Alumni stories

Emily Williamson, BA Environmental Studies (2013)

After graduating from UNBC with a BA in Environmental Studies I moved to Halifax to complete the Master ofEmily Williamson Planning program at Dalhousie University. 

Following several years working as  a planner at the City of West Kelowna, City of Kelowna, and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, I decided to try something outside municipal planning.

As of August 2018, I work as a planner for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. The port authority is a federal agency responsible for the administration, management, and control of water and land within its jurisdiction.

In my current role I administer the Project Review and Building Permit processes to ensure developments and activities within the Port of Vancouver meet applicable standards and minimize environmental and community impacts.

I was initially attracted to UNBC for my undergraduate studies because it is Canada's 'Green University' and is one of the collaborating universities with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.  The university's mission seemed to coincide with my own environmental ethics.  During a campus tour with an enthusiastic student guide I observed the beautiful setting and facilities.  After talking to students and hearing about their positive experiences I decided to transfer to UNBC.

The Environmental Studies program gave me a varied background in environmental planning, ethics, politics, law, history, first nations studies, and GIS.  The smaller class sizes promoted a more engaging and discussion-oriented learning environment.  I knew my professors, and they knew me.  Many of my professors took a personal interest in my studies and left their doors open if I needed advice or help.  Even after studying at another university and completing a Master's, I still have faculty support from UNBC.

The campus is beautiful, and there are many opportunities to get involved at UNBC.  I was involved with SGU (Students for a Green University) and also enjoyed PGPIRG's (Prince George Public Interest Research Group) events and their good food box program.  One of the highlights of my week was supporting the University's Farmers' market where I could grab a bite of lunch and listen to live music while shopping for my weekly produce.

The inclusive feeling I experienced on campus extended into the larger community of Prince George.  Prince George has neat shops, local restaurants, and an awesome year-round farmers' market.  It hosts a number of fun community events including the Coldsnap music festival.  There are notable outdoor recreational opportunities including hiking in Forests for the World, cross-country skiiing at Otway Nordic Ski Centre, and canoeing along the Nechako River.  The PG people are some of the friendliest, too!

I learned so much from my fellow students and professors establishing close and lasting friendships.  I consider myself fortunate to have had an amazing three years in Prince George studying at UNBC.

P.S. I would particularly recommend classes with Dr. Annie Booth and Dr. Catherine Nolin. Their challenging classes precipitated my growth as a person and as a professional planner.

Peggy Mills, BA Joint Major in English and Environmental Studies (2012)

I was the first student from UNBC to complete the Environmental Studies/English joint major degree. I enjoyed trail blazing this path and leaving my mark at UNBC. Over the course of this degree I have gained a passion for Environmental Sustainability which has changed my life. This outstanding educational opportunity offers a variety of interesting coursework to choose from, . including courses in Environmental law and First Nations Law. I became familiar with economic, political and social practices pertaining to maintaining Environmental Management and Sustainability. While completing this challenging course work I became extremely skilled at reading and analyzing large amounts of materials including scientific studies, journal articles, philosophical texts, and legal statutes. I developed professional research and presentation skills that have proven to be invaluable assets towards advancing my career. In addition, the friendships I made through UNBC’s clubs and campus life made my undergraduate experience unforgettable.

This degree has opened numerous doors for my future career. I received an opportunity to intern with UNBC’s world class Green University Research Centre which later lead to a position working for the Vancouver Island Capital Regional District’s Environmental Sustainability Department. My experiences in this field as a post-graduate have lead me to believe that UNBC’s Environmental Studies program is one of the best in the Country.

I found my Professors, particularly Anne Booth, to be incredibly approachable and helpful mentors throughout my education.  Their continued guidance has encouraged me to pursue a career in Environmental and First Nations Law. I currently work for the Ministry of Justice, and find that the skills I gained as an  at UNBC have allowed me to quickly make the transition from being a student to being a professional.

Peggy has started in the inaugural class of Thompson Rivers University's Law School. She reports: "This week I was presented with a prestigious entrance scholarship to TRU. I was given the award in person by the president of the Canadian Bar Association, the president of Thompson Rivers University, the president of the TRU law program, and our Chancellor and former Attorney General, Wally Oppal. This is the second award that I have received this year; In December I was awarded the TRU Faculty of Law Bursary. This summer I  am heading off to Ireland to do an internship at a large law firm in Cork city."

Bruce R. Muir, MA NRESBruce R. Muir, MA NRES (2011)

I was born and raised in eastern Ontario, Canada.  My decision to attend the Prince George campus of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George, British Columbia (BC), was based on the opportunity to experience the developing issues and concerns of environmental studies firsthand.  And that’s exactly what I received! 

Over the course of roughly a decade, I earned an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and a master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies from the College of Science and Management at UNBC.

Much of my work post-UNBC has been in northern BC and Canada.  The academic skills that I acquired have proven to be invaluable, particularly in my work with Aboriginal groups.  They provided me with a structural foundation from which I have been able to help protect the procedural and substantive interests of Aboriginal groups with regard to their territories.  My appreciation for their philosophies, world views, and cultures in general is grounded in the unique teachings of my traditional teachers.             

My recent work on the protection of endangered species, specifically caribou, has arguably been the most rewarding and challenging endeavour of my career thus far.  The multidisciplinary basis of my degrees has provided me with the ability to participate in nearly all aspects of the process.  This includes: the collection of telemetry data via GPS collars from caribou (as shown in the picture), the collection of traditional knowledge from Aboriginal peoples via interviews and mapping exercises, development of a land use plan that satisfies Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and policy-implementation with industry-proponents and government regulators.

Currently, I work with many northern communities on matters relating to land use planning, participation and engagement, cultural traditions and practices, spatial analysis with GIS, environmental and social impact assessments, and natural resource management.  Training in the graduate program, which prepares students for leading their fields in research, has enabled me to put forward scientific research papers that have been well received by academic journals, books, and conferences at the national and international levels.  In my spare time, I volunteer as a Research Associate with the David Suzuki Foundation on conservation projects.     

It’s not often that degrees and universities prepare a student for such diverse roles in the environmental field.  But that is exactly what I obtained from UNBC.  The distinct experience has definitely paid dividends in my career.

Chris Konchalski, BA ENVS (2009)

Chris came to UNBC to begin his BA in Environmental Studies from his home province of Nova Scotia in September 2004. Throughout his degree, he was presented with classroom experiences that ranged from Environmental Planning, to Biology, to Political Science.

Outside of the classroom, Chris was consistently presented with the opportunity to engage in environmental research both during the summer and during the school year. The breadth of study in the program allowed him to decide between planning and research comfortably. Ultimately choosing research and completing his BA, Chris was presented with the opportunity to begin his Master of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies degree at UNBC, which he is currently working towards completing. Chris feels that enrolling in the ENVS program at UNBC is the primary reason for currently being an MSc candidate, and for setting him on his current life path of environmental research and management. Chris would recommend the ENVS program at UNBC to anyone who is passionate about the natural world.

Trevor Tomlin, BA ENVS (2006)

After graduating from the UNBC Environmental Studies program in 2006, Trevor started looking for work in a resource- related field with the provincial and federal government. In the summer of 2006 he applied for a position as Fisheries Officer with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Trevor went through the testing and interview process in fall of 2006. He was successful and started his four-month long training at the RCMP Pacific Region Training Center on January 15, 2007.  Since June 11, 2007 Trevor works full-time as Fisheries Officer in Richmond, BC.  Trevor realizes that graduating from the Environmental Studies program at UNBC allowed him to choose from several jobs advertised by the provincial and federal governments. He strongly feels that his success in his current career is due to his choice of enrolling in and graduating from the Environmental Studies Program at UNBC.

Carolin Morgan, BA ENVS (2004)

I am still in Prince George. I work for Cariboo Action Training Society which is the organization that oversees Camp Trapping, a wilderness based program for male young offenders. I work as a camp counselor and trip leader.

Patrick Lucas, BA ENVS (2003)

After returning from a two year contract with CUSO in the Lao People's Democratic Republic as a "Community Planning Facilitator", Patrick has recently accepted a position with David Nairne & Associates, a multi-disciplinary consulting firm in Vancouver.  His position as Community Planner will involve working with First Nations communities along the west coast of British Columbia, assisting and facilitating in the preparation and implementation of Comprehensive Community Plans and other associated initiatives.  Projects such as these represent an important opportunity for Aboriginal communities to develop and implement concrete strategies and plans for building and maintaining healthy and socially and environmentally sustainable communities, and he is excited to have an opportunity to make a contribution. 

Patrick's Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Northern British Columbia provided him with all the necessary skills, qualifications, and knowledge necessary to undertake this opportunity.  With a solid foundation in environmental policy, legislation, natural sciences, community planning law and practices, political sciences, economics, and sustainable development, his education granted him the capacity to analyze and understand the complicated and dynamic structure of human communities, and the ability to bring multiple stakeholders together to identify common goals and aspirations, and then take the necessary steps to make that vision a reality.

Patrick credits UNBC's learning environment of smaller classes, abundant learning resources, and open and accessible faculty for allowing him to explore and develop his ethos and philosophy as a planner which has guided him through some of the difficult circumstances and challenges he has faced in his career thus far, and he is confident it will continue to do so into the future.

Keya White, BA ENVS (2003)

Since graduating, I work for myself as a graphic designer (as you probably noticed from my website, Photoscapes) doing print and web design for clients locally and around Western Canada.

After returning from UNBC I became one of the founding members of Advocates for Local Living ('04) and have enjoyed being involved with and marketing many of our projects (Think Local First, Think Tank Cinema, Fernie Mug Club and the Fernie Ride Board). More information on these campaigns are available at . Additionally, I enjoy doing some marketing/design for local environmental organizations like the Elk River Alliance and for the Elk Valley branch of Wildsight.

While I live in Fernie in the winter months I also love travelling and am especially grateful to have had the chance to visit Brazil in '08, where I volunteered for five out of the six weeks of my trip with a local non-profit, Volunteer Brazil.  I lived in the north-eastern city of Recife for three weeks where I worked on my portuguese while volunteering at an orphanage that was home to eleven girls aged 6 - 16. For the other two weeks of my time volunteering I moved an hour away to the beach/surf town of Porto de Galinhas where I worked on a website for a local artist who made sculptures and paintings from old fallen coconut trees.

I wrote, illustrated and self-published a children's book in '07, A Recipe for Winter Magic and sales/response has been great. It features Fernie's local mascot Griz, who is responsible for the legendary powder snow here and is kind of my own prequel to the legend.

Gary George, BA ENVS (2001)

Gary George hails from the Bulkley Valley around the Telkwa-Burns Lake region in North-central British Columbia.  Gary is also from the Wit'suwit'en First Nation (sometimes spelled Wet'suwet'en).  Gary holds a BA degree from University of Northern BC (U.N.B.C.) in Prince George, Professional Development Program Certificate (PDP), and Master's in Education (MEd) from Simon Fraser University.  After completing the Environmental Studies program at UNBC in 2001, he worked in the public school system before moving to the post-secondary system. 

Gary gained valued experience at UNBC and became the first president of First Nations Student Association (FNSA) in 1997, and participated on the UNBC Senate for Academic Governance.  His degree provided knowledge in preparing presentations and public speaking; working with a diversity of people; research & writing abilities; and offering greater awareness of Indigenous issues in Canada.

A highlight of his UNBC experience included an exchange to Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. He still remembers leaving Prince George in -16 C weather in early February, and landing in Auckland NZ three days later in 26 C, summer weather. Thanks to UNBC Professor Tina Fraser whose family met Gary at the airport and welcomed him to their country. 

In Palmerston North, Dr. Robin Fishers' parents were very hospitable and welcoming.  Dr.  Fisher was a history professor at UNBC in the mid-1990s.  Gary had the good fortune of meeting several Indigenous Maori students while there and was able to try eel fishing, horseback riding, and visit the White Island volcano. Gary was initially attracted to UNBC to complete his undergraduate studies because it was closer to his home.  Gary believes that he was raised in one of the "nicest places in the world," and often tells people in the Lower Mainland that, "if you haven't seen Northern BC, you haven't seen B.C..

Christine Callihoo, MSc NRM (2001), MCIP, RPP, BA ENVS (1998)

Christine Callihoo is a Registered Professional Planner with 20-years experience in a diverse range of planning fields including land use and community planning, asset management planning, community-based climate change mitigation and adaptation planning, and economic development planning. She has an interest in engagement and policy development with a focus on increasing community resiliency.

Christine draws upon both the theoretical and applied knowledge developed while attending UNBC from 1994 to 2000 where she completed a degree in Environmental Studies and a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources Management. Her work as an independent consultant provides the opportunity for meeting with people of all walks of life throughout BC, western Canada and beyond. She proudly shares her fondness and belief in the education she gained while attending UNBC and is pleased to meet fellow UNBC alumni engaged in professions that exemplify the outstanding teaching at UNBC.

The professors of specific note in Christine's UNBC journey include Dr. Annie Booth, the most fearless leader one could ask for; Dr. Tracy Summerville, an outstanding policy-wonk with almost riveting policy stories; Dr. Doug Baker, an environmental science extraordinaire who taught with storytelling based upon his experience in the field (invaluable!); and Dr. Mary Louise McAllister, an outstanding political scientist deserving of high praise. In addition to the stellar professors listed above, having the privilege to attend classes with retirees Jim and Ellen Loughery (former Prince George Corrections employees who returned to school to share their wisdom and gifts with the students) provided such a uniquely northern experience to learning, one that will always be cherished and drawn upon going forward.

UNBC is truly a university of unique and valued learning and experience. This has been validated on numerous occasions including recently while attending a conference whereby a company owner shared with me that he gives special attention to UNBC graduates in the company hiring in light of the outstanding graduates that they have employed.

Thank you, UNBC, for the firm foundation on which I have built my career in working with communities to build resiliency and to effectively and constructively prepare for low carbon resilience.

Shelley Milstein, BA ENVS (1999)

After completing the Environmental Studies program at UNBC Shelley left Prince George to pursue a career in the non-profit sector. The volunteer and program management skills she learned while working at the Prince George Public Interest Research Group coupled with a solid background in environmental issues enabled Shelley to work with organizations like Green Communities Nanaimo, Better Environmentally Sound Transportation and Evergreen.

Shelley's passion for public outreach continued as she moved into producing large-scale eco-events including Seedy Sunday and the Earth Day Vancouver Celebration.  The experience and knowledge gained from the UNBC Environmental Studies program opened many doors for Shelley in the non-profit sector. Shelley currently works as an events coordinator for the Rick Hansen Foundation in Vancouver and is a Director with My Own Backyard Community Garden Association and a member of the Earth Day Vancouver Celebration steering committee.

Bryn White, BA ENVS (1999)

Bryn White is currently the Program Manager with the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program, a collaborative partnership initiative of 43 organizations including all levels of government, national, provincial and local non-government organizations, academic institutions, First Nations, and other agencies. The program is a model for development and delivery of coordinated conservation and land use planning in the province and has been in place since 2000.

Bryn has been working in the environmental field since graduating from UNBC, as an environmental educator, species at risk recovery planning and implementation coordinator, and now as a conservation program manager. She believes that the multi-disciplinary aspect of the Environmental Studies BA program allowed her to develop a more comprehensive perspective and broader base of learning and experience than a single disciplinary study program could have ever done.

There are many single issue experts out there - but it is rare to find someone that is able to see the entire landscape of human and environmental components, translate meaning between them, and lead diverse entities to a better environmental outcome. There is broad recognition that environmental problems are human problems, which require human solutions. The ENVS program enabled her to marry the application of biological and human solutions in every aspect of her work.