Cail Smith

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This student profile has been archived and is no longer being updated.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I decided to return to school to complete a degree in urban planning so I could be part of the shift to sustainable transportation: transportation done on foot, bicycle, and transit. I was very fortunate in my undergraduate program to take several urban planning classes that encouraged me to apply my interest in policy and geography at the local scale.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I decided to study at UBC because Vancouver has become my home. I moved to the city around five years ago after completing my undergraduate degree, and the city has stoked my passion to become a planner. Everyone in Vancouver is working to improve the city in their own way and I have enjoyed meeting so many interesting people, many of them UBC students and alumni. 

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

I chose to study at the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) because of its connection to the Vancouver planning community and the Indigenous communities in the area. I had also met many SCARP alumni and students who spoke highly of the SCARP community and the work that students and faculty were doing. The final factor was the program's focus on professional practice, including pairing up with a mentor and a year two studio class. My mentor gave me very practical advice and encouraged me to think about what skills I wanted to leave my program with.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The best surprise about life in Vancouver was the variety of delicious food. You can go to a different restaurant every night if you're inclined.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I am looking forward to the urban planning studio class next year. My cohort is the first to do this course, and I'm excited to see who our community partners will be and the type of work we will be doing. The course will be an opportunity to dig into planning work and spend two semesters on one project. I am also looking forward to taking a field class on sustainable transportation in the Netherlands to bring their best practices back to Canada. 

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

In my career, I expect to be presented with complex situations with many possible, partial solutions. I believe my largest challenge as a planner will be giving communities room to create their own vision for a cohesive and resilient transportation system and then turning their vision into a reality. 

In my career, I expect to be presented with complex situations with many possible, partial solutions. My challenge will be to facilitate discussion within communities that creates real change and encourages them to push themselves to imagine vibrant futures.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

The MCRP program is preparing me for these challenges by providing opportunities for me to connect with different professionals and consider real-world problems. Through lectures, projects, and other activities, I examine problems from different paradigms and learn how other professionals tackle complex problems.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

My undergraduate geography program at UVic was my best preparation for the MCRP program. During my degree, I took classes from different faculties, was involved with the geography student's society, and worked on campus. Balancing multiple responsibilities in my undergraduate program prepared me well for the academic and professional expectations of the MCRP program – especially those that are not officially part of the program such as events in the community.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

If I need to relax, I like to hop on my bike and go for a ride. It's cheap, easy, and gets me away from the computer so I can think without any distractions.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

I would encourage new graduate students to learn about all the resources at UBC. There are so many staff members who can help you, especially at the libraries. Don't be embarrassed to ask for help, and ask early before you are overwhelmed. Before you start writing your thesis, check out Koerner's Research Commons online!


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