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PURE Award winners 2016: Peter Friedrichsen

Economics and Development Studies major seeks to understand the barriers to waste management for Tsuu T’ina First Nation and bordering communities in Calgary


Peter Friedrichsen stands in front of 'Cathedral Evening' by Douglas Bentham. Friedrichsen is researching barriers to sustainable waste management. Photo by Nikki Reimer, University of Calgary

By Jennifer Robitaille

The University of Calgary’s Eyes High strategic statement reads “students will thrive in programs made rich by research and hands-on experiences”. The integration of teaching and research is a priority in this vision and the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience — also known as PURE — is an important initiative that reflects this commitment.

Each year undergraduates can apply for the prestigious PURE Awards, which provide financial research support to some of the university’s most promising students over the spring and summer months.

The program is designed to give undergraduate students the opportunity to learn how to develop research projects, undertake independent research and contribute to knowledge in their respective fields.

In this Q&A series, we hear from the 2016 PURE Award winners from the Faculty of Arts.


Name: Peter Friedrichsen

Degree sought: BA Economics, BA Development Studies

What is your research topic?

I’m researching barriers to sustainable waste management, with special regard to the Tsuu T’ina First Nation and the bordering communities in the City of Calgary. These can include both past and present political, social and economic variables that have contributed to current waste management strategies.

What attracted you to this particular research project?

I was drawn to this particular research because the City of Calgary and the Tsuu T’ina First Nation have a very interesting historical and geographic connection- with Calgary lying in the traditional territory of the Treaty 7 First Nations and the current Tsuu T’ina reservation bumped right up against the western portion of the city. The ring road was a very contentious and complex project to negotiate between the two communities, but issues such as waste are not as closely examined. I found the aspect of sustainability very interesting when there are two very different authorities managing waste in such close proximity and often across the border.

Why is this research important?

I think this research is important because it’s taking historical background and current lived experiences from people in both jurisdictions and creating a space for dialogue and meaningful problem-solving at a community level. Rather than have top-down policy dictate sustainable waste management that might not be appropriate, this research is granting leading community members with a voice to provide their input and use my results as a potential policy directive from the community, up.

What do you hope to achieve with this research?

My main goal from my research is to understand the current systems of waste management, the historical implications leading up to this system and how broader political, social and economic factors might be preventing more sustainable waste management. Furthermore, I would like to present a research outcome where members from both communities have the power to employ or reject my findings to better their own communities as they see fit on their own terms, not mine or any other outside party.

What do you like most about your field of study?

My favourite part about working in Development Studies is that I get to work with people and learn first-hand what they are experiencing. I can be a part of improving their quality of life and that of their community with the intent that my work is to empower them and not for my own personal gain.

What advice would you give to other students considering applying for PURE Awards next year?

I think my best advice when considering the PURE Award, especially in a field where you work with people and communities, is to start making contacts now. Get involved in the community where you would like to work, but with the intent of building relationships, not jumping in saying you would like to help them. On that note, doing your preliminary research to understand whom you’re working with is essential as well. The more informed and connected you are, the better you will fare when you actually start your research.