Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I was privileged to be given the opportunity to return to school for a Master's degree in Indigenous Community Planning at UBC's School of Community and Regional Planning. The decision to recommence graduate studies after spending 6 years out of school was simple; if I wanted to pursue my career aspirations of working with Indigenous communities building capacities and self-empowerment, I would need to go back to school. In the final years of my undergraduate degree in Human Kinetics at UBCO, I found inspiration in Indigenous Studies and sought a practicum working with the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre. This was the first moment in my life that I knew what I wanted to become. The most difficult part was finding a suitable program. After a few years of searching, I found out about this new Indigenous Community Planning concentration. This program has helped me find my way forward, empowering me with knowledge so I may do the same for others.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
The choice to study at UBC was made easy, as I know of no other schools that offer an Indigenous Community Planning degree. I was just fortunate that the program happened to be at the beautiful UBC campus, situated upon the unceded traditional ancestral territory of the Musqueam people. UBC is an innovative institution that has demonstrated leadership in creating a more inclusive space for all of its students and has been working towards tangible acts of reconciliation for which I am proud to call it my university. There is a wealth of learning opportunities on campus, many of which are hosted by Indigenous knowledge holders and scholars, creating space and opening dialogue. Being able to enjoy the vibrant city of Vancouver and study at such a lovely location is truly a dream come true.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The Indigenous Community Planning program is grounded within Indigenous worldviews and allows for a critical examination of our current hegemonic planning structures. The degree combines technical planning skill acquisition alongside decolonizing methodologies and integrated ways of learning. Our second year revolves around a practicum partnership with a host B.C First Nation, working with their community planning team. This provides experiential learning in a facilitated environment, under the guidance of respected professionals in the field. The skills that I’ve developed and personal growth that I’ve undergone over the course of this program have been profound.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I love the energy of Vancouver. While it’s not without its tribulations, the city is teeming with fun things to do, and ways of becoming involved and informed in the community. Growing up in Banff, Alberta, I do miss the mountains and wilderness, but there are many parks and trails to explore right in the city. The surprise of living on East Hastings has also been an illuminating experience, one that has taught me valuable lessons in humility and gratitude and will guide my future planning practice.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I am really looking forward to my practicum as it will be my first experience working in the field and being able to put my newly acquired knowledge to use. There is much I need to learn before graduation but I embrace the challenge with enthusiasm.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
There are many deep structural changes that need to take place in order for Canada to truly address its colonial legacy. I think Canadian society is beginning to understand their complicity and acknowledging the implications that have manifested as a result. We need to question the narrative that we've been led to believe and educate ourselves on our shared history in order to build a better tomorrow.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
While the program has been extremely educational, the breadth of interdisciplinary knowledge required to be a professional in the realm of Indigenous community planning is expansive. This program has opened doors to boundless opportunities for learning and provided the tools necessary to work respectfully and effectively with communities.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
My non-linear journey is comprised of a series of experiences and lessons that have led me to better understand myself and those around me. If there was a singular catalyst that brought me to where I am today it would be my mother’s teachings, guidance, and unwavering support.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I enjoy staying active and being outside in the sun. When I find the time I love camping and hiking with my partner and exploring the beautiful scenery of B.C. When my knees allow it I like playing basketball and ultimate frisbee. Lately, I've been hitting up the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt although, admittedly, I'm not getting much better at it and I am not yet ready for a real course. One day...
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Take time for self-care. Graduate school can be overwhelming at times and it's important to listen to your body and find a healthy work-life balance. I find that habitual exercise and healthy eating allow me to stay energized and also bolster the immune system come rainy season!