Hafsa Salihue

  • Why did you choose Environmental Science and how did you know it was the right fit for you?

My choice to study Environmental Science was purely driven by my interest in the subject. I grew up watching animal planet, discovery channel and national geographic and I always wanted to be in the field of biology so I knew I would like the Environmental Science, Applied Biology program. I chose Environmental Science as opposed to a degree in Biology because of the breadth of courses and the social science aspect in it as well.

  • Upon graduation, what career did you pursue and how did the skills/knowledge developed in the classroom apply to your job?

My first job after university was at the City of Chilliwack as their Environmental Services Coordinator.  I worked there for three years before transitioning to the Fraser Valley Regional District where I currently work.

I find the work I do in local government is quite different from what I learned in the classroom. Two courses at University I found most beneficial was Environmental Communication and Change Lab, since a lot of what I do in my job is administrative and related to communicating with the general public. Change lab really pushed the importance of collaboration and team work which is highly applicable in the workforce.

  • How did your co-op experience help you with your job search and your working career?

I completed four co-op terms. The first couple of terms were in the science/research field and helped me understand what I liked about a research job and what I didn’t. Because each co-op term is only 4 months, it gave me the opportunity to test different career types and see what fits and what didn’t with my passion, lifestyle and personality.

By the 3rd co-op term, I wanted to try something different, so I joined a local government. Despite the extremely challenging work experience where I was forced to communicate the importance of environmental programs to people that didn’t share my values; I found that this was the career I wanted to pursue. I wanted to be at the forefront of implementing local environmental programs.

After an 8 month term at the City of Chilliwack, they hired me on a temporary contract to assist with the launch of their curbside compostables collection program. Three years later, I made further contacts through my work and was able to get a permanent job at the Fraser Valley Regional District. I am now working with them to launch an exciting new regional waste sorting program.

  • What volunteer activities were you involved in on/off campus during your undergraduate career and what was their significance in shaping your career?

I started volunteering on campus in two research labs, one involved cleaning fish tanks and the other was assisting a graduate student with her research project. I really learnt a lot by working with the graduate student because I got exposed to practical research. After a few months of volunteering in this lab, I was offered my first co-op position and then continued to work there part time as a research assistant. This was my first experience working in the research field and where I realized that being inside a lab all day, performing repetitive tasks didn’t really fit with my interests.

I also volunteered as a co-chair of the environmental science student union. This gave me valuable experience in leadership, facilitating meetings, group events and activities and building relationships with the faculty and staff.

I volunteered off campus at invasive species removal events, once as a recycling educator and once doing a waste audit which all related to my current work. Though I don’t get to do hands on work with invasive species or handling waste (which I am rather happy about), I now get to do the planning and administrative side of the programs.

  • If you could provide 3 pieces of advice to future EVSC students to make the most out of their time at SFU, what would they be?

BE BOLD AND PERSISTENT

Take courses that are challenging and unique that add value to your core curriculum and experience at university. Work hard and be persistent in your studies; trust me, it does pay off. If anything, it shows your employer that you have what it takes to succeed at your job.

GET INVOLVED

Get involved early in extracurricular activities. The student union is a great place to meet peers and study buddies, and people with similar interests in activities. It also helps you understand your program in a deeper level by getting to discuss the program curriculum and connecting with faculty and staff that run the program.

DO THE CO-OP PROGRAM

Whenever possible, take the opportunity to gain work experience. It will most definitely enrich your university experience and get you started in building your network of contacts outside university which will set you on the path to your career.

The co-op program is a great way to try different career types on a short term basis. While you work, talk to your coworkers and find out about their jobs that interest you and how they got there and ask for their career tips and advice.