For March’s Alumni Highlights series, we spoke with Shannon Dyck (BA’09, MES’12), a graduate of the School of Environment and Sustainability. She is an environmental co-ordinator for the City of Saskatoon, local artist, and volunteer. Shannon and her husband, Michael Nemeth, are co-founders of the sustainable housing development Radiance Cohousing.
Tell us about the campus when you went to the U of S; how is it different today?
The most visible additions to campus include the construction of new student housing along Cumberland Ave., renovations and energy efficiency improvements to Place Riel, and the completion of the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre. Since I’ve graduated, the U of S has also launched both the Sustainability Education Research Institute (SERI) and the Undergraduate Certificate of Proficiency in Sustainability.
Gardens also seem to be popping up all over the place, such as the McEown Community Garden for students living in residence, the roof top and fruit program demonstration gardens near the College of Agriculture, and the redeveloped Prairie Habitat Garden beside the Education Building.
What’s one of your favourite memories you had outside of the classroom?
Eco Bash 2007 at Louis. Not only was I dressed up as a plastic bag, but as the emcee, I managed to accidentally award the one door prize (a tent) to two complete strangers. At the time, I convinced the two of them that they could share the prize. I still wonder how that ever played out in the end.
Although I wouldn’t call it one of my finest moments, I can’t help but look back and smile.
Overall, how was your U of S experience?
Extremely formative. Although I learned a lot both in and outside of the classroom, I think the more valuable lesson is that I discovered just how much I didn’t (and still don’t) know. This has helped me approach new situations, people, and a changing world with an eagerness to learn and understand.
Going to the U of S also opened my mind to new ideas, led to experiences that challenged my beliefs, identity and privilege, and introduced me to a diverse network of friends, colleagues, and mentors. I can’t image who I would be today without having had those experiences.
How did going to the U of S shape your career?
For me, university was more about exploring what I was interested in than it was about achieving a particular academic outcome or degree. This led me to pursue two disciplines: Studio Art & Art History and Environment & Sustainability.
Having a background in both areas has benefited and shaped both my life and career. Not only do they play off each other well (both require creativity, exploration, and an understanding of relationships and interactions), but they’ve also allowed me to see the value in approaching my work from different angles and collaborating with others from varying backgrounds.
What did you wish you would have known on your first day at the U of S?
There are a few things I wish I could have told my 19-year-old self.
There isn’t one right way of doing things; your life is not (and will never be) a clear, linear path. So, don’t let someone else’s version of success define your own, make sure to take advantage of unplanned opportunities, and don’t worry about changing your mind or direction if it feels like the right decision.
Secondly, the more you try to avoid failure and change, the harder they will be on you when they happen. Just try to get what you can out of these experiences and use them to become more resilient. Plus, if you’re too afraid of failing, you’ll never take any risks – and some risks are definitely worth taking.
And finally, you do not have to accept that “this is the way things are.” Everyone has the ability to make a positive difference in their own lives, in others’ lives, and in their community.
Check in for monthly Q&As with alumni from all the U of S colleges, as talk about their life after the U of S and how being on this campus shaped their careers. In case you missed any previous features, you can read them here.