Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Geography Alumni: Where Are They Now?

Amanda Aldrich

I currently live in beautiful Kamloops and work in the Thompson Nicola District with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as a development approvals technician. I have been with MoTI since 2012, when I was hired through the Technician Entry Level Program. The ministry plays an integral role in promoting economic growth while meeting the social needs within the province of BC through the development approvals program which it administers.

My position is responsible for maintaining and rehabilitating public highways, ensuring development meets the land use and zoning bylaws, and ensures suitable access, highway dedications and/or construction are obtained for subdivisions in rural areas. I work co-operatively with other levels of government and network with other ministries to ensure MoTI policies, l egislation and regulations are met. Many of the skills I use on a daily basis are built from the foundation of what I learned during my time at TRU working towards my Batchelor of Arts degree with a major in geography.

Working in the public service has offered me many opportunities to explore my interests, further my education and grow in my career.


Amanda Aldrich

Education
Bachelor of Arts in major in geography from TRU (2012)

Employment
Development approvals technician with BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure


Brad Brasseur

After I graduated from TRU with my major in Geography in 2008, I moved to Belgium and completed my Masters in International Political Economy at the University of Kent in Brussels. In Belgium, I worked for two and a half years with a global diplomatic think-tank called the EastWest Institute on a project promoting diplomacy between active Pakistani-Afghan Ministers, parliamentarians, former Taliban, and ISI members. I ended up publishing a few articles on Afghanistan-Pakistan, including Recognizing the Durand Line - A Way Forward for Afghanistan and Pakistan?. I also worked on an initiative called the Amu Darya Basin Network, which identified the seeds of possible conflict, through encouraging co-operation on water in Central Asia.

I left EWI to work more in the field, and I accepted a 10-month community development job funded by Canadian International Development Agency in eastern Ukraine just before the conflict broke out. After the CIDA project, I travelled to South and Central America, eventually reaching over 80 countries travelled in my life, and fell in love with Latin America. I ended up moving to Peru to work as the director of development and communications for a grassroots education NGO in Arequipa.

Today I am still involved with HOOP as a member of the general assembly but have since moved to Lima after accepting the communications coordinator position to work with world-renowned economist Hernando de Soto and the Institute for Liberty and Democracy. At the ILD we specialize on the informal economy and helping the poor have equal access to secure rights to their real property and business assets.


Brad Brasseur

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2008), Master of Arts (International Political Economy) at University of Kent in Brussels

Employment
Communications Coordinator


Katie Burles

I am a geology and geography Instructor at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook. I grew up exploring small creeks and swimming in the vast lakes of the South Thompson watershed near Chase. Being immersed in these settings sparked my curiosity for the natural world and inspired a life-long pursuit of learning about geography and geology. My formal education has included an MSc in geography from the University of Lethbridge and a BA in geography from Thompson Rivers University.

Prior to joining the College of the Rockies science faculty in 2015, I worked as an environmental consultant, public servant, and program manager of a not-for-profit organization. In these roles I have worked on a variety of surficial geology, watershed governance and planning, hydrology, and geomorphology projects. As an impassioned educator, I feel an immense responsibility to teach communities about their local, regional, and global watersheds.

Conducting field-based research and monitoring has provided me many opportunities to explore remote areas of the Yukon, BC, and Alberta during all four seasons. This only fuels my desire to spend more time in the outdoors and show my young son the wonders of the natural world. When I’m not in my waders fishing, you can find me canoeing, hiking, and gardening.


Katie Burles

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2008), Master of Science from University of Lethbridge, Provincial Instructors Diploma Program through Vancouver Community College

Employment
Geography and geology instructor at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook


Adam Courtenay

I graduated from TRU in December 2010 and landed my first full-time employment with Imperial Metals Corporation on Dec. 15, 2010, where I worked as an environmental/GIS technician for one and a half years at Red Chris Mine, located in northern BC. In May 2012 I was hired through the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's Technician Entry Level Position (TELP) Program as a geotechnical assistant in the engineering department in the Prince George office.

My role has both a field and office component to it, which includes soil and rock logging, data collection, slope profiling, data analyses, drilling contracts, report writing, creating site plans and air photo interpretation. I am either completing geotechnical investigations for future highway passing lanes, four-lanning, and bridge projects or out in the field collecting instrumentation data from active landslides.

The office component of my job consists of organizing geotechnical investigations (drills, excavators, utility locates, traffic control), creating site plans, and analyzing data into plots and graphs and presenting my findings to the engineers. An important and interesting part of my job is being called out to assess landslides that have affected or are threatening highway infrastructure.

In April 2015 I was awarded a new position as a geotech coordinator for the same department. This new position allows me to mentor new staff and delegate some of my tasks. I am currently working on standardizing a new drilling contract and soil and rock logs for our department within the ministry.

I am currently working towards a Professional Geoscience designation (P.Geo) with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientist of BC (APEGBC).


Adam Courtenay

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2010)

Employment
Geotechnical coordinator with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure


Megan Cullinane

I started with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in Kamloops in 2012 through the Technical Entry Level Program (TELP) as a development approvals technician. After getting to know some of the different positions available within the ministry, I expressed an interest in the First Nations Relations group and took an opportunity as a First Nations Coordinator. The support to explore different career paths within the BC Public Service is one of the many things I love about my job.

There are two main components to my position as a First Nations Coordinator. First, I assist in the negotiation of property acquisition and disposition through First Nations reserves. As part of this work, I get to conduct property research and coordinate with First Nations communities, appraisers, surveyors, and all levels of government. Many courses I took at TRU helped prepare me for this aspect of the job, particularly human geography, environmental economics, and mapping/GIS courses.

The second component of my position is to coordinate First Nations consultation on behalf of the ministry, for projects and other files. The focus on aboriginal content in a number of historical geography courses, coupled with the skills I developed in collaboration, communication, and critical thinking throughout my degree, helped to ease the transition into this position.


Megan Cullinane

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2012)

Employment
First Nations Coordinator for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure


Lisa Gordon

Finding a job after graduation can be a daunting task. After graduating from TRU in 2011 with a BA in geography I enrolled in a few extra courses and continued my part-time position as an SL Leader while I applied for every position I could. After a few months I accepted a part-time position as a GIS technician with a forestry company. In May 2012 I was offered a contract position for six months with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in Quesnel as a development approvals technician doing subdivision review and issuing permits for works within the highway right-of-ways. When my contact ended, there was a hiring freeze with the BC Government so I accepted an eight-month contract as a GIS Technician with West Fraser Mills in Quesnel.

In August 2013 I accepted a position with the District of Squamish as a development technician. In my current role I do a little bit of everything. My primary role involves review of subdivision proposals, from small two-lot subdivisions to large 750-lot subdivisions, for compliance with district bylaws and provincial legislation. Development in Squamish has many interesting challenges, including high-risk flood areas, large debris flow hazards and steep hillside development challenges. I liaise with internal and external stakeholders, review geotechnical and environmental reports, draft and review land development agreements and covenants, conduct field reviews and then determine the conditions for subdivision approval. I also review re-zoning proposals, OCP amendments, development permit proposals, temporary use permits and development variance permits and make recommendations to council on those projects. As one of the fastest growing communities in BC, Squamish is an exciting and busy place to be working in land development!

After two years with the District of Squamish, I have just accepted a position with Alberta Transportation as a development and planning technologist, and I am excited to take on this new challenge.

I want to encourage new graduates to take risks, consider taking positions in less desirable locations or consider taking contract positions. Every little bit of experience you gain counts and will put you in a great position to land the job you want.


Lisa Gordon

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2011)

Employment
Development technician with District of Squamish, has accepted position as development and planning technologist with Alberta Transportation


Nicole Hansen

I have an Order in Council signed by the Lieutenant Governor that gives me the authority under Section 77.2 of the Land Title Act to approve (or not approve) subdivision of land outside of incorporated areas in the Province of BC. I spend a lot of time in the office meeting with stakeholders and clients, but I always get to visit every property proposed for subdivision.

In field inspections I look for evidence of geotechnical concern, archaeological impact, flood hazards, access and safety issues. I review professional engineered reports addressing any of the concerns listed above.

I currently live in Fort St. John (woohoo!) and I have jurisdiction over the Peace District that expands from Tumbler Ridge in the south to just east of McKenzie, and to the Yukon and Alberta borders. I moved to Fort St. John for career advancement and within one year received two promotions. I want to encourage geography graduates to explore the province and not restrict themselves to one geographic area — opportunity is everywhere!

My previous role was senior district development technician for the same ministry. I granted approvals on behalf of the minister related to permitting, zoning and subdivision. I also managed high profile development projects on behalf of the Peace District, including cross provincial border liquid natural gas pipelines, Site C dam, wind farms, electrical transmission lines, and mines.


Nicole Hansen

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography, minor in geology and archaeology, Global Competency Certificate from TRU (2011), non-degree seeking graduate student in archaeology at University of Montana

Employment
Provincial approving officer, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure


Jake Hughson

I joined Urban Systems as a junior planner shortly after graduating from TRU in 2009. Urban Systems is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm with over 400 employees and 13 offices across four provinces. We are a privately owned company and have been recognized as one of the best workplaces in Canada 10 times since 2006. Since joining Urban Systems I have had the opportunity to work with an exceptional team of professionals, including (but not limited to) fellow planners, engineers, architects, designers, economists, agrologists and biologists.

In 2010, I moved from Kamloops to Fort St. John. Since then, I have helped build and maintain strong working relationships with local government and First Nation clients in the Yukon and across Northern BC. I have led a variety of traditional land use planning and assignments — including the development of half a dozen official community plans and zoning bylaws — and am now a registered professional planner and fully certified member of the Canadian Institute of Planners.

Increasingly, my colleagues and I are being called upon to act as trusted advisors on an ever expanding range of issues. For instance, I have helped several communities respond to impacts associated with large scale resource developments such as the Site C hydroelectric project on the Peace River and natural gas development occurring throughout the Horn River basin. I have also helped several communities establish economic development strategies and conducted comprehensive reviews of their governance structures. Currently, I am working as a negotiator for several of our Treaty 8 First Nation clients on significant settlements with both the provincial and federal crown.


Jake Hughson

Education
Bachelor of Arts in major in geography and minor in economics from TRU (2009)

Employment
Community planner and client lead


Samantha Kinniburgh

(formerly Parobec when at TRU)

I was lucky enough to have been told about the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's TELP program by another TRU geography alum, Nicole Hansen. I applied to the program and got hired in March of 2012, and began working in project management out of the Kamloops regional MoTI office in April 2012. After nearly three years in project management, I was hired as assistant regional gravel manager for the Southern Interior region and am still based out of Kamloops.

My job involves applying for land to use as aggregate resources for the province, developing our current gravel pits, and reclaiming old gravel pits to restore the area for other uses once they are no longer viable for aggregates.

I am able to use my knowledge gained from my courses at TRU (especially geomorphology, geology and hydrology) to help me in my daily assessments of the current and proposed pit areas. I love that what I was passionate about in the geography department can be used in my everyday work and is no longer just an interest in my spare time. I enjoy the map analysis and the field testing I get to do, and how familiar it feels to my lab work I have done previously. It helps with job confidence immensely.

Geography was my passion in university, and I feel so lucky to be able to use my degree in my career.


Samantha Kinniburgh

Education
Bachelor of Arts with concentrations in geology and natural resource sciences from TRU (2012)

Employment
Assistant regional gravel manager with BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure


Steven Lee

I’ve lived in Kamloops since 2003 and am lucky to have been able to start building a career at home. After graduation from TRU I temporarily worked as an environmental scientist with Golder Associates in Edmonton. I have since been recruited with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure through their Technician Entry Level Program. I feel privileged to be a part of this Ministry, as I’m constantly learning new things from my colleagues while assisting in the delivery of major infrastructure improvement projects that are close to my home.

I’m currently involved in several of the highway widening projects between Kamloops and the Alberta border on the TransCanada Highway. Every day at work is different, and I look forward to managing some of my own projects in the future. I’m proud to work as a public servant and I encourage all undergraduate students to consider pursuing employment with the government in the future. The ministry offers an outstanding work/life balance and a very comfortable work environment to its employees.


Steven Lee

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2014) and Bachelor of Science from University of Gävle

Employment
Project management technician with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure


Chad Lishman

I started my career working for TRU as a graduate student in the Master of Science Environmental Science program, with a focus in hydrology. I worked for two years as a lab instructor and research scientist studying forest hydrology. I worked for Kala Geosciences Ltd. as a technical assistant in Kamloops for approximately one year.

In May 2012, I moved up to Fort St. John to work as a project scientist for Eco-web Ecological Consulting Ltd. I have worked on various environmental projects for clients that include academic (universities), First Nations, government ministries, the oil and gas exploration industry and private companies.

Throughout my career I have been involved in the hydrology field, conducting numerous surface hydrology projects, such as academic forest hydrology research, watershed modeling, throughfall and interception loss modeling, rainfall and evaporation modeling, stream surveys, hydrometric surveys and fish and fish habitat assessments.

In addition, I have conducted groundwater investigations such as yield tests, installation of groundwater monitoring wells, monitoring programs, wellhead protection programs, chemical assessments, water quantity and quality. I have also delved into contaminated sites, onsite wastewater disposal systems, Schedule A’s and pre-site construction projects.

Currently my role as the supervisor for the hydrological division allows me to be involved with a wider variety of projects, including fish and fish habitat assessments, hydrometric surveys, environmental monitoring, watershed analysis, water licences, Section 8’s and 9’s, developing zero-withdrawal thresholds, stream rehabilitation and bio-engineering.

I received my Professional Agrologist (P.Ag.) designation with the British Columbia Institute of Agrologists in November of 2012.


Chad Lishman

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2009) and Master of Science in Environmental Science from TRU (2015)

Employment
Hydrological supervisor with Eco-Web Ecological Consulting Ltd.


Robert Maciak

Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies I worked at Agriculture and Agri-Food’s Grasslands Applied Technology Centre in Kamloops on a part-time contractual basis. This experience helped me transition into two positions at the facility after graduation. The first was for the Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices study, where my tasks consisted of field work, data entry and analysis, reporting and public engagement. My second position at the facility was with the Policy Development Group as an environmental economist. My main tasks consisted of working with colleagues from across the country on researching and developing policy initiatives related to the valuation of environmental goods and services.

After working with the Government of Canada for nearly six years, I started a consulting company and quickly received a couple of small contracts through the Fraser Basin Council. Shortly thereafter I won a contract with the Ajax Mine project to complete a couple of studies for their environmental assessment. After three months working on the project as a consultant I was offered a full-time position and have been in this role since October 2012.

As an undergraduate and graduate student I never anticipated working in the mining industry but have thoroughly enjoyed it thus far. The technical expertise of the professionals I have the privilege of working with on a daily basis is astounding. Add to that the technical challenges, scope and scale of mining projects, opportunities for advancement and you have a recipe for an exciting career!


Robert Maciak

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2009), Master of Science in Environmental Science from TRU (2012)

Employment
Environmental scientist, special projects manager, with KGHM Ajax mine project


Adam McKee

As a graduate student at TRU I was given the opportunity to instruct first-, second-, and third-year geography labs over the course of two years. This was a fantastic experience that reinforced the knowledge I gained during my undergraduate degree. After graduation from TRU I was lucky enough to be able to pursue a career in Kamloops. After a six-month stint testing ore viability for mining projects, I started my career in the utilities sector and currently work for BC Hydro.

Six months after graduation I was hired by Corix Utilities into a planning and scheduling role on the BC Hydro Smart Meter Project. I was responsible for deployment planning for the Southern Interior of the province over a two-year period. Aside from resource planning, I was tasked with stakeholder liaising, which included working with numerous First Nation communities throughout the Southern Interior. Upon completion of the Smart Meter Project, I left Corix and was hired by BC Hydro shortly thereafter.

I am lucky to work for an organization that offers a fantastic work/life balance along with a great working environment. For two years I worked in a position coordinating customer driven work that did not require tailored design solutions. I am currently in a design representative role doing design work on BC Hydro’s distribution system. From site checking hydro infrastructure and liaising with customers in the field to designing projects in the office, BC Hydro design is interesting, challenging and a lot of fun.


Adam McKee

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography and geoarchaeology from TRU (2008), Master of Science in Environmental Science from TRU (2010)

Employment
Design representative for BC Hydro


Kyle Nadler

After graduation, I was immediately hired by McElhanney as a GIS specialist in Fort St John. McElhanney Land Surveys is a longstanding professional land surveying company providing geomatics services to the oil and gas sector in western Canada. My day-to-day activities involved modeling, analyzing, managing, translating and displaying geospatial data. Additionally, I developed specialized computer software routines, maintained and developed web-based GIS applications for British Columbia, and performed database management, design and custodial duties.

I held that position for three years until I was promoted and transferred to our Calgary corporate office, where I am the team lead of corporate GIS services. Now I lead a small team of other GIS professionals to develop and implement a centralized and coordinated approach to spatial data management, automation and data delivery on a company-wide scale.

Currently, my major focus is on providing GIS services to the pipeline industry and developing and deploying focused GIS applications to provide geo-spatial decision making tools for our clients. TRU provided me with the analytical and critical thinking skills that I need every day and, thanks to co-op opportunities and the double degree program TRU established with the University of Gävle in Sweden, I have the sound technical background that many employers in this industry are looking for.


Kyle Nadler

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2011), Bachelor of Science in geomatics from Gävle

Employment
Corporate team lead, GIS, at McElhanney Land Surveys Ltd.


Jennifer Powers

I began working for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure under the Technician Entry Level Program in August of 2012. I relocated to the beautiful town of Chilliwack, nestled in the Fraser Valley about one hour east of Vancouver.

I work with developers, First Nations, municipalities, all levels of government and regular everyday people. I help facilitate development while ensuring that the safety and integrity of the highway is upheld. I assist in designing accesses and making important decisions regarding land use. I frequently research properties, review geotechnical reports and drainage plans, assess properties for potential hazards, and review engineering drawings.

The job is diverse and I find myself continually learning as I move forward with my career. Many of the new hires into the TELP program have geography backgrounds and are well suited to positions within this ministry. My geography degree from TRU has served me well throughout my career and enabled me to find meaningful employment very quickly.


Jennifer Powers

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2012)

Employment
Area development and operations technician with BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure


Anna-Maria Viaud

After graduating from the geography program in June 2010, I worked a few part-time jobs over the summer and in the fall, I worked in road construction to make some money to go travelling. I travelled around South America for two months then moved to Calgary in February 2011, where I still currently live.

I applied for many jobs and never heard anything back, but ended up getting a phone call from Golder because my TRU career mentor had sent in a reference for me. My first position was as an entry-level report production coordinator, editing and finalizing reports to be sent to the client, but after seven months, a field position opened up.

I worked as an environmental scientist doing site remediation for four years. The job consisted of taking groundwater and surface water samples, collecting soil samples during test pitting and drilling investigations, and leading remedial excavations, i.e. cleaning up farmers’ fields where pump jacks used to extract oil.

After four years I decided to make a change into the water resources division to work in hydrology. I now work around Alberta taking discharge measurements, measuring water levels, conducting bathymetric surveys on rivers, lakes and reservoirs, collecting water quality samples, and have been trained to operate UAVs for aerial surveys, all the while boating, argo-ing, off-roading, hiking, and flying around Alberta. I love my job!


Anna-Maria Viaud

Education
Bachelor of Arts in geography from TRU (2010), Agrology technologist in training with Alberta Institute of Agrologists

Employment
Water resources technician with Golder Associates