UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May
Agricultural Sciences Grad Studied in Holland, Sweden and
Serves as career ambassador for her faculty.
By Michelle Cook
Coleen Heemskerk doesnt have a good head for carrying
The Agricultural Sciences undergraduate discovered her shortcoming
during a study trip to Uganda last year when she spent several
days with a rural family eager to show her their way of life.
That included teaching Heemskerk, 25, how to chase away marauding
baboons from their crops, and giving her a 10-lb trainer
Gerry can to transport water on foot from a community well
45 minutes away.
The people in the village could carry 20-lb cans on
their heads without holding on to them, Heemskerk recalls.
But I had to use my hands, and I actually tripped and
broke my can. I had children following me and laughing because
theyd never seen a white person do that kind of work.
They told me my head wasnt flat enough.
Heemskerks introduction to Ugandan life also included
visits to a sustainable farm operation, a wild game reserve,
a rehab zoo, an orphanage, and meetings with 15 non government
organizations and a group of Ugandan university students,
one of whom sported bullet scars on her legs -- the result
of ongoing civil war in northern Uganda.
For Heemskerk, the eye-opening experiences were all part
of coursework for the Global Resource Systems (GRS) program.
The undergraduate program lets students specialize in a resource
discipline and world region of their choice. Heemskerk opted
to focus on international development in Africa and Europe.
She says she was drawn to the programs international
exchange component and flexibility which led her to study
in Holland and Sweden. Heemskerks trip to Uganda was
part of a course she took at the Swedish Agricultural University-SLU.
She says she was struck by the openness and generosity of
the people she met in Africa and also saw that the West has
a lot to learn about from developing countries sustainable
Following her graduation from UBC, Heemskerk hopes to return
to Sweden and shift her academic interests from agriculture
and international development to graduate work in conflict
management. She hopes to do long-term development work in
Africa, and eventually work for a UN agency.
Although the global nature of her studies kept Heemskerk
away from UBC for two and a half years of her four-year degree,
while on campus, she was the volunteer coordinator for the
UBC Farm during its start-up year and, last year, she helped
out with the Farms Salad Bar program for local elementary
schools. Heemskerk also served as a career ambassador for
her faculty, using her own global experiences to convey to
high school students the world of possibilities that Agricultural
Sciences studies have to offer.