but the feedback from the event was really positive. After years of online events, gathering together and engaging in these critical conversations felt really special.
Sydney is critical and purposeful about her own learning. She shows a remarkable capacity to not only grasp the course material but to make creative and insightful connections between theories, concepts, and real-world applications. - Dr. Stephanie Kerr, Department of Political Science
How have your professors impacted your education?
Our professors in the Department of Political Science are fantastic; they are passionate about their research area, and each has been willing to spend time to personally work through my questions and curiosities. Classes outside of my discipline have also greatly influenced my understanding of the role of government — Dr. Jodie Asselin’s Global Citizenship Cohort on the intersection of Environment and Culture started me on my path toward an environmental studies minor, and Dr. Carol Williams’ class on Incarcerated Women exposed the many injustices of our current punishment systems. These classes, and my core major requirements, have reaffirmed my passion for advocacy and strong policy reform.
Is there anyone else who has had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?
My community of student advocates — especially the staff and Board members at the Collective Centre and LPIRG — have taught me a tremendous deal about what justice, equity, privilege, and intersectionality look like in practice outside of the classroom. Through their friendship and guidance, I have been able to apply these learnings in my volunteer positions, at the Campus Collective Centre, and in my personal life.
Have you received any scholarships and awards?
I am extremely grateful for the financial support I’ve received from ULethbridge and other awards programs. Through the generosity of donors, I have been able to focus on my studies, engage in volunteer work in my community, and take part in extracurricular activities. Most recently, the LPIRG Travel Grant (available to all undergraduate students!) helped me travel to a conference in Toronto for young sustainability professionals!
Sydney is a dedicated and serious student, with a true interest not just in politics, but in the implications of public policy for the public itself. She has demonstrated a very real aptitude and capacity for applied and social science research (despite being quite early in her studies) and continues to find ways to link her course work to her passion about the environment, climate change, and youth engagement in politics. - Dr. Lars Hallstrom, Director, Prentice Institute and professor in the Department of Political Science
Tell us a bit about joining the Canadian delegation to the Y7 Summit.
Earlier this year, I was selected to join the Canadian delegation to the Y7, the youth advisory group of the G7, as part of an organization called the Young Diplomats of Canada. As the climate policy negotiator on our four-person delegation, I meet weekly with the youth representatives from each of the G7 member countries to draft an official Youth Communiqué. During our recent Summit in Tokyo, Japan, we presented this document to Prime Minister Kishida of Japan. Months of research and outreach to Canadian stakeholders led to a list of proposals that are reflective of Canadian and international youth interests, and I'm proud of the environmental advocacy work I've been able to accomplish with this team. Overall, this experience has also helped me apply what I’ve learned in the classroom, especially regarding international relations. Read more about Sydney's participation at the Y7.
In your free time, what do you like to do?
Most of my day is spent online or working remotely, so I love to go indoor bouldering with friends, hiking, and paddleboarding when I can. And, of course, I’m always down to watch (another!) rom-com or listen to country and folk music.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
I aspire to work directly on environmental policy files in a job that allows me to interact with both the community and with government. After my undergrad, I’m hoping to pursue graduate studies in a Master of Public Policy program while continuing to work for community-level organizations and non-profits.
What advice would you like to give those about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?
Being selective in which experiences and opportunities give you joy, and which are there as a burden, has been one of the biggest lessons that I continue to practice this year. I would encourage new students to get involved in clubs, take lots of cool classes, and volunteer—but only on your own time, and after prioritizing your own goals and well-being.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your decision to pursue a university degree?
In high school, the idea of engaging in research was a nebulous concept. Now, though, I’m hoping to get involved in some University research through the Community Bridge Lab (specifically for social science researchers!) in the Fall. So, if nothing else, that’s been my biggest takeaway from attending ULethbridge so far — that this place can serve as a launch pad for opportunities you didn’t even know were out there!
Favourite place on campus: The group tables by the big windows in the library!
Favourite activities to do in southern Alberta: Hiking in Waterton and hanging out in the coulees!
Favourite place to study: The lower floor of the library-- nice and quiet!
About Shining Students
Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.
Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Sydney!