Leaders-Create: Program for Leaders in Water and Watershed Sustainability


Program for Leaders in Water and Watershed Sustainability

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Program Structure and Elements 

1. Undergraduate Students 

2. Graduate Students

3. Post Doctoral Fellows

4. Training Summary

5. Professional Skills

6. WatIF Conference 

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate training within the LEADERS CREATE is designed to motivate students to pursue graduate studies with us by involving them in cutting edge research as research assistants to graduate students. Undergrads will gain critical skills that will prepare them for graduate school, such as research methodologies, research integrity, analysis of data and knowledge translation. Regular team meetings will be held where students rotate to present their research. In addition, undergrads can also be involved in the Water Initiative for the Future (WatIF) conference to develop their professional skills.

Graduate Students

Graduate Internships: Our stakeholder organizations will offer paid internships to Graduate Students. This will augment the training program by providing experience addressing real water-related problems. This provides an opportunity for the stakeholders to access Highly Qualified Professionals (HQP) that fit specific needs in the short-term while creating connections for potential longer-term employment. It is expected that MSc students will take at least one 4-month internship and PhDs will take at least two, with an optional additional internship if available.

Graduate Courses: A combination of existing and new courses will provide the student LEADERS with a scholarly foundation in watershed and related sciences, including the interdisciplinary aspects of water issues. Students will take 4 one-term courses, with 2 core courses taken by all student LEADERS and two other courses selected to support their individual research areas. One core course is Water Policy and Governance (recently developed, currently taken by Natural Science and Engineering (NSE) and non-NSE students). This course will be further developed to allow students from Ryerson and INRS-ETE to take the course remotely with their peers at Queen’s, using high quality teleconference lecture facilities to be installed in the BWRC. The second core course will be developed in Water Sector Entrepreneurship and Technology Implementation (developed with industry partners) that will feature professional skills (communications, project management, entrepreneurship, IP commercialization, knowledge mobilization, and working in multidisciplinary teams).

Graduate Presentations: There will be a series of one-day Water Sustainability Workshops (WSWs) addressing specific topics of high concern in water, with students attending 2 per year (in person or by webinar). Exact topics will be determined yearly by the LEADERS Advisory Board, through consultation with our stakeholders, however, examples may include: Sustainable rural development in relation to groundwater supplies; Emerging contaminates of concern in surface waters; and Public health implications of contaminated water supplies. The BWRC will host the core courses and most of the WSWs, creating a common space associated with the LEADERS. Some of the WSWs and portions of courses will be hosted by our partners and may include site visits to natural, agricultural, industrial, commercial, and community locations.

Peer to Peer and Peer to Mentor Program: The BWRC will host regular seminars and webinars open to student LEADERS. A mentor program will be developed around the seminars and WSWs to connect students with partner organizations in their chosen fields. This incubator approach will allow students to learn critical disciplinary skills and to plan their career development, and may identify internships for some students. The BWRC will also host a yearly symposium featuring student LEADERS presenting to one another.

Post Doctoral Fellows

Post Doctoral fellows (PDFs) are key individuals in the overall strategy to train and equip future Canadian water professionals with the skills they need to succeed. PDFs will be assigned to guide the major multidisciplinary and collaborative research projects within the CREATE, providing a local point-of-contact for the graduate students to see how their project fits in the larger context, and to guide the sharing of results at the bench level between graduate students where this is needed to accomplish research goals. PDFs with day-to-day availability are key to graduate student success in collaborative research, and this experience is also highly valuable to PDFs who wish to gain experience in the oversight of research. PDFs will also participate in the delivery of the Ethics training.

Training Summary

Title Type of Offering Mandatory or Optional
Water Policy and Governance Course Mandatory
Water Sector Entrepreneurship and Technology Implementation Course Mandatory
WatIF Conference Workshop

Mandatory participation

Optional Committee

Water Sustainability Series Conference 2 Mandatory per year
Presentation Skills Workshop Mandatory 
Leadership or Project Management Workshop Optional 
Communication in Environmental Studies Course Optional
Ethics and Professionalism Workshop Optional
Cultural Safety Certificate Optional

Professional skills

Professional skills training will follow the “Professional Skills Development For Graduate Students” guide published by the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (2008), and include the four priority skills areas (Communications, Management, Teaching and Knowledge Transfer, Ethics) identified in that guide.

1. Communication Skills: The LEADERS CREATE will require participating students to attend a workshop designed to improve their presentation skills. Every year, the team will meet in a rotating fashion at Queen’s, Ryerson, RMC and INRS-ETE, where students will present their research. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to present their research at the WatIF conference every two years. Through their involvement in mandatory internships, participants will gain considerable experience within many different forms of communication within the work environment (team meetings, product briefings, knowledge translation, media releases, etc.).

2. Management Skills: Students will enter the LEADERS CREATE program by first submitting an application, and submitting a progress report on their work each year. Through components of the application, the students will learn management skills such as organization, financial management and setting research goals and milestones. The annual progress report and assessment will reinforce these training elements. Students will also have the opportunity to complete a leadership or project management workshop, and will acquire additional skills support through involvement in the WatIF conference and internships. Students will be allowed, on a case-by-case basis, to substitute similar training opportunities at external organizations.

3. Teaching and Knowledge Translation: The LEADERS program offers students the opportunity to hone their knowledge translation beyond the mandatory presentations at annual symposia. Offered through the School of Environmental Studies at Queen’s, students may optionally take a newly developed course: Communication in Environmental Science, which takes students beyond the traditional avenues for scientific knowledge translation. Students will also benefit from a workshop offered at Queen’s entitled Communication: Telling Your Story, Understanding Theirs. This workshop is designed to help students translate their research outside the academic environment, to stakeholders in media, government and the general public. Through participation in the WatIF conference committee, students will be required to set outcomes and goals for the conference. This will include being inclusive and adaptable to the wide range of disciplines and interests present in such a multidisciplinary event.

4. Ethics and Cultural Sensitivity: The LEADERS program will offer Ethics training to participating students. Mitacs offers a Career Professionalism workshop that will be available to the students. This workshop immerses students in many different themes around professionalism that will play an important role in their careers later on, such as codes of conduct while representing work organizations, effective communication and professional interactions with co-workers. Many First Nations communities across Canada face severe water issues. Therefore future professionals in water resources must have an understanding of the cultural aspects of First Nations communities with respect to water. The Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre at Queen’s offers a certificate in cultural safety training. Student in LEADERS will be encouraged to take this training. In addition, a workshop will be developed specifically dealing with ethics. This will include ethics involving professionalism around the scientific process (authorship, integrity of data, etc.). This workshop will to allow students to develop a research ethics proposal / application. This will ensure participants are exposed to the multidisciplinary and multi-cultural nature of research ethics. Participants will be encouraged to use their own research to apply for or renew ethics approval if appropriate.

WatIF Conference

The LEADERS program includes a unique opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students, along with PDFs, to hone their professional skills in the Water Initiative for the Future (WatIF). WatIF is a biannual, international conference that is completely designed, organized and delivered by students. It covers all facets of water disciplines, which brings participants from the social, natural, engineering and health sciences, making this a truly multidisciplinary event. The LEADERS program will take over the role of supporting the WatIF conference, and LEADERS students will be given an opportunity to play lead roles in the conference planning and delivery. Students are recruited into positions including stakeholder liaison, finance, media relations and conference content. The WatIF conference involvement includes developing a business plan and seeking out funding and support from external companies and other organizations. Students will contact experts in the water resources fields to be speakers and mentors during the conference, which will increase their professional networks. Past WatIF conferences have shown that the committee members gained key skills such as project management, effective written and oral communication, finance accounting and ethical professionalism; skills that they would not have developed to such a level through traditional training opportunities. For the 2020 WatIF Conference, the LEADERS CREATE will seek to partner with the de Gaspe Beaubien Foundation to host an Aquahacking Challenge (www.aquahacking.com), where teams of students and professionals compete to bring marketable ideas around water resource protection to the market.