2024 Sustainability Immersion Trip Grand Manan Canada

Alums facilitate adventure-based group learning for students through nonprofit venture

Seven Alvernia University students & alums studied abroad through the Sustainability Immersion Program in Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick, Canada. This trip is a 1-week adventure-based group learning program developed and facilitated by the Sustainable Misfits, a nonprofit organization founded by five Alvernia alumni. The program's focus is to guide young adults on how to effectively cultivate a caring, resilient community of people who make a positive impact on others and the environment.


"Sustainable Misfits takes a holistic approach to learning. Equally important to the knowledge students gain during our trips, including the eco-retreat and the community engagement encounters, is focusing on students' inner development - building the inner skills and mindset that, joined with knowledge, lead to transformational change. To reflect this, we integrated the new Inner Development Goals Framework into our program model," said Alvernia University Associate Director of Sustainability and Sustainable Misfits Executive Director, Dr. Alicia Sprow. 


"What I love about this trip and Sustainable Misfits is that it aligns with the values and goals of Alvernia and our Office of Institutional Sustainability," Sprow continued. "The foundation that the five founders gained from being at Alvernia helped to form the essence of Sustainable Misfits. I use this same model with our students at the EcoHouse, in my classes, and with our student clubs.


The students stay at Castalia Marsh Retreat, owned by retired sea captain James Bates, complete with tiny homes, composting toilets, recycled items that have been artfully built into the structures, and a central gathering place to come together for meals and conversation. They tour the island to gain a better understanding of the community and industries on which they rely. Students work alongside community members and organizations including MJ Edwards, Museum Curator/Director of the Grand Manan Museum, on service projects and planning discussions. The five main program outcomes of this trip include skill and knowledge development around community building, effective communication, systems thinking, innovative leadership, and supportive followership.


"During my trip to Grand Manan, having the opportunity to interact with the local community and explore the island's beauty, I learned the invaluable lesson of slowing down and appreciating life's simpler pleasures," said Teresa Keithley. "With its small population and remote location, the island portrayed a sense of tranquility much different from the life I have returned home to, especially working in Philadelphia. This experience has inspired me to incorporate more balance and mindfulness into my daily routine at home. Along with enjoying the nightly dinners together and exploring the Eco-Retreat, I especially enjoyed the cold plunge into the ocean and the team-building games we did together on the beach afterward."

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