Vanessa Timmer

One Earth
Executive Director
Vancouver, Canada
Agility and Resilience: The Adaptive Capacity of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth International

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

  • Running global programs including on imagining possible sustainable futures and supporting lighter footprints in cities
  • Co-authoring international and North American reports on sustainability
  • Supporting policy development in sustainability at the local, national and international level

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

  • Focus on environmental sustainability and social and systems change
  • Bridging research and practice - making research accessible to practitioners
  • Developing effective networks and social movements

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

  • Applying a systems approach to sustainability
  • Collaborating with colleagues around the world in systems change initiatives
  • Combining evidence base with story to catalyze social change

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

I wanted to have an in-depth understanding of sustainability and social change Interested in rigorous writing and research to support my work on advancing sustainability. I also wanted to meet and be inspired by thought leaders.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

  • Living at Green College and interacting with interdisciplinary students at the College and in the IRES department
  • Meeting and collaborating with amazing professors, researchers and practitioners Having the freedom to follow my own research agenda
  • Spending two years at Harvard as a visiting Fulbright Fellow

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

Dreaming big and finding colleagues that join me in these dreams. Persistence, discipline, and professionalism combined with fun, creativity, and exploration. I love the journey and my friends on the journey.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

Find your kindred spirits even if they are not at UBC - look for your colleagues worldwide. Keep your research focused but also poke around to other topics and disciplines and ideas. Contact your favourite thought leaders and interact with them.

Did you have any breaks in your education?

My time as a Fulbright Fellow at Harvard included projects other than my thesis. I took a break with the loss of a family member.

What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?

Having to focus my final thesis topic on a very focused part of the broader research I was doing.


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