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.

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.

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

Brodan Thiel ‘13 Quest Feature

Hometown: North Vancouver, BC

University: Missouri University (MEd in educational, school and counselling psychology with an emphasis in positive coaching), Simon Fraser (Bachelor of Education), Quest (BA&Sc)


Athletic Director and PE Teacher, Vancouver Christian Academy School

Cofounder, Dynamite Basketball (The creators and workforce behind Swishin’ Mission, which has put up hundreds of basketball nets in communities, parks and schools.)

Board Member, ISPARC (Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council)

Brodan on Overcoming a Setback

1. Ask yourself: What attitude am I taking?
2. Focus on knowing yourself, your purpose—how other people may be identifying you doesn’t matter
3. Lean on the people around you: your coach, your tutor, people in the community
4. Build your morals on a solid foundation, but gain knowledge from many sources
5. Remember there are no losses—everything is a win if you treat it like an opportunity

What was your Question when you were a Quest student? 

What is a role model?

What’s your Question now? 

What is a role model? If I didn’t continue to think about that question, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today. It’s what I think about all day long: how can I positively influence as many lives as possible?

In coaching, creating a nurturing, affirming environment will improve performance. If a coach is a drill sergeant it just increases anxiety. A kid’s identity can get beaten down. I want to hear about what’s going on in kids’ heads, so we can deal with it.

What advice would you give a current Quest student?

Don’t chase other people’s dreams. And get outside your comfort zone. Don’t get stuck thinking of yourself in one way. Diversify. Talk to new people every day.

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

The place changed my life. When I started at Quest I didn’t think of myself as an achiever at all. It felt like I was going to battle every day with some of the top academic students from all over the world. When I left, I felt like I could do anything.

What will you be talking about at your TEDx talk on March 3?

“How Being Purposefully Minded Can Lead to a Better Life.” You know, I absolutely hated giving presentations at Quest. They were so intimidating. And now here I am giving a TEDx talk!

You were known as a monster on the boards, Brodan. What do you love about rebounding?

I’m fascinated by the grittier side of life. In music, clothing style. Rebounding is gritty. Plus, a great rebounder [like his fave, Dennis Rodman] is someone everyone wants on their team, and no one wants to play against.

Favourite quote?

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

Congratulations, previous Quest student and member of the Leaders in Elite Athletics and Performance Program (LEAP), Roz Groenewoud, for qualifying for her second trip to the Olympics.

Roz will be competing in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

For more information, visit: https://www.olympic.org/pyeongchang-2018

2015 Quest graduate Julian Grant’s Keystone project has been published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Julian surveyed and interviewed small-scale farmers to assess the perceived impacts of a Canadian permaculture non-governmental organization’s (NGO) project in Butula, Western Kenya. This study emphasizes the importance of direct, reciprocal communication between NGOs and project participants for fostering feelings of autonomy and competence, thereby strengthening resilient agroecological systems. Read the article abstract.

While at Quest, Julian received Distinction for his Keystone project. According to Dr. Maï Yasué, Social Sciences Tutor (Geography), who served as his mentor, “This was by far the most challenging and ambitious field-project she had ever supervised.”

Julian is currently pursuing an MSc in Anthropology, Environment, and Development at the University College of London, where he is researching the historical and political contexts motivating the establishment of Tribal Parks in partnership with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in Clayoquot Sound.

Alumnus Andrew Luba on EcoMeat

Quest University Canada alumnus Andrew Luba was a finalist in the Environmental Stewardship category of the Lieutenant Governor’s Visionaries Prize. He presented his talk on EcoMeat: Innovative Food for a Sustainable Future on September 26 in Waterloo. His presentation can be found here.

Alumni Zeeshan Rasool on Quupe

Quest graduate Zeeshan Rasool is one of the co-founders of the local startup Quupe—its name is short for the word recoup—an online platform that allows citizens to offer their recreational and hobby-oriented items for use. The service taps into a young generation’s tendency to rent rather than buy. They came up with the concept while attending Vancouver’s Centre for Digital Media, where they noticed many students borrowing resources such as bicycles, snowboards, and vacuum cleaners from one another.
Read more via the Georgia Straight…


Deepnify: Alumna Krista Caldwell

Quest alumna and co-founder of food logistics startup Deepnify, Krista Caldwell, is part of the speaker series RBCDisruptors discussion titled, Can Humans Save AI? They’ll talk about how AI is transforming unexpected industries including grocery stores and physical therapy, how we should deal with the increasing pace of innovation and disruption, and how humanity can use and shape AI to work for the common good.


Caroline Hedin, Quest alumna ’11 is currently working for Parks Canada as the Public Outreach Officer for the Bison Reintroduction Project in Banff National Park. They have just welcomed the first bison born in the Banff National Park backcountry in 140 years. This is great news for North American wildlife conservation and for the entire global community. Congratulations goes out to Caroline and the Parks Canada team for this wonderful accomplishment!

To read more about the Bison Reintroduction Project…

Photo Courtesy of Bison Reintroduction Project in Banff National Park (image: Adam Ziervogel)

Andrew Luba, Quest University Canada class of 2015, has won a spot as one of six finalists in the Environmental Stewardship category of the Lieutenant Governor’s Visionaries Prize. He will be heading to Waterloo in September to present in front of a live audience, which will include the Lieutenant Governor, along with head judge Piya Chattopadhyay, panel judge Edward Burtynsky, and other influential Canadians.

In his submission, Andrew states that we need to rethink meat. Livestock damage the environment through global greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and soil destruction. Further, we’re doing almost nothing to improve how we raise animals. What if we could make a change that helped our planet and our animal friends? What if we could make that change while still enjoying that juicy burger down at the local pub? Introducing #EcoMeat.

His application video can be viewed on YouTube.

Free tickets to hear Andrew deliver his presentation on September 26th in Waterloo and cast a vote for the best Environmental Stewardship pitch are available at https://www.eventbrite.ca/

The Lieutenant Governor’s Visionaries Prize is in partnership with the Walrus Foundation, and the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. This prize is an opportunity for innovative and creative thinkers across Ontario to identify and present their solutions to the great challenges facing Ontarians and Canadians over the next 50 years—from evolving environmental pressures to the future of governance in the 21st century.

Following the close of submissions in March, 36 finalists were identified in six categories. Finalists will have a chance to publicly showcase and defend their proposed policy solutions before a live audience during moderated intensive sessions held across Ontario in the fall. The six winners will formally receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Visionaries Prize in October.

This is what our alumni are doing…

Quest University Canada alumna Olenka Forde, class of 2013, has been awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Alexander Graham Bell Doctoral Scholarship. It is the most prestigious scholarship for PhD candidates in Canada, awarding $105,000 for three years of research in natural sciences or engineering.

Olenka is currently completing her PhD in Hydrogeology at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Her research examines the potential groundwater impacts in association with shale gas development. The objective is to characterize the mechanisms and geochemical impacts of fugitive methane gas migration through various field investigations and numerical modeling techniques. The results of one of her field projects were just published in Nature Geoscience, “Mobility and persistence of methane in groundwater in a controlled-release field experiment.”

The Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships-Doctoral (CGS D) Program provides financial support to outstanding eligible students pursuing doctoral studies in a Canadian university. The Government of Canada established these prestigious scholarships, to be awarded through national competitions by the granting agencies, to ensure a reliable supply of highly qualified personnel to meet the needs of Canada’s knowledge economy. Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholars will help renew faculty at Canadian universities and will be the research leaders of tomorrow.

This is what our alumni are doing…