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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May 8, 2003

First Nations Access Program Makes Dream Come True

Aboriginal student begins Forestry career.

By Brian Lin

Chris Anderson’s love for the outdoors led him to the Faculty of Forestry, and now a university education may give him a career in the woods.

Growing up near Sproat Lake outside Port Alberni, Anderson spent many weekends at his grandmother’s house on the Tseshaht First Nation reserve and developed a passion for plants and fishing.

“I love being out on the river in the summer, floating around in the boat, waiting for fish to come up the river,” says Anderson, who still participates in his band’s annual food fishery. “The river is silent and all you hear is a splash and you know it is time to set the net.”

But it was his Swedish father, a machine operator who built roads for Macmillan Bloedel, who inspired him to pursue a career in forestry.

“He always had exciting stories to tell when he came home from work,” Anderson recalls. “I remember thinking how cool it would be to work outdoors.”

Now, with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry degree, he’s looking forward to a future doing just that.

A university education, he says, made it all possible.

“My parents have always emphasized the importance of education,” says Anderson. “I guess they wanted to make sure my brothers and I enjoy the opportunities they didn’t have without post-secondary education.”

“But I never thought I’d go to university. My biggest aspiration was community college,” says the 28-year-old, who spent a year at Malaspina University College in Nanaimo before he learned about UBC’s First Nations Professional Science Access Program, which provided academic upgrading for aboriginal students. Students were encouraged to apply to the Applied Science, Agricultural Sciences or Forestry program upon fulfilling grade 11 and 12 science and math pre-requisites.
The program was discontinued in 1998 after a three-year run, but Anderson had already reaped the benefit.

“I wouldn’t have considered going to university if it weren’t for the Access program,” says Anderson.

Anderson says the best part about studying forest operations is the opportunity to incorporate in the field what he learns in school.

“The program prepared me for what I would encounter while working in the forest industry, it can also lead to professional engineer status.”

In addition to studying at UBC’s research forests, he has spent summers as an engineering contractor in a joint venture between his band and Coast Forest Management, as a squad boss fighting forest fires with the B.C. Forest Service and as a danger tree assessor.

“I worked with a partner to assess the safety of trees within the areas our fire crew would be operating,” says Anderson. “We’d walk through the area and flag for removal any trees we deemed hazardous to the safety of our crew. The fallers who follow us would then remove these trees before the fire crew was permitted to enter the area.”

As for his future career, Anderson wants to combine his interests in forestry and engineering and work on becoming a registered professional forester and professional engineer. His aboriginal background, Anderson says, will definitely help him when dealing with First Nations forest land and resource issues.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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