Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
Prior to coming to UBC, I worked as an economist at Environment Canada in Gatineau, QC. My time spent serving the Canadian public has left me with a great interest in public policy. On the other hand, I began to realize that an academic rather than a bureaucratic career may be more compatible with my passion for research and teaching.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
UBC was recommended to me by my MA supervisor as well as by several of my academic colleagues as having one of the best PhD programs in political science in Canada. I believed them. Also, it was difficult to resist the lure of the beautiful city of Vancouver and its surroundings.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
UBC’s Department of Political Science features renowned scholars with expertise in international relations (the field in which I am majoring). The department is also affiliated with a number of prominent research centers such as the Liu Institute for Global Issues and the Institute of Asian Research. The research foci of these particular institutes align with my interest in environmental policy and global challenges related to natural resources and sustainability, security and environment.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The beauty of Vancouver surprises me every time I look around me. Even after a year, I am not tired of the mountains-ocean combo. The best surprise that awaited me at UBC was its friendly, collegial atmosphere. There is no cut-throat competition among graduate students in my department. To the contrary, I have observed friendly interactions marked by encouragement, constructive feedback and willingness to help. Overall, there is a palpable sense of community among students, faculty and staff.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
Aside from the freedom and relative work flexibility that a graduate life offers, I much enjoy the ability to interact with fellow academics. As a public servant, I desired to play a larger part in academic networks. As a graduate student, I enjoy participating in class discussions with fellow students, presenting at (inter)national conferences, attending and organizing workshops, and, of course, partaking in casual conversations over beer in one of the local pubs.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
I wish to conduct interdisciplinary research that integrates elements of both academia and public policy. Currently, these two worlds are still separated by a relatively wide gap. Policymakers fail to regularly engage with academics, and scholars often fail to consider integration of their research into policy processes. I believe that, in certain areas, bridging the gap between the academia and policy worlds is imperative for the betterment of the public. Accomplishing this task will likely be an ongoing challenge.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
UBC’s Political Science Department, in collaboration with affiliated institutes, offers many opportunities for students to interact with scholars from different fields as well as with members of a wider community. Through public lectures, workshops and conferences, my program is also beginning to reach out to policy makers.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, where I earned my MA degree, was an excellent stepping-stone to my doctoral studies. I learned how to read copious amounts of text, convincingly compose and defend my arguments, and receive and offer constructive criticism. The best preparation for a PhD in political science, however, was working in Canada’s public service where I got to observe and participate in the policy making process. I also learned how to manage people, compromise when working in a team, and make fast and best informed decisions in order to solve unexpected problems.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I am an extroverted introvert. I need my time alone to read, paint, compose music, write travel stories and translate TED talks (from English to Slovak). When I start craving human company, I go rock climbing or kickboxing. I also enjoy playing board games.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Don't be afraid to smile at strangers. The leap between undergraduate studies and a graduate school is rather large. You will have a lot to take in and a lot of work to do. Befriending your colleagues will make graduate life not only bearable but also quite enjoyable.