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Emily Kennedy (’14): making a global impact in sustainability

December 13, 2018

For Emily Kennedy (’14), earning a degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ESST) has taken her across the world. In 2017, her Youth in Agriculture Initiative in Uganda won the first Nudge Global Impact Award. She was also the only woman in the running.

“The ESST program is one big stretch assignment,” she says. “There’s no way I could have done half of the things I’ve done since graduating without the experiences I had in this program. Each class gave us numerous opportunities to take risks and try new things, while gaining practical experience. Acadia nurtures you to be your best. My Acadia experience was life changing. There’s no other way to describe it.”

The program is important for the world as well as for Acadia, Kennedy believes. “I would never have been described as a risk taker, but I’m a lot more outgoing now, and I frequently take big risks,” she says. “A lot of courses specific to the Environmental and Sustainability Studies program are intended to push us out of our comfort zone, because that’s really what’s needed to fight the environmental crisis.”

Acadia nurtures you to be your best. My Acadia experience was life changing. There’s no other way to describe it.”

Experiencing other cultures

She had been working in Uganda as part of the International Youth Internship Program, a federally funded program for youth to experience culture outside Canada and to gain work experience in their field. While there, she found the opportunity to apply for the Nudge Global Leadership Program, which is a three-day conference on sustainability in the Netherlands. “There were 92 of us, all different backgrounds but with that one common goal of wanting to make the world a better place,” she says.

After the initial conference, selected participants had nine months to put a sustainability plan into action, present what they had done, and compete for the Nudge Global Impact Award. “It was fun, challenging, and exhausting,” she says. “But it’s all worth it. It’s such a great networking opportunity and an opportunity to expand what I had thought about the world and to hear about specific issues from different perspectives and different cultures.”

Being involved with the Nudge Global Impact Challenge allowed her to bring her education full circle, she says, from learning and talking about issues to actually putting what she learned into practice. Kennedy’s Nudge project was working with youth in eastern Uganda to reengage them in agriculture.

A story of inspired leadership

She had gone to Uganda with the Food Rights Alliance, who were working to improve food security throughout the country. One community leader they worked with was Janet, who was like a grandmother to her community.

“We were testing land to see where the most fertile areas were so people could boost yields and improve livelihoods,” Kennedy says. “Unfortunately, where Janet had planted her garden was not fertile, and her house was sitting on the most fertile part of her land. It was hard news to deliver, and I’m sure it was hard news for Janet to hear. Six months later, we visited Janet again. We were stunned to see that where her house had once stood was her garden. She had torn down her house and rebuilt it where the land was not fertile. She was now producing plenty of crops and was able to pay for her own grandchildren to go to school. She was even starting to help out the neighbourhood kids.”

Food security is about access, availability, but also knowing what to do with the food we have, Kennedy points out. “We all deserve the right to live healthy active lives, to maintain good nutrition, and to live the best life we can, particularly with children.”

After having taught at Acadia last year, Kennedy is now the Connector Program Coordinator at Valley Regional Enterprise Network, Kentville. The program, which launched in September 2018, connects business people with unemployed or underemployed individuals for networking opportunities.

Acadia made her a better person, she asserts. “It’s made me a good global citizen. It’s made me aware of my own actions. But it’s also made me aware that I have a responsibility, and I have the ability to make changes to make the world a better place.”

Since Campaign for Acadia launched publicly, Kennedy decided to make a difference close to home and has contributed her grad year $20.14 to Campaign for Acadia. You can too, by donating online.

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