Translating The Complex

Fluent in three languages, Yazan Zamel (Year 4, EngSci) is graduating with a major in Energy Systems Engineering, and minors in both Environmental Engineering and Engineering Business. In explaining his work and field of study, Zamel often finds he is engaging in a new form of linguistic translation.

“Environmental education can be considered as its own language because of its complexity,” he says.

“It is such a broad topic and some people are going to oppose it or will have a point of view that is not necessarily aligned with what you’re trying to deliver. The process of having empathy – that process of being patient – is so important when you’re trying to create an impact.”

A native of Jordan, Zamel directly experienced the effects of climate change in the Middle East region on local industry, agriculture and family business. His passion for finding solutions to environmental issues is underpinned by strong knowledge of the holistic nature of these challenges.

“When I’m able to talk to my family back home, I get see how much impact it’s having,” explains Zamel. “It reaches about 50 degrees in the summer. My grandpa is a farmer and has obviously been impacted so much by that, in terms of the agriculture sector and how little product they can produce, how it hurts their business.”

“Essentially that’s what really drives my interest to go forward with all of my sustainability projects.”   

Concurrently addressing aspects of education, social disparity and community development, “Access Energy” is a consulting company that Zamel is building to develop affordable and accessible community solar projects.

“The goal here is community solar projects,” Zamel says. “And that needs to look different for everyone. Solar panel rooftops require a lot of area and a person in a high rise in Toronto doesn’t have that. But what can work in an urban environment is buying a share of a community solar project, where you can input green energy to the grid and, through this process, get discounts on utility bills.” 

As president of the Sustainable Engineers Association (SEA) since May 2021, Zamel draws on leadership lessons learned through ILead programs and his studies in the Engineering Leadership Certificate. His ambition is to create dynamic and collaborative work environments that can target stakeholders with clear and effective communication strategies. 

Zamel’s desire to practice empathy in leadership roles is also evident in the broad scope of projects he has spearheaded or conceptualized. 

A recipient of the International Diana Award in July 2022 for his work as founder of the “Ray of Hope” program, Zamel has helped over four thousand refugees find equitable learning and employment opportunities.

“I truly empathize with the experiences of refugees, especially as many of them encountered traumatic experiences,” says Zamel. “I established the Ray of Hope Program so refugees can overcome the academic challenges that they experience after leaving their home countries, promoting the principles of equity and inclusion.” 

Following graduation, Zamel intends to channel his ambitions into post-grad studies in Global Engineering and Climate Policy, with a view towards eventually attaining a doctorate in Climate Change Finance and Integrated Sustainable Leadership.

Click here to meet all the 2023 Troost ILead Difference Maker Award finalists!