Graduate Students & Research Fellows

Graduate Students

Kathleen Aikens
PhD Candidate
Kathleen Aikens is a PhD Candidate in the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability. She is interested in the intersections of environment, education, and community, and is currently working with the Sustainability and Education Policy Network to better understand the relationship between policy and practice in Environmental and Sustainability Education. Kathleen completed a Masters in Nature Resource Sciences from McGill University and then spent several years working with community-based organizations in Atlantic Canada and Bhutan. She currently volunteers as Vice-Chair of the Saskatoon Environmental Advisory Committee, committee member of Student Action for a Sustainable Future (Education Program), and council member of the School of Environment and Sustainability Students’ Association.
Kristen Hargis
PhD Student
Kristen Hargis is a PhD student in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan and a returning researcher with SEPN. She received her Master of Education in Educational Foundations from the University of Saskatchewan, a degree which particularly focused on sociological and ecological justice education. During her time with SEPN as a master’s student, she helped design and implement a national survey, which sought to understand how sustainability education policies are developed and enacted, including examining policy-practice relationships, in early education to grade 12 schools (EC-12) and post-secondary education (PSE) institutions. Her master’s thesis research explored how sustainable consumption was taught by faculty at Canadian PSE institutions, including how policies impacted teaching. She has also taught in high schools and junior high schools in Japan for several years where she integrated sociological and ecological justice education within this context. She is currently researching how climate change education could and should be conceptualized, particularly focusing on how to incorporate sociological and psychological considerations.
Naomi Maina
PhD Candidate
Originally from Kenya, Naomi Mumbi Maina is a doctoral student with SEPN at the University of Saskatchewan in the School of Environment and Sustainability. She earned two Masters of Science degrees in Mass Communications and Social Responsibility from St. Cloud State University (SCSU) in Minnesota. During her studies she was involved in anti-racism organizing and cross-cultural education with immigrant women in Central Minnesota. She also helped organize the Annual Global Social Responsibility Conference, that brought together activist grassroots organizations to discus issues of social justice, peace, environment, human rights and animals. Her research interest is on how various actors are engaged in the enactment of sustainability, with a focus on how historically marginalized groups can effectively contribute to advancing sustainability policy and practice in higher education. Since joining SEPN she has been researching the growth of the fossil fuel divestment movement across Canadian higher education institutions.
Jaylene Murray
PhD Candidate
Jaylene Murray is a M.Ed. Student with SEPN at the University of Saskatchewan. Hailing from the West Coast, Jaylene moved to Saskatoon to join the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN) team for her Master’s of Educational Foundations at the University of Saskatchewan. She holds a Diploma in Adventure Tourism Business Operations and a BA in Recreation and Tourism Management with a focus on sustainable community development. Her background as an outdoor educator and sustainable tourism researcher shapes her interest in sustainable education. Currently, Jaylene is investigating students’ perspectives of and engagement with sustainability at Canadian higher education institutions with SEPN. She is interested in how students perceive sustainability at their schools, what they identify as facilitators and barriers to sustainability uptake in their local context, and their opinions to improve sustainability at their institutions.
Rachel Regier
MEd Candidate
Rachel Regier is a M.Ed student with SEPN at the University of Saskatchewan. She also earned her B.Sc in Kinesiology and B.Ed at the University of Saskatchewan. Rachel’s first 4 years as a professional teacher were with the Earthkeepers program, fostering an alternative learning community and creating authentic learning opportunities for students. She has invested the past two years into developing the Seed program which combines Wellness, Food Studies, and Horticulture curricula for grade 10 students, and focuses on personal, community, and global health. Rachel also helps her husband run Chain Reaction Urban Farm, growing produce on available land in Saskatoon. Currently, Rachel is interested in investigating how schools across the country engage with ideas of sustainability, and the significance of alternative teaching and learning strategies to work toward a more sustainable future.

Research Fellows

Andrew Bieler
Research Fellow
Andrew Bieler is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Saskatchewan. He is a scholar, writer, and artist with a focus on environmental communication and education. Currently, he is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Sustainability and Education Policy Network at the University of Saskatchewan. Trained in social and cultural theory, he completed his PhD in the Joint Program in Communication and Culture at York University and Ryerson University in Toronto. His doctoral dissertation, Exhibiting Climate Change: An Examination of the Thresholds of Arts–Sciences Collaborations in the Context of Learning for a Sustainable Future, examines the role of collaboration between contemporary artists and environmental scientists in emerging approaches to climate change communication and education. He recently coauthored the book Critical education and sociomaterial practice: narration, place, and the social in the (re)thinking environmental education series published by Peter Lang. He serves as Director of Communications for the Society of Postdoctoral Scholars, and as a reviewer for a number of journals including Environmental Education Research, Green Humanities, and Environmental Studies and Sciences.
Elsa Lee
Research Fellow
Elsa Lee is an educationalist with a longstanding interest and expertise in environmental issues. Before taking up this fellowship at the University of Saskatchewan, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education investigating the role of place in children’s understanding of environmental change and then most recently the way that community-based waterway rehabilitation projects can influence global citizenship, including in development contexts. Elsa has also worked on a small-scale study that explores the interconnections between nature, art and childhood as they emerge in the work of an arts-based charity. Elsa is a trustee for the National Association of Environmental Education in the UK and leads their publications group. She is a reviewer for a number of journals including the Journal of Environmental Education and the Journal of Environmental Education Research. Elsa studied for a doctorate at the University of Bath where she was involved in various research projects in the field of Environmental Education. This period of study was preceded by a successful career teaching science in secondary schools in the United Kingdom and Mexico.
Jessica Ostrow Michel
Research Fellow
Jessica Ostrow Michel is a doctoral candidate in the Higher and Postsecondary Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on assessment of postsecondary environmental and sustainability education, educational quality, and teaching and learning. Her dissertation explores the amount and effectiveness of Education for Sustainability in an institution of higher education, and whether Education for Sustainability is related to students’ learning of sustainability knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Jessica has published in Research in Higher Education and Innovative Higher Education, and has presented at the annual conferences of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). Previously, Jessica served as the Lead Research Assistant for the College Educational Research project, which aims to create comprehensive measures of educational quality across institutions that could contribute to public understanding of higher education quality. She has also taught research methods courses, and served as an Assistant Director of Institutional Research and an Academic Advisor. Jessica holds a Master of Arts and Master of Education in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Viviana Pitton
Research Fellow
Viviana Pitton is a Research Associate with the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN) at the University of Saskatchewan. Her current work with SEPN is focused on advancing a better understanding of affect in relation to education policy mobility. Additionally, she is seeking to bring a focus on practice-as-policy with a particular emphasis on place/land/materiality as it pertains to sustainability policy uptake across Canada in both K-12 and higher education sectors. She holds an Ed.M. and a Ph. D. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has published on topics related to neoliberalism, globalization and higher education. She taught education courses in the U.S. and Australia and worked as a learning consultant on graduate capabilities development and assessment at the University of New South Wales.