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Sustainable industries are this grad’s next goal

November 09, 2022

Will Adams running with a soccer ball for the UVic Vikes soccer team

If you told Will Adams during his first year at UVic’s Gustavson School of Business that four years later he would be starting a master’s program in engineering, he would likely have replied, “that’s impossible.” Playing for the UVic men’s varsity soccer team was the pivot, and his future career path was unclear. With convocation approaching, Adams’ future has grown to be much more certain—and it’s a path that’s devoted to a better future for all of us.

With his bachelor of commerce in hand this November, he’s continuing his passion for sustainability in business at UVic’s industrial ecology program, a path he says the BCom program helped to inspire.

“I definitely wasn’t always planning on attending grad school, things just kind of unravelled that way,” Adams says. “That decision was influenced by me wanting to explore topics in greater depth that we touched on in undergrad.”

For Adams, the passion for helping the environment and making a difference was always something that mattered personally, but he wanted to gain more context on how he could achieve it. The exposure to so many different fields, the diversity in perspectives and opinions, and the lens of sustainability found through Gustavson professors, students and mentors took Adams onto unexpected avenues in education, making choices about how he could make an impact.

Adams explains his choice of master’s degree as a balance between environmental and economic considerations.

“Since a lot of the stress humans put on the environment is a result of industrial economic activities associated with business, the focus of my future studies is how to help make these processes more sustainable on an industrial level, so that economic growth is still possible without the same level of stress on the planet,” says Adams. “It’s about looking at business with an industrial ecology lens and identifying ways to transition to more sustainable operations. For this to work, it’s important to look at both the consumer and the producer side.”

Learning sustainability at Gustavson

Throughout the wide range of topics Adams studied in Gustavson’s commerce program, including a dual specialization in service management and international business and varying co-op opportunities, Adams earned a wide range of business knowledge he can apply to a different discipline. From business analyst positions with XPS Group and the Canadian Department of National Defence to an executive search intern position with Japan-based Apex KK, Adams had the opportunity to work in both the private and public sector, as well as gaining international experience. This range in industries gave him the space to think more critically about the different stresses on our plant as result of business practices.

“My goal would be to link my business background with my interest in sustainability and the tools I am learning in my industrial ecology master’s degree—eventually finding a niche that allows me to help businesses transition their practices into being more sustainable,” says Adams.

Adams points out that without his time spent at Gustavson,  he wouldn’t have gained the same level of exposure that allowed him to find this career path. The exploration of sustainability in business helped him discover that his passion could be a lot bigger than just himself and his personal choices. When placed in real-world experiences during his co-op, Adams saw firsthand the opportunity for more sustainable decision-making to be made by both companies and consumers, through industrial economic practices, and saw a space for change.

Looking ahead

With a BCom degree under his belt and at the start of his next big journey, Adams is now “figuring out what I want my impact to be; I know I want to have one, but I don’t know what it is just yet.” As someone who enjoys a challenge, whether that be on the soccer pitch, in the classroom or the business world, Adams is ready to start exploring sustainable solutions to environmental challenges brought on by economic activities.

Of course, he didn’t make it this far on his own. “You’ve heard that saying: it’s sometimes not about what you know, but who you know,” Adams says of the people he met and the relationships he developed along the way: classmates, professors, mentors, work term colleagues, teammates on the soccer pitch and members of the Vikes community, all combining to support him in following this path.

Adams encourages others who may not have a clear picture of their post-grad life to spend time on what they are passionate about and use the support of people and mentors around them to gain insight into the diversity of educational and career paths.

“Gustavson definitely encouraged me to come out of my comfort zone, ask questions and try to connect with people who might have interesting stories to share,” he says. With one journey over and another just beginning, Adams looks forward to diving into the world of sustainability and discovering his impact on the world.

—Ashley Campbell. Pictured: Will Adams on the soccer pitch for the UVic Vikes. Photo credit: AP Shutter. Originally published in The Ring.