Alumni Profiles

Michelle Arthur

For Michelle, obtaining a graduate diploma in urban studies was a route to not only better career opportunities, but also a way to increase her capacity to contribute to the conversations about urban issues going on all around her. Michelle’s undergraduate degree was in geography and political science and she had also studied urban planning at UBC, but by the time she entered SFU’s Urban Studies Program, she had been working at the City of Vancouver for ten years. “At that point I felt a bit stuck in my career and in myself too. So, I did it for more than just professional growth.”

One of Michelle’s passions is for transportation planning and she found that in that area, her graduate studies “opened up doors she had never dreamed of.” She was working for the city and taking a course in transportation issues while preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics were underway. Because she had been talking about the course at work, she was recommended to be on the City of Vancouver’s olympic transportation team and ended up as transportation coordinator for Athlete’s Village. That led to similar opportunities at London’s 2012 Olympic games, the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 2015 PanAm games in Toronto.

While studying in the program, Michelle worked in various positions in records management and freedom of information (FOI) at the City of Vancouver and she is now a senior FOI analyst. Michelle enjoys her work because she has a strong commitment to transparency and believes it contributes to better governance. “I agree with trying to make as much public as possible. That’s always been something that’s interested me. I think it improves people’s vision of the city,” she says. Michelle adds that the graduate diploma in urban studies is a good option for those who can’t or don't want to take on the commitment required to do a full-length research project, such as a thesis, but who still want to broaden their horizons and opportunities. “The Urban Studies Program is not just about planning positions,” she notes. “It helped reawaken my mind to possibilities.”