Sustainability and My Academic Journey

A short poem summarizes my academic journey into sustainability research and the overall impression I had so far.

Sourabh Jain
The Environment
Published in
3 min readDec 26, 2022


Preillumination SeTh from Unsplash


Growing up in a small town in India during the 1990s, I was exposed to lots of pollution, congestion, poverty, and all the problems you expect in a poor country. That somehow motivated me toward doing something about sustainable development — at that time I wasn’t aware of the word — but that was it. I didn’t know how to enter that field. Further, I was a part of the contemporary Indian middle-class mindset: the purpose of life is to get into a good engineering college, find a good job, buy a house/car, get married, have kids, and repeat the cycle. Then, I accidentally discovered a master's program in the USA and I applied. Fortunately, I got accepted and began the journey of sustainability education.

My background had always been in engineering and felt that technology will solve the problems of sustainability. After my master’s degree, I joined an interdisciplinary PhD program. However, it was after working for a government-run solar company in India I realized that we had all engineering and technological solutions. The problem was on the implementation side — no one was using and implementing the research findings.

Over time, I realized that sustainability education failed me. We continued to produce more research without really providing implementable solutions to climate problems. It was always about publishing more without emphasizing how to implement research findings.

I joined IVEY Business at Western University, Canada as a postdoctoral fellow at the end of 2021. I thought that research experience at a business school could fill some gaps in my understanding of how to go from having a solution to implementing it. The jury is still out on whether this time things will be any different.

For a sustainability conference at Ivey Business School, our department asked PhDs and Postdoctoral students from the sustainability group to organize one short session of the conference. We decided to express our ideas and experiences in form of a poem. We interwove our stories into a collective narrative to form a poem, where we reflected on our past experiences and imagined our desired future for business education. The purpose of the poem was to invite everyone to pause, reflect on their own journeys, and look ahead with us to dream of a better future for business schools.

To colleagues, classmates, professors; to those of you struggling to understand my path, my accent, my origins, my worldviews;

My painful attempts to communicate in a language that is not my own and in an academic culture that is dominated by the English language hegemony.

This culture creates jargon to communicate, but forgets to use words that common people, the ultimate beneficiaries of our research, can understand.

We use stories as data, translate these stories into a language that is now beyond the access and understanding of these people; We strive for academic rigor, yet forget its usefulness to these people.

Driven by the ultimate stereotype of rigorous and productive academic; publishing papers, one after the other, following a never-ending pipeline; we now focus more on publications and rankings rather than impact.

WHAT IF we reimagined how we communicate our research? WHAT IF we designed our research questions with impact in mind?

Acknowledgment: I would like to acknowledge my fellow PhD/postdoc colleagues from IVEY Business Schools for their support and for doing the heavy lifting in writing the first draft of this stanza and helping me translate my thoughts into a short poem stanza.



Sourabh Jain
The Environment

Postdoctoral scholar who applies systems thinking to model circular economy running on 100% renewable energy systems and zero waste.