Applied Student Research (ASR)

Sustainability ASR is an opportunity for students to address the needs of the McGill community for academic credit in a hands-on way, bridging the gap between theories taught in the classroom and their practical application.

What is ASR?

Sustainability ASR is an applied learning process that uses the University as a Living Lab, a place for students, staff and faculty to explore their ideas and live out their research within their studying and working environment. ASR projects are designed to find solutions to real-life challenges. Actionable recommendations are then  implemented to create a sustainable impact in the community. ASR is driven by students, guided by professors and community experts, and draws on the research infrastructure of the university. There are many forms of ASR, but the McGill Office of Sustainability focuses on ASR that researches ways of better balancing the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of our University and society.

The ASR Process

ASR projects at McGill seek to address the challenges faced by the McGill community. These may involve a lack of resources (e.g. insufficient support programs), negative environmental practices (e.g. energy waste), or obstacles in reaching common goals (e.g. administrative barriers). Stakeholder collaboration is key throughout the ASR process. Common steps in an ASR cycle are as follows: a group of students find an issue in the McGill community that they want to tackle, they reach out to community partners and clients, they find a supervisor, they do the research (and receive credit), and they make a recommendation that can be directly implemented in the McGill community. The cycle can repeat itself again, with students asking more questions, in different orders, and building upon further recommendations as part of the Living Lab at McGill. See figure above

ASR Stakeholders

Students are expected to take ownership over the development of their research strategy and oversee the realization of their project. They are charged with throughly understanding the ASR topic, developing relationships with stakeholders, and addressing the community’s needs during the project period. Their work must adhere to academic standards of quality and add value to the pursuits and endeavors of their community client. As ASR is focused on undergraduate students, it allows for undergraduates to better prepare for graduate research and better equips them with both technical knowledge and soft-skills valuable for the workplace.

Supervisors are responsible for overseeing the work of the student. They help develop a research strategy, give feedback, provide academic resources, ensure the adherence to academic standards, and evaluate the final product. For faculty members, ASR allows them to practice alternative pedagogy. Both professor and staff supervisors have the opportunity to lend their expertise and teaching time to something that would create change in their own working environment. Overall, supervisors of ASR projects are providing an invaluable experience for students at McGill and are working towards creating sustainable change on campus. 

Community Stakeholders can be individuals or groups from the community that benefit from and/or support the research process. Their role includes helping guide the direction of the student’s work to ensure it is relevant and implementable, contributing resources (e.g. documents, building access), and reviewing the students’ final report. A successful ASR project should provide research results the community client can act on. For the McGill community, ASR is a great opportunity to have the brightest students in Canada do research and give helpful recommendations to address the challenges that they face. 

Why do ASR?

ASR teaches students how to make real-world impacts. It creates opportunities for students to apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom.
ASR provides a testing ground for sustainable ideas, concepts and solutions. The University is big enough to test out widely applicable solutions, while it is small enough to control and measure impacts. The use of the University as a “Living Lab” facilitates the investigation of issues and challenges that are relevant to society at large. 
ASR uses already-available resources to help solve real problems on campus. Students spend countless hours working on their assignments and papers for courses. At the same time, McGill often needs additional resources to investigate and solve operational, administrative, and other challenges. ASR allows the University to use this ample source of research to create innovative solutions.
ASR lies squarely within the research mandate of the university. ASR is also consistent with the Principal’s Priorities, the Vision 2020 McGill Sustainability Strategy, and Achieving Strategic Academic Priorities (ASAP) 2012.
ASR builds networks between students, supervisors and stakeholders. An ASR project is an opportunity that benefits the whole community and demands collaboration and communication between multiple stakeholders

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