Outgoing Execs Post-GSA Plans

Left to Right: Holly, Brittany, James, Rachel, Blake, Sejal, Joanna [Devin, VP Social not pictured] 

The 2013-2014 Geography Students’ Association Executives were like a family– both to one another and the Department of Geography. They’ve planned wonderful and exciting events including seasonal beer gardens, DIY workshops, and of course, the annual GeoGala. Some are graduating while others have filled their timetable with new and exciting plans for next year, so we’ve asked some of them to share what the future holds…

Brittany Jang (VP-Academic): “This summer I plan to continue working at the AMS and volunteering in and around the community. But with my new found free time I hope to finally get into shape and spend as much time as possible catching up with friends and family. Later in the summer I’ll be visiting Hong Kong and Tokyo with my family, before coming home to my last month in Vancouver before I leave for grad school in the fall.”

James Wang (VP-Finance): “After writing my last exam of undergrad, I just felt a huge load being lifted off my shoulders. Just like that, four years of university was over. I swear it was just yesterday that I was still in high school awaiting an acceptance letter from UBC. But alas, it is now time to move on. After finishing my last exam, I took a couple days to collect myself, to reflect on the magnificent journey that was life as a UBC student. While studying for exams, I spent some time revising my resume and cover letter and started applying for jobs. The Vancouver Aquarium was one of the places I applied, and after going through the hiring process of telephone and in-person interviews, I got the position of membership sales associate.

I will be working full time starting May 23 and I could not be happier to be doing so especially since the Vancouver Aquarium is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified institution. Being an Environment & Sustainability major, I can see myself learning a lot from one of the worldwide leaders in environmental stewardship. I contemplated taking a couple months off but decided ultimately that working was the best option.”

Rachel Schott (VP-Sustainability): “This summer, I’ll have graduated from UBC’s Geography program with a major in Environment and Sustainability. Although this marks the end of my undergraduate degree, I plan on continuing my education through graduate or law school – which I’ll be applying to later this year. In the meantime, I’ll be working at Edible Canada on Granville Island where I serve locally made food and products. I also plan on reading the Lord of the Rings series and unlocking all the characters in Super Smash Bros Melee for Nintendo Gamecube.

Blake Allen (Co-President): “This summer, I plan to spend more time developing and exploring my interest in sustainability by pursuing related work as well as continuing to write about cities and urban development. As an avid homebrewer, I’ve already made several new and innovative beers this summer, and I plan to continue improving my technique, to refine my recipe design; I hope to submit beers into Canadian homebrewing competitions in the near future. Most recently, I’ve made a Spruce Tip IPA that carries the terroir of the region with an aroma of pine and citrus that cascades through to a round yet prominent bitterness. Without question, I’ll travel down the coast to Portland (arguably North America’s craft beer mecca) for a beer safari of sorts to learn more about the quickly growing culture of craft beer.  Looking forward, I also plan to work for the next two years in a related field to my degree as well as going back to school for a graduate program in the near future!”

Sejal Lal (VP-External): “I’ve had a great year with the GSA this year! It was pretty hectic, but I met so many wonderful people through GSA events and bzzr gardens 🙂 Time for a break though! This summer I’m heading off to the Canadian Arctic! I’ll be working for Parks Canada in Ivvavik National Park, Yukon, taking visitors on camping trips and guided hikes through the park. I should be in Ivvavik just around the time the Porcupine Caribou herd migrates through to their calving grounds in Alaska, so I hope I get a chance to see them. The area is also home to other wildlife including arctic fox, moose, grizzlies, wolves, martens, snowy owls, ptarmigans, and jaegers. I’ve heard the horseflies there are monstrous as well…I’ll try to take a picture of one before I get eaten alive! As the summer season approaches, the Arctic circle will receive almost 24-hour sunlight, so I’m definitely looking forward to experiencing the midnight sun….I’m planning on taking a sleep mask with me too though! During my days off, I’ll be in the town of Inuvik, getting the chance to take a shower, try some caribou burgers, and hopefully catch some local musicians around town! See you all when I get back in September!”

Joanna Yang (Co-President): “After six years at UBC, I’m excited to embark on a new chapter in my life. This summer, I’ll be travelling to Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong to lead a GoGlobal Group Study course (HIST 482) with a colleague and history professor, Henry Yu. After four weeks with the program, I’m going to meet up with friends and travel to Myanmar, northern Thailand and my homeland in Hainan, China.

After my adventure in Asia, I plan on looking for work in fields relating to immigration settlement services, community capacity building and/or community engagement. Eventually, I’d like to make my way to a different city to pursue a master’s in degree in either planning, geography or public policy. Long-term goals include becoming a cat and dog owner and refining my skills in shooting and editing short films.


By Maiya Letourneau, 4th Year Human Geography Major


Migrant workers often suffer through appalling living conditions, are subject to harsh and dangerous labour, and receive very little pay. Too often, notions of citizenship and birthright encourage borders and boundaries that polarize the “self” and the imposing “other”, while turning migrant workers into vulnerable “outsiders”, where they are denied the privileges of other citizens.

This year, our Geography 495 Social Movements in the Americas seminar sought to deconstruct these borders by learning about oppression and discrimination in Canada and Latin America. We invited Alexandra Henao, Raul Gatica and Gil Aguilar, members of The Indigenous Popular Council of Oaxaca in Vancouver (CIPO-Van), to speak with us about the struggles of migrant agriculture workers in British Columbia. We aimed to create social and cultural networks between ourselves and Latin American social workers and activists through guest lectures, group discussions, and community service opportunities.

One of our most rewarding classes involved creating a banner for the Migrant Workers’ Dignity Project (a new project of CIPO-Van). Following artistic advice and information from Canadian and Latin American artists, we created a banner that symbolized our efforts to build solidarity and resistance against discrimination and oppression. We hope that in some way, we succeeded in helping migrant agricultural workers stand up to discrimination.

View more photos here

GEOB 472: Cartography & Game of Thrones

By Franklin Po, 4th year Environment & Sustainability Major


Geography can work with a variety of disciplines. Elements of cartography and GIS analysis can be used alongside History, Criminology, Anthropology, Health Sciences, and Education. With my final cartography project I wanted to push the boundaries a bit by trying to add Creative Writing to that list by making a map visualizing characters and storylines.

How do we think about stories? How do we plan them out or break them down? There are ton of ways, but probably the most common structure is a ski jump with an inciting incident, rising action with a push and pull of tension, climax, denouement, and then a conclusion. Maps also tell stories in a unique way by combining various data sets into a single output which I thought would be applicable to visualizing the various aspects of characters and their experiences and interactions.

I was inspired by Randall Monroe’s work on xkcd, specifically his narrative charts visualizing Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, 12 Angry Men, and Primer. I mapped out storylines from Game of Thrones in a similar fashion with the horizontal axis as time and the vertical line groupings indicating which characters are together at a certain time. I picked Game of Thrones because of the complex characters and the detailed storylines. Great stories are usually character driven and the series is a prime example of telling human stories in a fantasy world.

I wanted to do the books but that would’ve taken much more time, as a lot more scouring for details would have been required. Also I wasn’t sure if everyone had read the books and I didn’t want to spoil anything for the upcoming season. When I started planning out the process, I thought that it would be best to use Adobe Illustrator but my professor, Sally Hermansen, suggested that I do the project by hand, which was a wonderful idea since my Illustrator skills aren’t the best. Doing the project by hand meant a lot of rough drafts, erasing, and then re-watching the first three seasons, for educational purposes, of course. I tried to map episode by episode to get a more accurate time line of character experiences.

There are cartographic design principles incorporated into the project such as the neatline which is comprised of well-known quotes from the series or the use of dotted lines turning into solid ones to show how peripheral characters become more prominent in the story. There were a few challenges with the project such as leaving out certain characters, generalizing them into groups, or lines overlapping and going underneath in order to keep the characters organized. There are definitely aspects of the project that I would re-work in another iteration. Drawing and outlining by hand was tedious, but in the end, it felt fulfilling.

When I think about a story, I think about it in terms of characters experiences and interactions. Game of Thrones was a platform to show that storyline visualizations can take complex dynamic events and show them in a simplistic manner. With my final cartography project as a Geography undergrad, I wanted to use design ideas and aspects in an unconventional way. It was an opportunity to have fun combining two distinct topics that I’m passionate about and I’m looking forward to working on another creative project like this in the future.

Arts Tri-Mentoring Program with Emily Huang

Emily Huang is a 2nd Year Human Geography Major and the incoming GSA VP External

What prompted you to join the Arts Tri-Mentoring Program?

I was actually part of the YWCA mentorship program in high school and when I found out UBC had a mentorship program, I joined right away! Since high school, I have always wanted to become a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) and I had a SLP mentor in the UBC Tri-Mentoring Program. However, after job shadowing her and taking several linguistics and psychology courses, I knew I did not want to go into that field. I remembered I really enjoyed Geography in high school and decided to take a geography course during the summer term. I loved it and that is how I ended up in Geography instead. The following year, I decided to join the Tri-Mentoring Program again, this time in Geography.

Who were you paired up with?

I was paired up with Katie Eliot. She majored in Geography here at UBC and was very involved in the Geography Department and the UBC community. She brought me to her workplace at Langara College as well as some conferences and workshops.




What did your meetings with your mentors consist of? What did you do or talk about?

Meetings consisted of just chatting at coffee shops, visiting my mentor’s workplace, working on my presentation, and resume and interview skills to visiting conferences and workshops. However, being in this program consisted of more than just meeting my mentor on a monthly basis. Being part of the Tri-Mentorship program also allowed me to attend Arts Xplorations where I met and networked with many professionals outside of the field of Geography such as Psychology, Business, Law, Fine Arts, and the Non-Profit sector. I also met many students who were actually part of the Geography Department as well.

How do you think you’ve benefited from the program?

I definitely benefited a lot. If it was not for this program it would have taken me longer to find my way into the Geography Department! I learned how to better network with other professionals and students, as well as improving my interview skills which is probably my greatest weakness. I also met many amazing Geography students who I still talk to when I see them in the building. However, I think the best part of this program is being able to meet and network with students and professionals, learn about their field of study and how they got to where they are right now.

Prepping for New Zealand Group Study

UBC-O is hosting a group study program from May 5th to June 9th in New Zealand and the Cook Islands called “Landscapes and People”. The majority of students are from UBC-O Geography but three of our UBC-V Geography students (Jialin Yang, Andrea Eisma, and Elaine Remus) were also chosen to participate in the program.

Jialin, Andrea, and Elaine prepped for their potentially physically challenging group study by hiking the Stawamus Chief Mountain in BC.

We hope you have a great excursion! Can’t wait to hear all about it when you guys get back!

WDCAG Conference 2014

Submitted by Joanna Yang, GSA Co-President

This year’s Western Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers (WDCAG) conference was hosted by our friends at the University of Victoria’s Geography Department. Our delegation consisted of twenty-four UBC undergraduate students from all three geography program streams (GEOB, E&S, Human). A total of fifteen undergrads were directly involved in contributing to the conference with either oral presentations or posters.

From Left to Right (Top): Sejal Lal (Delegation Organizer), Professor David Edgington, Sarah Lone, Kevin Chan, Evelyn Chan, James Wang, Joanna Yang, Andrea Eisma, Emily Huang, Ashley Montgomery, Hana Birzer, Michael Yap. Bottom: Brittany Jang, Rachel Schott, Holly Wacker, Blake Allen, Miki Eslake.

Since it was difficult to round up our massive group to participate in the scavenger hunt, we decided to submit a video for this year’s “Day in the Life of a Geographer” contest. Given that it’s a busy time of year, Blake and I didn’t have the time to film in the Geography building the week before the conference. Instead, we decided to bring our cameras on the bus, to the conference, on field trips and at social gatherings to capture the spirit of the UBC Geography delegation. Our submission, which is a (music) video can be viewed here.

Our delegation had an amazing time exploring the city of Victoria, attending intellectually stimulating paper sessions, perusing poster sessions, and most importantly: getting to know each other as friends. This conference delegation would not have existed without the efforts of GSA VP-External, Sejal Lal. Thank you, Sejal! Also, we would like to acknowledge and thank Professor David Edgington for coming to the conference and for supporting the UBC GSA.

Field School for Human Geography and E&S Students

Dr. Siobhán McPhee recently received a $29,500 grant from TLEF to fund an undergraduate field school course over the summer term. I sat down with Dr. McPhee to find out how field school could enhance an undergraduate’s educational experience in Geography.

So what exactly is a field school? What would the course(s) be composed of?

Some of the best learning is done by doing, and this is the cornerstone of geographical research. A field school is a course which centres on student learning through direct and real-life experience with the knowledge which they acquire through research techniques and location visits. Specifically the field school will allow students to be exposed to issues of public concern through engaging with local community organisations in BC. The course will run in the 2015 summer term 1 where students will initially take classes, do mini projects and learn about the location they will visit before ending the term with a visit to the chosen location within BC. The course will be assessed through the mini projects the students do, and also through blogs which they create at the end of the trip outlining their research findings and experience.

Why Human Geography and Environment & Sustainability students?

The new Environment and Sustainability stream has been growing in Geography with very valid global concerns for our sustainable futures.  A strong link should however be fostered with Human Geography and indeed Physical Geography, as environmental issues will affect everyone in the future. The field school allows further development of the relationship between Human and Environmental Geography as well as working with colleagues across campus on issues of sustainability and engagement. In linking in with UBC’s 2013 Sustainability Attributes the field school offers students “knowledge, skills and values that lead to discourse on how to foster the mutual well-being of people and nature”.

There are talks that if the program is successful, there could be funding for a 4th year international field school; what would that look like? How would it impact an undergraduate’s overall Arts degree?

We are absolutely going to apply for funding for a 4th year international field school and are already in discussions with Go Global about how they can assist us with this for summer 2016. The format of the international field school would initially be similar to the 3rd year course where students are equipped with necessary research techniques and also a general understanding of the context they are going to study through mini projects and seminars. The summer term course would then end with a trip to the international location where students would meet local groups, interviews people concerned with local issues and generally engage with the context. This will be facilitated through relationships built with institutions and organisations in different international countries. Some initial ideas of locations include: Guatemala, Mexico, Ghana, Senegal, Lebanon, the UAE.

As with the 3rd year course the international field school would give students the opportunity to learn by doing, but also by doing in a totally new context. The objective is to equip students with the skills to be engaged global citizens with applicable skills when they graduate.