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Alumni Profile: Ali Versi, Summer 2018

February 12, 2019

What semester/theme did you participate in?
I participated in the Summer 2018 cohort of the Semester in Dialogue program and our theme was Urban Energy Futures.

Tell us about one of your projects in the Semester and why it mattered to you? In what way did the project have a positive impact on the community?
One of the projects we undertook in the Semester was a public engagement project whereby we sought extensive consultation in close collaboration with the City of Richmond on the idea of Electric Vehicles and the future of mobility. Our project focused on seeking inputs mainly from residents of MURBs (Multi-Unit Residential Buildings) for a proposed idea by Richmond's municipality on retrofitting MURBs with Electric Vehicle charging stations. Richmond's Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP) outlines the city’s targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 33% below 2007 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050, therefore we engaged with various stakeholders to seek their inputs on how the City can work with them to meet those targets. This project mattered to me because climate change is a real threat whose effects we are already witnessing and the responsibility to tackle this crisis will fall into our hands, as future leaders of our communities. This Semester was a platform to make that positive impact and proactively seek long-term solutions to a clock-ticking crisis.

What was one highlight from the semester?
One highlight of the Semester in Dialogue for me, hands down, was meeting the truly exceptional group of colleagues. It gives me great pleasure to say that I've made life-long friends with each one of them. It really was an incredible opportunity to work with a group of brilliant friends with eye-opening perspectives on various social issues. That said, I'd like to give a shout out to each one of them: Anthony Lee, Caleigh Smith, Chris Yee, Farah Kianipour, Jeff Hartmann, Katerina Cookson, Leah Karlberg, Liana Stepan, Lucie Barnett, Masamitsu Sawaoka, Melvin Sedeora, Serena Yang, Vivek Singh, Walker Hathaway-Williams and Zaria Alibhai. Thank you all for a life-changing experience!

How do you plan to use what you learned in the Semester in Dialogue in your future career?
I found myself already practicing effective dialogues by the end of the semester. I realized that dialogue is really about deep listening, and speaking with one another rather than at each other. In my future career I'd like to create warm atmospheres for respectful dialogues because while we all have disagreements, dialogues are not about disagreeing rather more about communicating to genuinely understand one another.

What are you doing now/planning to do that you want to tell the world about?
I consider myself to be a youth advocate. It is my personal ambition to increase the level of youth engagement in social issues. For far too long youths have sat on the sidelines of decision making and observed as older generations make decisions about our future. Therefore, I seek to empower my generation to own up to our social responsibility and be bold in creating the change we'd like to have.

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Semester in Dialogue 2016 brochure