Despair and hopelessness emerged as unwelcome bi-products when Jessica Blomfield first examined the nascent role of sustainability professionals.
As a Master of Environment student between 2010 and 2012, her Honours research involved the study of sustainability educators working to build the capacity of citizens and society towards sustainable practices and outcomes.
“I found themes of these people feeling down and being burnt out by the scale of the challenge and the impact they were trying to achieve.”
Now, with the role of the sustainability professional continuing to evolve at a staggering pace, the Brisbane resident is expanding her study.
“I want to know if this is an issue on a broader scale,” says Jessica who is in the early stages of a PhD research project at Griffith Business School.
Her investigation is set to be enriched and informed by an exciting research opportunity in one of the greenest cities in the US after she secured a prestigious Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship valued at $69,500.
Jessica will take off for the university city of Boulder, Colorado in June on a 12-month scholarship to gather data she hopes to put to effective use on her return to Australia.
“The University of Colorado, and Boulder as a city, both have a strong sustainability focus,” she says. “It is very much embedded in the culture, so much so that sustainability principles inform every aspect of the university through research, teaching and campus life.”
There is also a Center for Education on Social Responsibility attached to the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado. This is where Jessica will get down to business in June to study the resilience of professionals working as change agents for sustainability within organisations.
“Corporate sustainability, and professional development in this sector, is still emerging in Australia,” she says.
“I’m looking to the US to find out more about the characteristics of successful sustainability professionals in this area, and consider how these might be applied in Australia.
“Organisations in the U.S. are at the forefront of corporate sustainability initiatives, and involve a large number of sustainability professionals working as change agents.
“I hope I can inform future advances in sustainability with the help of best practice, theory and insights gained from this scholarship.”
She is confident that the experience and knowledge gained from her Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship will add breadth, depth and meaning to the findings and outcomes of her PhD as she drills down into the reality of life as a professional charged with managing climate change issues for a business.
Her initial focus will be on the corporate sector where sustainability managers, sustainability officers and sustainability consultants are increasingly commonplace.
“I’m searching for common themes in the experiences of individuals in these roles. I’ll be looking at themes around how these professionals overcome challenges and deal with negative emotions like hopelessness to achieve positive sustainability outcomes.
“These professionals are at the front line of the shift towards sustainability in organisations. We need to understand what works and what doesn’t in order to improve the resilience, performance and retention of sustainability change agents to progress sustainability in Australia across all sectors.
Jessica was one of three Griffith University students to be awarded Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships by the Australian Government in December.
Yolanda Adams received an Endeavour Research Fellowship for Indigenous Australians, valued at $24,500. Her study area is justice and law enforcement and her scholarship will take her to the Native Counselling Services of Alberta in Canada.
In total four Indigenous Fellowships and 27 Postgraduate Scholarships were awarded in Canberra on December 3.
The Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships program builds Australia’s reputation for excellence in the provision of education. It supports the internationalisation of Australia’s tertiary education and research sectors by supporting students to study and research overseas.
A key aim of the program is to increase the skills and global awareness of high achievers.