Updated: Oct 12, 2022
I started my leadership career as a camp counselor immersed in the forests and lakes of northern Ontario. I loved windsurfing and canoe tripping and spent as much time as possible outside. I went to McGill university as an undergraduate pursuing a Bachelor of Science because I loved animals, the outdoors and found biology to be one of my favorite classes in high school. I was inIterested in ‘the environment’ but honestly had no idea what I wanted to study or who I wanted to be in the world. I had lots of fun living in Montreal and struggled with the large required courses of a typical science degree. I failed a required Biochemistry course in my second year and with the advice of a wise Professor decided to start taking courses in other fields that peaked my interest. My experience of university education immediately changed. I took a course on intercultural perspectives on health and wellness and finally became excited about my learning.
I signed up for a one year exchange at Dalhousie University and had incredible opportunities to go whale watching and engage with instructors in small classes. I was officially hooked on learning and my grades magically improved.I learned how to talk to my professors and learned to build my own program.
After graduation with a BSC in Marine Biology, I was keen to go to graduate school to study marine mammals but found that my options for supervisors were limited. I had spent time in British Columbia at Bamfield Marine Station and I was definitely in love with the west coast. I completed a Masters degree in Zoology with Dr. Lee Gass at UBC and supported myself as a teaching assistant in first year biology. I had ‘teaching in my bones’ according to Lee and became a lab faculty helping to train TA’s on how to lead their classes. Teaching came naturally to me after my years as a leader at camp. I loved taking students on field trips and connecting them to ecosystems in real life. I found that many students struggled with concepts and I was becoming more interested in the idea of changing university education so that everyone could engage in experiential learning. I was told I needed a PhD if I wanted to change university curriculum so I started investigating my options for doctoral programs.
It was 1999 and I wanted to learn more about the concept of sustainable development and I was curious about how sustainability policy might be connected to higher education - at the time these two words were never put in the same sentence. My PhD with Dr. Bill Rees (ecological footprint) looked at how we could implement sustainability in higher education - how might we create classrooms and programs that changed the way we connected with our finite planet.
After graduating with my doctorate from UBC Faculty of Education in Curriculum Studies, I spent the next 20 years developing programs, teaching undergraduates and loving my work. I co-founded CityStudio - an innovation hub to connect students with projects at City Hall. It was an amazing time of innovation and learning for all of us.
I noticed over the last 20 years that students were struggling more than ever. It was really difficult to keep up with tuition, classes and part time work. I noticed students were so focused on grades that they were not enjoying social engagements or engaging in the real world outside of the university. We need these young people to be energized, passionate and capable and university was wearing them out. They were exhausted, anxious and scared and not prepared to jump in to work on the issues that they were reading about on the news.
I noticed that our collective nervous systems were struggling with climate crisis, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, overwork, overstudy, competition and then COVID. I decided to make a change so that I could do more to support the systems that needed transformation as well as the young people feeling it the most.
How might we continue to support young people who are seeking to build the future they want to live in?
I am offering my time to students in a new way. I am offering to spend time 1:1 with students to help them navigate the institutions where they are studying. I love sitting with students to learn more about who they are, what they want to do in the world and work together to ensure they find a path to get there. I spent the last 16 years teaching full time in a leadership and dialogue based classroom called The Semester in Dialogue at Simon Fraser University and this feels like a perfect next step. Join me!
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