Pablo Gonzalez Moctezuma
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
As a professional rural development manager, I frequently found myself in the position of having little or none information to make decisions. After some years of tackling challenges making assumptions about key factors (because there was no other option), some of the choices I had made not only did not work, but they had the opposite effect to what I was hoping to achieve. And on top of that, the experience had taught me a lesson, but I had no way of sharing my learnings systematically with other people like me, who were going to have to make the same decision soon. With time I came to the realization that although I was good at exploring existing information, many of the questions I had would have to be solved by myself, methodically, because nobody had put out there a clear explanation of how things worked the way they did. I reflected that this process required very careful and specific methods, many of which I was not very familiar with. If I could document and explain clearly what I was learning through my work and also could help others to do the same, we would be doing things better every day. Through my doctoral formation I am learning to keep track of what I learn and the best ways to share it with others.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
When I was looking for a place to develop my research, the Landscapes and Livelihoods lab (landandlives.ca) at UBC Forestry was the perfect fit. Jeanine Rhemtulla, my potential advisor, was very caring, kind and interested in what I wanted to do; she trusted and supported me from the very first moment. When I travelled from Mexico to Vancouver for the first time, before applying, to talk to the lab and see if it was a good fit, I saw the whitecapped mountains and fell in love with the place -- every landscape I loved was in the same place: lakes, rivers, mountains and sea. The university campus is beautiful and offers all kinds of resources to learn and explore not only knowledge but your health, your tastes and your limitations. Very soon after my trip, I decided to try my best to enroll.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The combination of interdisciplinary groups of study with diverse methods, and being exposed to a broad topic like Forestry connects to many of my favourite areas of knowledge attracted me to my program. If you like non-urban landscapes, you can probably be very happy in Forestry.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I knew I was going to meet interesting people here, but few weeks into my degree I was not only making friends but also they were inviting me to unbelievable activities such as fires on the beach, canoe trips, playing hockey, ice fishing, ice skating, and many other plans I would have never dreamed of doing before hearing about them.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
The aspect I most love about my graduate program is lab meetings. My friends/colleagues are very supportive and we get to see how people progress through their time both in their work and life
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
The biggest challenge in my future career is likely having the capacity of conforming to good interdisciplinary teams. I find it quite fascinating how that happens in some projects and that makes them fun and enjoyable, but that's not always the case.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
My program is preparing me for these challenges by getting me to participate in many productive interdisciplinary teams, which had never happened to me before.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
Spending time in the field having to develop projects and taking them to completion built in me a capacity to understand how to adapt through the process cycle that seems like a useful quality for a PhD program.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
For fun and relaxation, I frequently have great chats with my wife and other people. I love fishing (BC is the fisherman's paradise), going down to the beach to walk and play or trying new sports like frisbee golf, pitch and putt, bocce and others that I had never seen
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Connect as soon as possible with senior students that might want to orient you and mentor you through your degree. If you want to do something, ask the community, you will always find someone who's thinking the same and UBC is full of very cool people that's worth meeting. Grow academically in your degree, but make an effort to also grow in other aspects proportionally: make friends, try new things, challenge yourself in other aspects of life. The best of the university is its universality, not its disciplinarity. You come to learn more, but it looks like as you progress you know less: embrace that, and scholars will welcome you.