RRU partners with Pearson College to produce climate action leaders

Group of smiling students from Pearson College UWC standing in front of a cabin in the forest.

Read more about RRU’s Master of Arts in Climate Action Leadership program.

A partnership between Royal Roads University and Pearson College UWC is giving young people from around the world a head-start on a future focused on climate action.

What that future will be is up to them.

RRU teamed with Pearson, an international school in Victoria that is Canada’s only United World College, to deliver the Climate Action Leadership Diploma (CALD) program to 16- to 20-year-olds. The alternative to Pearson’s regular International Baccalaureate Diploma Program gives the high school students undergraduate post-secondary credits from Royal Roads for courses such as Resilient Leadership in Action and Climate Science and Impacts 

“The idea of the program is that it’s building their skills, behaviours, values, attributes and competencies in climate action leadership regardless of what pathway they choose to take,” explains Emily Coolidge, CALD director at Pearson. 

RRU instructors, guest speakers, Indigenous knowledge

Students take one course per term for four terms over two years, with university faculty going to Pearson’s campus to teach their respective courses. Students also hear from guest speakers and lecturers — from a World Bank economist to grassroots social organizers. They also learn Indigenous values and community — including from J.B. Williams, a W̱SÁNEĆ knowledge keeper. The CALD program integrates these teachings, examining the overlap of Indigenous and Western sciences to look for climate solutions.

Students gain knowledge to develop key skills necessary for leadership in complex systems, with climate change and climate action studies as the focus.

“Most students join the program because they have a penchant for environmentalism,” Coolidge says. “They want to be making a difference in the future. They want to be changemakers.

“While there is a knowledge base that needs to be developed,” she says, “a lot of the program is about guiding students through personal projects, engaging them in on-the-land learning, exposing them to experts in different fields — so, thinking about what careers look like in climate action.”

Students from around the world

In addition to students from different parts of Canada — including Indigenous youth representing Dene Métis, Pacheedaht, Anishinaabe, Cowichan and Inuit Peoples — those currently in the program come from as far afield as Zambia, South Sudan, New Zealand, Hungary, Taiwan, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Bhutan, the U.K. and the Philippines.

“They enjoy the group work, the teamwork, the more hands-on learning,” says Coolidge, noting students are evaluated on 15 climate action competencies that they demonstrate through student-led conferences in front of educators.

For their part, students have provided positive evaluation of the program: 

“Before joining the climate program, I had little or no knowledge about the climate crisis,” David Dokolo of South Sudan said in a written assessment. “But ever since joining the climate program I have been able to learn about the bigger picture about climate change.”

“I would… not be the person I am today if I had not chosen to switch into this program,” Rézi Imre-Millei of Hungary wrote. “The dialogues that we have had, and the knowledge that we have gained from the units surrounding power, justice and climate action, could have not been attained anywhere else.”

Emma Humphries of Newfoundland and Labrador wrote: "Being in the CALD program, I (as an Indigenous woman) have finally had my voice heard and reflected in the curriculum. I see a future where I am able to use the skills I've learned, am learning and will learn to effectively lead."

Partnership empowers students

Coolidge says she appreciates Royal Roads’ contributions to the CALD partnership, noting the value of its network of professors, experts and connections as well as its experience offering the Master of Arts in Climate Action Leadership. 

“At Royal Roads University, we believe that education is not just about imparting knowledge, but also about empowering individuals to shape their own futures,” says Zoe MacLeod, RRU associate vice president, Professional and Continuing Studies. “Through our partnership with Pearson College, we are providing young people from diverse backgrounds with the tools and opportunities to become leaders in climate action.”

MacLeod adds: “We are proud to see how our collaboration is equipping students with the skills, values and resilience needed to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. The future of climate action is in their hands and we have full confidence that they will make a profound impact."

Listen to Unless Ventures podcast episode featuring CALD Director Emily Coolidge.

Read more about RRU’s Master of Arts in Climate Action Leadership program