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Whitebean named sustainability champion

Shiann Whitebean was honoured at the 2017 Gala last Thursday, April 13 at the Loyola Chapel for her leadership work at Concordia University. (Courtesy Concordia University)

Shiann Whitebean will be graduating from Concordia University this summer with one more award recognizing her accomplishments on campus.

Last Thursday evening, the First Peoples Studies major was named a Sustainability Champion along with five other students, staff and faculty that made significant contributions towards sustainability at the university.

“I just wanted to thank the people that I worked with in the Concordia community because none of the things I did, I did by myself,” said Whitebean.

“This is our traditional territory, but there’s a difference between growing up knowing how vast our territory is and feeling at home in it because of the conditions of colonialism, but Concordia felt like home to me.”

The Sustainability Champion Awards are given every year to demonstrate the university’s gratitude for ambassadors of change.

“What we hope with this award is that is serves as an inspiration for other people to also be leaders in sustainability on campus. By the recognition of both what these students, staff and faculty have done it inspires other people to do the same,” said Isabelle Mailhot-Leduc, sustainable food system coordinator. 

The sustainability issues range from waste projects to equality education campaigns to teaching alternative business solutions to any other issue that makes our world a better place.

“By sustainability, we often think about just the environmental part of sustainability, but there’s also the inclusion part, the democracy part of sustainability and Shiann was definitely someone that pushed for social justice on campus,” said Mailhot-Leduc.

Whitebean was the president and founder of the First Peoples Studies member association, organized the Indigenous Student Council under Concordia’s Student Union, and she advocates on behalf of Indigenous students with Indigenous Directions.

She was nominated by Charmaine Lyn and Elizabeth Fast, who were both appointed as special advisors to Concordia’s provost Graham Carr on Indigenous issues across campus.

“Shiann really exemplifies the power of student leadership and tenacious advocacy. She is able to both ground (in experience) and elevate (with vision) the discourse around education and Indigenous peoples,” said Lyn.

“She is inclusive and principled in her interactions. She backs all of this up with an exceptional work ethic and commitment. We are so pleased that her work is being recognized.”

The award marks the long list of accomplishments for Whitebean’s undergraduate studies. On top of making the dean’s list she was also recognized as an Arts and Science Scholar for 2016-2017 academic year, and more recently accepted a scholarship from the Caisse Populaire Kahnawake and a $5,000 achievement scholarship from the Golden Key International Honour Society.

As Whitebean will be graduating in June, elections were held two weeks ago to fill leadership positions for both the Indigenous Student Council and the First Peoples Studies Member Association.

“Once we got through that process, I felt really good. When I saw that people were taking this up and continuing it and that it’s going to grow and change, I felt really great about it. That was the most important for me, just encouraging other Indigenous students to find our voice, to use our voice,” said Whitebean.

“I’m relieved that it’s sustainable because I didn’t just want to start things to have my name on it, I wanted to change things.”

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