In Conversation with Matthew Lawson

Matthew Lawson, the Student Engagement, Events and Reporting Programme Manager, discusses his work in promoting environmental awareness among staff and students.

What is your role as the Student Engagement, Events & Reporting Programme Manager?

I’m responsible for oversight over supporting a positive student experience, the types of events we deliver to students, staff and the wider public, and our annual Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report. My team of three work on student engagement events, festivals, and mapping the sustainable development goals and curriculum.

What climate change initiatives have you implemented?

One of my favourite projects is the Student Pathways, where we work with a group of dedicated students who want to improve their knowledge and skills around the climate crisis. We also have the 30-minute online Be Sustainable course. We recently launched a Sustainability Champions network, which aims to develop a broader network of staff and students who want to see change in their areas – the student launch event is on 16 October.

Why is it important to raise awareness on social responsibility and sustainability at the university level?

I think the university has a responsibility to make sure that all of its students can critically engage with these issues. Students will have to address these issues in their future careers, in any sector, because the impacts will certainly be more visible and prominent.

You studied international relations as an undergraduate and a masters in Multi-level and Regional Politics. How did you end up in the environmental sector?

I didn’t really set out to go down this path! While doing my masters, I got involved with a group of students who were establishing Transition Edinburgh University – an initiative that raised awareness on peak oil and climate change. I worked with their Engagement Team and eventually joined the university’s Sustainability Office and Estates, and was involved putting together the very concept for this department.

What did you originally set out to do?

I was really keen on how to implement national climate change policy at a local level. Part of my research for my dissertation is how local authorities in Scotland were doing that and I was really fascinated by that and I thought brilliant, I want to go into that. But fast forward about nine years, I’m still at university and I find it an absolutely fascinating place to work. It’s at the forefront of change.

How can students get involved with making a difference in these issues?

Our department offers a range of opportunities that students can apply to. We also have a student project grant, so if students are interested in developing, designing and delivering sustainability projects, there is some seed funding for them as well.

Image: Edinburgh University

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