Angela Robinson Quest Feature

Quest Head Custodian’s latest initiative is another step toward a more ecofriendly campus.

What inspired you to switch out things like soap, towels, and dispensers—and how are the new ones better for the environment?

The old systems were ten years old and starting to fail, so we looked for replacements that would be more ecofriendly. We turned to Swish, a family-owned maintenance and product distribution company focused on clean, safe and healthy living environments.

The foam soap dispensers release only 1/3 as much as the old, liquid dispensers did. Custodians no longer have to free-pour liquid soap, which used to lead to wasted product. Foam soap also doesn’t need water to create lather, because it’s infused with air each time you pump, which increases its volume tenfold. And because the soap is already lathered, you use less water washing your hands.

Our all-purpose cleansing system is also new, and uses just two products. It reduces the amount of harmful chemicals our custodians and community are exposed to, and includes a neutral disinfectant that reduces the risks of spreading germs.

Paper towels to dry your hands are now precut. Try to use just one. People don’t think that grabbing two is a big deal, but it is. One piece will do the trick if you flick your fingers a couple of times into the sink! Our new toilet-paper line is coreless, which means it’s not creating any waste. And it’s still two-ply, so no one will notice a difference!

This is all part of a trend for custodial services at Quest. We’ve been making environmentally conscious changes for five years—like switching to mostly eco-friendly products, reusable microfiber cloths for cleaning, more efficient vacuums for better air quality, and new floor-washing equipment that uses less water than traditional systems and leaves behind cleaner floors.

What do you think is the biggest environmental issue we face?

At Quest, the biggest issue is waste reduction, diversion and education. I think the students will be pleasantly surprised when they return to see all the progress we’ve made this summer.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Quest?

Being part of this ground-breaking, inspiring education, even if my part is just keeping it as clean as possible! Watching students develop into unique, strong, passionate adults is amazing. Plus, I get to teach them a thing or two about life skills along the way, which makes me proud. I feel that all my past work history, including being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, prepared me for Quest. I look forward to every day here!

Your paper about Alzheimer’s is complex and detailed. What’s the main takeaway for our readers?

My lab has developed an antibody that targets both of the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, which sets this therapy apart and could lead to an effective treatment. 

How did you become interested in Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s affects about 44 million people worldwide and over 700,000 in Canada. We need significant research to cure, treat, and prevent it. It’s an area that’s important, and where I can contribute.

What are some challenges in Alzheimer’s research? 

Alzheimer’s doesn’t occur in any animals besides humans, which is why we need to genetically engineer mice to express the pathology. Unfortunately, that limits the study of Alzheimer’s, and might explain why some therapies that worked in animals don’t work when tested in humans. Our understanding of the brain is also pretty minimal.

What’s something you’d want people to know about Alzheimer’s?

This is speculation, but I really believe we can be proactive about our brain health. There’s so much we don’t know about brain function, but that’s no reason to disregard the evidence that does exist, or to think the situation is hopeless. We can choose lifestyles that limit our exposure to things that might promote inflammation (e.g. stress). We can read the research. And we can stay talkative. 

When I say talkative, I mean two things. First, I use daily conversation to share what I’m doing in the lab, or what I’ve recently read, and this helps demystify the science. Second, social interaction may play a huge role in maintaining cognitive function, especially as we age. 

At the molecular level, feeling connected is pretty darn transformative.

In what ways is Quest preparing you for future work in your field?

It boils down to taking ownership of my education, such as writing my Question: making a goal explicit and visualizing how I might achieve it.

During my first summer in the lab, my intentions were clear, and that’s because Question really encouraged me to take time to think. My mentor, Marina Tourlakis, was also invaluable! Quest stresses the power of thinking critically and creatively, which are both crucial to scientific progress.

Why did you choose Quest?

I chose Quest because of the academic program, the size of the school, and the location.

When you’re not in the lab, what do you do for fun?

I really love to go grocery shopping with my best mates, Max and Kris. They’re just the best. That, or spend time in the woods.

Quest student Nathaniel McCarthy talks about why he chose Quest, how he became editor of The Mark student publication and “explains his Question: “Are you f$%@*&# kidding me?”.


Edmonds, Washington

Why Quest?

Before I set foot on campus, the physical location seemed incredibly interesting. I stopped by a Quest booth during a college fair, and was impressed by the holistic approach to education, small class size and focus on academic mentorship. I stayed at the booth for 30 minutes discussing Quest, while I only spent three minutes or less at every other university’s booth. I wanted to study where my voice could be heard. Quest fosters a sense of validation in the classroom. And, you’ll never find a more beautiful place.

What is your question?

My question is, “Are you f$%@*&# kidding me?” which probably needs some explanation.

With focus in political anthropology and urban geography, I study the development of political culture and demographics, and how this informs institutionalized narratives. My point is to embody the emotional and reactive nature of political discourse in North America. I wanted to ask something that I, and many others, think.

What is your plan for your Keystone?

For now, the plan is to map the impact of Amazon on urbanization in Seattle as the company has grown over the past decade. Using census data, I want to understand which bodies are displaced through the physical and financial expansion of the company, and how the political climate has been altered in accordance and response.

You’re editor-in-chief and director of communications and creative content for The Mark student publication. How did you get involved?

My first week at Quest was spent wide-eyed. Following a Facebook post, I went to a Mark meeting and was greeted by upper-year students who struck me with their intelligence and wit. I decided to stick around and try my hand at writing an article. My mom is a journalist, too, so it seemed like a safe social entry point into Quest’s community. After their graduation, I felt a bit of a gap at The Mark. I was one of a handful of people remaining, and I assumed one of three editor-in-chief roles, along with the role of director of communications and content. I’m also a floor rep for one of the student residences, and last year I helped to organize the Dancing Bear Music & Arts Festival.

What are your plans after earning your degree at Quest?

I intend to pursue a graduate degree in Urban Geography, and maybe one day I’ll come back to teach a course at Quest.

Quest University Canada Chief Academic Officer (CAO) and experienced cave rescuer Doug Munroe spoke to the CBC on July 8. He discussed the ongoing rescue efforts for the 12 Thai schoolboys who became stranded with their soccer coach in a flooded cave in northern Thailand. Read the full story here.

Ellie Vavrova ’18 Quest Feature

Recent graduate Ellie tells us about her experience working with the Serbian National Women’s Basketball team, her favourite thing about Quest campus—and what she could do without.

What is your Question?

How do competitive sporting events impact society?

You just finished your Keystone on the Olympics related to the time you spent with the Serbian National Women’s Basketball team…well done! What was your role with the team?

Thank you! My presentation didn’t entirely relate to my Question because I was looking at the economic impacts of the Olympics on the host city and country, but it was interesting to be a part of the whole Olympic experience. I got to talk with the Serbian National Women’s Basketball team about competing in the 2016 Olympics for the first time…they won bronze!

It was just a wonderful experience. I translated for them, made their daily schedules and worked first-hand with their team manager. I attended all their practices and games, and made sure everything ran smoothly. Some of them even follow me on Instagram.

Do you plan to continue your work with the Olympics?

I would like to work with either the Olympics or specifically for FIBA [International Basketball Federation] in event management. It would be so awesome to connect with some of the world’s top athletes!

Why did you choose Quest?

I chose Quest for its uniqueness. The classes, people, campus—you really can’t find this combo anywhere else in the world.

What was your favourite thing about campus? Least favourite?

I loved that everything was so close. I could wake up at 8:45 am if I had class at 9. My least favourite was all the hills!

You just graduated! What’s the plan now?

I’m going to chill for a bit. I’m planning on taking a three-week road trip down the West Coast to Mexico.

Over the summer, I plan to get into some internships to do my Experiential Learning with other basketball teams. My goal is to work at the IWBA [International Wheelchair Basketball Association] World Championships in Hamburg, Germany.

And then I hope to go to grad school for sports event management.

Aïda Ndiaye ’16 Quest Feature

After graduating from Oxford with a Master of Public Policy, Aïda took on a big role at Facebook as Public Policy Associate in Francophone Africa. She travels three weeks of every month to more than 20 countries on the continent—but we still managed to catch up with her!

Where is your hometown?

Dakar, Senegal. 

Where do you live now?

London, UK.

You lead Facebook’s public policy strategy in Francophone Africa. What’s that like?

My role is to co-create opportunities for Facebook and Francophone African countries to promote the development of the ICT sector [information and communications technology]. My work covers a wide range of topics from online safety, privacy, online freedom of speech and any other policy areas pertinent to increasing access to the internet.

What does an average day look like for you?

We cover around 20 countries in Africa and every new country presents a new set of challenges and opportunities—so there is not a typical day at Facebook. On average, I travel three weeks every month. I am grateful to have a job that enables me to work with talents, governments and civil society organizations across the continent to create positive change.

How did Quest help you prepare for your life and career?

The multidisciplinary approach of the Quest education gave me the intellectual flexibility necessary to easily navigate complex policy issues. My question at Quest was, How do political and economic forces shape the meaning of development for Africa? It essentially focused on the sociology of development, but classes such as feminism and political theory allowed me to bring different perspectives to the tech policy issues I work on.

Do you have any advice for Quest students?

Take full advantage of the Quest experience. Challenge yourself. Do things you would not have the opportunity to do anywhere else.

What’s happening next in your life that you are excited about?

I took this job right after graduating from Oxford with a Master of Public Policy. I am excited about deepening my expertise of ICT policy issues in the continent and having a positive impact on the African continent

Favourite quote?

“You do not have to be a fire to every mountain blocking you, you could be water and soft your way to freedom.”  Nayyirah Waheed

Quest Alum Katie just finished her first year at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC and is heading to a summer articling position at one of Canada’s top firms. She talks to us about what the transition was like from Quest and gives current students some unusual advice.

What’s law school like? Is it all studying, all the time?

No. School is hard, but I’m used to it. The most challenging thing is to juggle academics with networking, volunteering and extracurriculars.

Networking is so important because it determines where you do your articling positions and likely where you end up working. It’s up to you to find a position and build relationships, so you start networking right away when you arrive in September. There are events for law students, mentorship programs matching you with lawyers in your community and daily lunch-talks from lawyers doing all kinds of work in different fields.

I secured a job with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in Calgary this summer. It’s a national Seven-Sisters firm [a top-seven firm in Canada] and the people are amazing.

On your LinkedIn profile it looks like you have a little time to play, too.

I was convinced by the rugby girls to play! We’re a bit thrown together, but it’s the most fun group of women. I’ll play for the full three years.

I’m also on the Women’s Caucus. This week we have a Women in Law dinner to raise money for the Elizabeth Fry Society [a charitable organization that supports some of society’s most vulnerable populations—women, girls and children at risk]. 

How did Quest help you prepare you for all this? What was that transition like?

In law school you have seven classes at a time and all grades are 100% based on final exams in April. It’s intense. But so was Quest. With the Block Plan, I always had major assignments due. It forced me to keep on top of things. It prepared me for the hard work of law school. No other law students had that.

What was your Question?

How can creative communication enhance human health?

The most helpful thing that came from that Question was my decision to go to law school! I went to Quest with the idea that I would continue my education. While I was working on my Keystone, I spoke with a lot of different kinds of people about advocacy, including a lawyer who inspired me to pursue law.

What’s a memory you have of your time at Quest?

Quest had a grand piano in the MPR. I practically lived there. I developed a tight relationship with the security guards, who let me sneak in at all hours of the night.  I tried out jazz and improv but always fell back to my classical piano training. I like the Romantic era. I like Debussy and Brahms. Beethoven. And the French composer Francis Poulenc.

If you had one piece of advice for current Quest students, what would it be?

Accept being behind.

There is never enough time in the day. You might never be ahead of the game and that’s okay. Don’t lose sight of who you are and what you love. You’re always going to be catching up, wishing you could do more. Just keep plugging forward.

I’m a little bit behind right now, but it’s not the end of the world.

Ian Greer ’18 Quest Feature

Graduating student Ian Greer just tattooed our President. In this interview, Ian talks about the future of stick-and-poke tattoos and how Quest changed their mind about getting a post-secondary education. 

First things first—what was it like to tattoo Quest’s President? 

We were very casual about it, honestly. The most stressful part for me and my roommates was cleaning our room really well before George came over!

The tattoo idea started when George and I met for the first time last September for an introductory interview with [Quest’s student-run newspaper] the Mark. We were talking about our respective academic interests and when I mentioned tattoos, George told me about this finger tattoo design he’d wanted for a few years. Apparently, some of the street shops he consulted with were hesitant to tattoo fingers, because the skin is so delicate. However, because handpokes are significantly less traumatic to the skin, they’re ideal for this sort of project. We discussed it again a month ago and George seemed really excited, so we had a quick consultation and then went for it a week later. I saw it this afternoon and it looks like it healed great!

A handpoked minsa (itsu no yo), an Okinawan symbol roughly translating to “enduring love”

What is your Question?

My Question is “Do we desire truth or narrative?” It came from a time when I was predominantly focused on journalism and media studies, and I’ve stuck with it although my academic interests have shifted since.

Why Quest?

All credit is due to two people. The first is Quest Alum Evan Captain, the brother of one of my good friends from high school. I was set on never going to university and working as a freelance journalist forever, but a few months after finishing school, Evan and I had a lengthy conversation and he convinced me Quest might be worth trying out.

I was still a bit hesitant after applying but felt a renewed sense of confidence after my interview with Quest Alum and former Admissions Officer Jill Carlile. Our conversation made me feel valued in a way I’d never expected to in a traditional school setting, especially because—unlike interviews I’d had with other universities—it did not revolve around my very poor academic performance in high school.

I entered Quest in 2014 feeling able to learn on my own terms and I am grateful to this school for making space for students like me for whom traditional educational models tend to fail.

Greer or Gruyere? And how did that happen?

“Gruyere” was a name given to me by my friend Dorah as a sort of tongue-in-cheek mispronunciation of my last name. I was curious what it would be like to have an alter ego and the name Gruyere seemed the natural starting point for my exploratory identity. There’s no actual difference between my alter ego and myself, so the names are just fun to interchange.

Dogs or cats?

Dogs are more fun to draw.

Has anything you’ve learned at Quest crossed over into your art?

For sure. After taking Jamie Kemp’s Image of the Artist course in the fall of 2016, I developed an intense interest in medieval art and iconography. The readings and artworks we explored in that class were a big part of why I began drawing seriously a few months later.

The following spring, I took two classes that expanded my interest in art: an Artist-in-Residence course called Photography in the Age of Snapchat, which made me excited enough about film photography to incorporate it into my Keystone, and the Foundation Life Science course Biodiversity of BC, where I did some of my first botanical drawings. A lot of my drawing style came from that course and it’s proven continually useful since botanical tattoos are so popular at the moment.

Tell me how you got into tattooing.

I started drawing intentionally in January 2017 and did my first tattoo a few months later on my friend Ava. I was shaking and practically mute the entire time but it turned out okay. At that point, I had four tattoos: two machine tattoos from shops in Seattle and two stick-and-pokes I’d received from other Quest students.

I was really curious about the medium of stick-and-poke and excited about how these first few tattoos changed how I looked at my body—they simultaneously made me take myself a lot less seriously and gave me an intense interest in how people represent themselves.

That summer, I gave around 30 more tattoos, including two on myself, and have done probably 60 since school started again in the fall. It’s a really beautiful way to connect with somebody; the experience requires calmness and trust from both people and often creates complementary feelings of vulnerability and strength.

Which is your favourite tattoo that you have and why?

I have like 20 tattoos now. It’s hard to pick a favourite because I have very different reasons for liking each of them.

The last tattoo I received was a collaborative project between me and my friends Stephen and Morgan. It’s a scene from the opening of one of my favourite books, Pedro Páramo. We made sketches together in a studio in Seattle, then using a combination of premade stencils and freehanding directly on my body with a surgical marker, Stephen and Morgan collaboratively drew and tattooed the composition on my forearm. It required a great deal of trust and creativity from all of us, and because it was freehanded it works really well with the contour of my arm and sits neatly around the other tattoos in that space.

I really admire the artistry and improvisation some artists have brought to the tattooing process and find this tattoo exemplary of what I would like to attempt in my own tattooing practice in the future.

Are you ever nervous to work with something so permanent?

No, that’s the whole point! If it weren’t permanent, I don’t think people would be so intentional about it, and that intentionality is often what makes the tattoo process so meaningful.

Why do you think stick-and-poke is so popular?

It’s a very gentle procedure—people almost universally comment on how painless it is, though this can depend on the artist’s technique. For many people I think it also implies a degree of fluidity that’s not always present with machine tattoos. It’s also generally accessible, and perhaps less intimidating than going to street shops or interacting with some of the more “traditional” aspects of machine tattoo culture. I go into greater detail on this in my Keystone.

What’s your prediction for the next trend in tattooing?

I hope to see a lot more freehanded tattoos—designs that work with the contours of the body rather than just sitting in a particular place. I also am excited about the prospect of collaborative compositions between multiple artists, where tattoos either combine in a single piece or interact with one another in an intentional way.

What do you plan to do after Quest?

I’m going to move back to Seattle, where I grew up, and work on opening a small private studio for doing tattoos and embroidery. A growing trend among tattoo artists is to travel and have short guest spots at other tattoo studios, and I have somewhat loose plans to do this in Vancouver, New York and Montreal over the course of the summer. I’d also like to continue some of the investigative reporting I did before and during my time at Quest on land use, housing development and houselessness.

Carmen Petrick ‘12 Quest Feature

Carmen is in her third year as a medical student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. We found her in Kenora, a rural town of about 15,000 in Northwest Ontario, on an eight-month clinical clerkship. 

What was your Question while at Quest?

What biological and social factors foster the spread of infectious disease?

Tell me about life at med school.

I’m finishing an 8-month clinical clerkship in Kenora, Ontario. It’s a town of about 15,000, so we get a lot of hands-on experience throughout the hospital and community, which is quite unique for third year med students.

I love the variety of work and the feeling of community you get in rural family medicine. We are primarily based in family physician practices in the community, but I’ve had a lot of experience in the hospital. I’ve assisted with surgeries in the operating room, delivered babies, worked in the methadone clinic and participated in ride-outs with Ornge Air Paramedics, an emergency helicopter and fixed-wing medical transport service. I’m going into an Emergency Room shift tonight.

Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s program focuses on social determinants of health in northern and rural areas, with special emphasis on Indigenous populations. Growing up in rural BC, I understand the unique healthcare barriers rural populations face, and I want to work to help address them. A host of factors influence the health and wellbeing of every patient. This focus on social health mirrors my Question while at Quest closely!

I’m headed back to Thunder Bay to start fourth year very soon. I’ll work at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre for six months, then travel around Canada for my electives for the next five months. I have a perinatal addictions elective at UBC this spring that I’m very excited for.

How did Quest help you prepare for your life and career?

We have small classes at NOSM—there are 28 students on the Thunder Bay campus—so a huge component of my degree is small-group learning with break-out sessions to discuss topics and investigate themes in healthcare. And we have great accessibility to our professors. It’s very Quest-like!

The written and oral communication skills I learned at Quest have served me immensely with physicians and preceptors. I can see the difference in how equipped I am compared with students coming from larger schools with classes in lecture halls. While I undeniably did not have the science background some of my classmates did when starting medical school, I have been able to catch up quickly because Quest prepared us with the skills and resources to teach ourselves when needed.

If you had one piece of advice for a current Quest student, what would it be?

I know some students might have concerns about getting a non-traditional degree. I’d tell them not to worry and to go for it with confidence! Our Quest education prepares us so well for both the real world and academia. It gives us the soft skills that other universities may not.

What’s next? 

I graduate in spring of 2019 and write my Canadian licensing exams. My next step is to apply to rural family medicine programs in Canadian universities across the country for possible residencies. Once I’m done my residency, I’m planning to take specialized surgical training. This will give me an advanced obstetrical care scope of practice and allow me to perform caesarean sections and other gynecological procedures.

Do you have a favourite quote?

It’s not exactly a quote, but the TED Talk “A Doctor’s Touch” by Abraham Verghese had a profound impact on the way I see myself practicing medicine.

Parker Carruthers ‘18 Quest Feature

Parker travelled to Oaxaca City in Mexico for Language Block this spring, documenting the trip with his stunning photography. He speaks with us about an average day, his most useful Spanish phrase and what he missed most about Squamish. [Photo above by Graham King ]

What is your Question?

What is popular culture, and how is it created?

Where did you travel for Language Block?

I went to Oaxaca City, Mexico. I was down there for roughly four weeks with four friends from Quest.

Tell me about your experience. What was the day-to-day like?

An average day started with an 8 am wake up and breakfast with our host family. Then we’d walk to our school and have class until around noon. Once our classes were finished, we would head home to do our homework before lunch. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day there, so it was generally a couple of courses, with beans and tortillas being staples. Afterwards, we would often take a nap, or work on our Keystones. Then we would go explore the city for a couple hours before having a late dinner with the family and going to bed.

In what ways did immersing yourself in a different culture contribute to learning the language?

I think it was the biggest factor in my learning the language. While the classroom sessions were beneficial, it was the time spent around the table with the family when I really got the opportunity to practice my Spanish. As well, chance encounters with locals were a great way to work on my conversational Spanish.

Any culture shock? What difficulties did you face?

No culture shock, no. Heatstroke, maybe. My only complaint about my time in Oaxaca was that the coffee is not as good.

What was the most useful phrase you learned?

“Vamos a …” which is to say, “we’re going to x place.” It was useful because I could communicate where I wanted to go, and let others know where we would be.

Would you recommend this experience to other Quest students?

I would absolutely recommend Oaxaca to other students. It is a beautiful city with awesome people. The host families are great, and the activities that SOL (University Study Abroad & Spanish Immersion Program) offers are all remarkable opportunities to take in more of the culture.

Good to be back? What’s one thing you missed about Quest?

Very glad to be back. I missed the Squamish rain. I’ve come to love the foggy mornings here. It’s not something that happens very often in that part of Mexico.

Elly Grant ’18 Quest Feature

What is your Question? 

How can art transform conflict?

Originally, I was looking at political science, visual art, anthropology, sociology and a bit of visual culture. Now I’ve moved into community art practice, an emerging academic discipline involving community cultural development. I’m really interested in looking at how communities can better use the arts for development, planning and programming.

Tell me about your Keystone.

During the summer of 2017, I was living in Jasper, Alberta and working for Parks Canada. I wanted to create a community art project that had a practical element to complement the academic research I was doing at Quest. I put up an art project called “Cycle Through” in the lobby of the Library and Cultural Centre. The umbrella question of “Cycle Through” was, How can we create community in a transient place? This question spurred eight specific questions to do with community-building and sense of place that were posted around the room. Participants responded to the questions using creative materials I provided. Their responses were attached to a bicycle frame.

My Keystone is to write about this project. It will be a blend of the theory of community art practice and the practical implementation of “Cycle Through”.

How are you involved in arts at Quest?

  • Arts Bay Coordinator
  • Poetry slam participant
  • Cabaret 2016 curator
  • Event volunteer including at Polaris, North West Winterfest
  • Created live art at different events
  • Started Quest Arts Collective
  • Figure drawing classes
  • Host of social sewing workshops
  • One-on-one sewing sessions

Tell us about your own art practice.

I’ve always known that I like art. At Quest, I started with doodles, watercolour, collage and mixed media. During the summer of 2016, I got involved with an Artist-in-Residence Program relating to fashion and textile design. Through that I started my own clothing company, Double Dipped, which uses all upcycled and repurposed clothing. It’s very functional, comfortable, fun and colourful. I sew all the hats by hand and use the machine for other clothing. Be sure to check out my booth at the Dancing Bear Music & Arts Festival this year!

INSTA: @kleenexgrant

When Mai was in Thailand working on her PhD on the impact of tourism development on shorebirds, a hitman murdered her friend, a local environmental activist in the tiny fishing village they lived in. He had been fighting to prevent industrial shrimp farming and a coal power plant from encroaching on their coast. Mai’s supervisor told her it happened a lot to silence dissenting voices. The financial incentive could outweigh anything else.

Until this point, Mai’s research had involved documenting the precise decline of wildlife populations. But was this helpful? She recognized that the barrier to conserving species wasn’t biological data or knowledge—the real challenge was in designing social systems that prioritized conservation. She started asking questions like, How do you design systems so that people are autonomously motivated to engage in conservation? And, How do you make the incentive to conserve bigger than monetary incentives?

She was also asking herself, What am I going to do with my life now?

After going through such a life-changing event, what did you do?

I started taking mini-steps towards a career change—one that would shift my research to the psychology of how to motivate people to conserve natural habitats. I needed to find a place that would let me work in social sciences and hold on to my NSERC grant in natural sciences. That’s why I joined Project Seahorse at the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. There I examined the social, ecological and economic impacts of community-based marine reserves in the Philippines. These  marine reserves are managed by small-scale fishing villages.

The people there were so on board to conserve, without an obvious incentive of economic gain. We often think that in conservation, people who don’t have a lot of money are only motivated by money…but that is super simplistic. Because of course they are motivated by a wide range of values. These values include friendships, environmental ethics, hope, empowerment and social capital.

I also recently studied inter-generational farmers in Tasmania, an island state of Australia. I explored what motivated landowners to engage in conservation even if it meant incurring significant personal financial costs.

How does all this relate to your teaching? 

In Communities and Conservation, we look at how to engage small communities, like fishers or farmers, in conservation. Or if they are already engaging in conservation, how to not get in their way or unintentionally thwart their autonomous motivation. 

Better understanding and solving conservation challenges is all about taking an interdisciplinary approach—wildlife management is really about managing people. This includes the role of the government in both encouraging conservation and not suppressing it.  

I also teach a Field Course in Brooks Peninsula called Exploring the Ecological Self, where we study some of the psychological impacts of spending time in nature. Students spend 12 days on the beach immersed in contemporary scientific papers about what’s happening to their minds. 

What’s your pedagogic approach?

I ask students to critically examine their own values and beliefs, and to try to see their own blind-spots. We roleplay and I cast them in characters with very different world views and experiences than they might be used to. We talk about various scenarios and weigh the ecological or social impacts of management decisions. For instance, a dentist kills a rhino for sport, but the hunting fees pay for conservation in the area. Or what about putting a casino in a park? What if it’s run by the Indigenous community? We likely have visceral reactions to some of these things, but we need to ask ourselves where that comes from rather than having a black and white perspective about what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Perhaps these exercises help students have a more nuanced perspective.

Emotionally engaging students is key. If they are having a full body experience—if they are frustrated, sad, stressed or laughing—they will learn more, change more.

I hope they learn to see complexity, to doubt their own perspective, and to really listen to other people.

Taylor Lehnhart ‘15 Quest Feature

Hometown: Juneau, Alaska

Occupation: Field Technician, Fisheries and Oceans

What was your Question when you were student?

How can we conserve marine populations?

What would you say your Question is now?

What are the effects of climate change on marine populations?

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a killer whale monitoring program that uses a network of hydrophones in the waters around Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

We are currently creating a program that picks up all the killer whale sounds and sends us notifications of their location. That way we can pass that info on to anyone it may impact, like BC Ferries.

The hydrophones also give us a lot of information about marine traffic. Noise disturbance from boats and other marine activity can disrupt the echolocation these whales use to communicate within and between pods. In some extreme cases, whales have ended up stranded.

You’ve worked with populations as various as sea lions, bats and tree canopies. Do you prefer working in one environment more than another?

Oceans, 100%.

What advice would you give a current Quest student?

Put as much effort into getting the right Experiential Learning as you can. It gets you out into the field you want.

Zeeshan Rasool ’13 Quest Feature

Hometown: Islamabad, Pakistan

University: Quest (BA&Sc), Master of Digital Media, jointly conferred by UBC, SFU, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, BCIT


Co-founder of Quupe [pronounced Koop]

Product Architect and Tech Lead at Skyrocket Digital

Tell me about Quupe.
Quupe is a business I co-founded during my Master’s degree program in digital media. It’s an online sharing economy platform.

Basically, with Quupe, you can rent things from people nearby. Or you can rent out your stuff that is just sitting there, not generating income.

So say this weekend I want to head out on a powder-chasing road trip with friends and document the whole thing…
You could rent a sweet teardrop trailer, a camera-mounted drone, and snowboards.

And champagne flutes.

And if we break a few glasses?
Every item can be insured up to $10,000 now, which has been very well received with our rentee community. The moment our insurance increased, so did the value of the items available.

How’s the business going?
It’s going really well. Every day, people are renting from Quupe. Our vision is to create a world that lives on reusability, creates zero waste and fosters a healthy community.

What was your Question when you were a student?
How are entrepreneurs creative?

What would you say your Question now?
How do we design future-proof experiences?

What advice would you give a current Quest student?
Go on an exchange. It will give you insight into international cultures. I went to Zeppelin University in Germany in 2012.

What was the Zeppelin University like?

The school was  in a beautiful location, right next to Lake Constance, from where you could see the shore of Switzerland and Austria. The best part was the diversity of students I interacted with as there were a number of other exchange students during the term I was visiting. I made some great friends from France, Colombia, Israel, Spain, China, Turkey, and obviously Germany. The campus had great classes with open space design, and the profs were brilliant.  

How did the exchange complement your Quest education?

I was interested in entrepreneurship and business, and the exchange term at Zeppelin helped me obtain the knowledge I was looking for. I ended up taking a number of Master level courses, which helped me broaden my perspective on international business, brand strategy and technology management.

What was your favourite part of the exchange?

It was one of the best life experiences I’ve had: the campus location, academic rigor, friends I made, places I travelled — it was simply wonderful.

How did Quest help prepare you for your life and career?
It helped me diversify my thinking, to be open and receptive to multiple perspectives.

Favourite quote?
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

Hometown: Vernon, BC

University: Quest ’18

Why Quest?

I attended a college fair not really knowing what program I wanted to go into. So when I learned all about Quest and how students are able to take Foundation courses for the first two years, which essentially gives you university level knowledge through a bunch of different courses, I thought, “this sounds awesome!” Then I visited the Quest campus. How could you not get sold on this beautiful place? Quest is so unique. This was my opportunity to be a part of something really different and cool. I couldn’t turn it down!

What’s your Question?

What is the nature of olive oil?

What inspired you to get involved in the olive oil industry?

I have always loved food. So when I got home to Vernon for the summer after my first year at Quest, I got a job at a local olive oil and balsamic vinegar boutique that had just opened up on Main Street, my favourite spot in town. I applied, got the job, loved it and worked all summer long. I enjoyed the organic chemistry and nutrition side of things. I have always valued olive oil as a commodity, and to learn about its health benefits was super influential for me.

Tell me a bit about your Experiential Learning opportunity with Boundary Bend in California.

I started taking chemistry courses, and then switched emphasis to organic chemistry, focusing on fatty acid synthesis and digestion, among other elements. When it was time to consider my Experiential Learning opportunities, I was referred to Boundary Bend, which is an Australian-based company in California. Their olive oil is called Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

I was anticipating doing my EL in prime harvesting time in November, but they said they’d like to have me on board for August to study the oil accumulation in the olives and work on data collection. It completely encompassed everything I wanted to do: be hands-on in the field, meet the farmers, be present in the lab and attend events with consumers. I ended up staying there for three-and-a-half months.

What makes for a good olive oil?

Find a fresh source. You should always know where it’s from—if it doesn’t say on the bottle, that’s probably a bad thing. Also, it doesn’t get better with age. Do not treat it like a bottle of wine! Consume it as soon as possible.

What’s your go-to recipe including olive oil, Francesca?

I eat olive oil with all my meals, but probably something simple and fresh, like sliced tomatoes and basil, a little onion, salt, pepper, olive oil.

You’re writing a book! What’s it about and when can we read it?

My book is going to be my Keystone Project. It’s a comprehensive guide that follows the olive to oil, and then into human use, so it is pretty much an all-encompassing exposé from fruit to cooking.  It will cover olive varieties that are common to California. I’ve got about five chapters right now, but plan to keep writing. The company that I’m going to work for in Australia has plans to publish it once complete so that’s something really exciting to look forward to.

What do you plan to do after Quest?

At the end of my Experiential Learning at Boundary Bend in California when my internship was complete, I was offered a full-time position in both Australia and California. I’m leaving for Australia five days after the graduation ceremony at Quest. Flights are all booked and ready to go!