Alumni Profiles

Mark Friesen 

Mark entered the program with a long history of working in a variety of roles at different nonprofit organizations, as well as a bachelor’s degree in political science (with a minor in economics) from the University of Northern British Columbia. His desire to continue studying political science is part of what motivated his pursuit of a master’s in urban studies.

“I liked that there was a lot of discretion over what we could study. You could select a personal area of interest and really pursue that. Also, we were exposed to more than just the planning aspects of cities, and I had no interest in conventional planning. What drew me to the program was that there were faculty who had political science backgrounds and that I could study democracy and civic engagement. That really appealed to me in a huge way.”

Mark now works for Vantage Point as the director of capacity development, which involves working with nonprofit organizations to enhance their governance and planning, as well as with funders to advise them on how to build the capacity of the organizations they support. He finds that what he learned through his coursework and thesis about research methodology, surveys and working with stakeholders applies quite directly to his day-to-day responsibilities. “A lot of my work is helping groups of people figure out how to make decisions, and looking into the theory and assumptions about decision-making structures. To answer these questions, you need to have a bit of a theory background.”

The other aspect of the Urban Studies Program that was key for Mark was the ability to do his degree part-time. His family had one child when he entered the program and a second as he was finishing, so this flexibility was important. “I’m a self-motivated, self-directed learner and I appreciated having only one class per week. I was in class with other people who had kids, so that was reassuring too,” he said.

Connect with Mark on LinkedIn.