Having spent a considerable amount of her life exploring the mountains as a cyclist, skier, runner, and mountaineer, Joanna Young, BSc’08, BA’08, is no stranger to cold places. Her love of nature led her north, where she is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, studying the effects of climate change on the loss of glacial mass. She is also program lead for a unique mountaineering and science education program for young women called Girls on Ice Alaska.
Her most recent adventure, however, took her to one of the coldest places on Earth: Antarctica. She was there as part of the inaugural edition of Homeward Bound, an ambitious 10‑year initiative that hopes to provide training for 1,000 female science leaders with the goal of increasing the number of women in positions that can influence policy change for a more sustainable future. In its first year, 76 scientists from around the world spent almost three weeks travelling the rugged Antarctic coastline, discussing climate change and making frequent stops to explore the continent’s natural features and animal inhabitants.
“Antarctica strikes me as one of the last really wild and remote places,” Young says, “but even if not visibly so, it’s still being impacted by humans. Being [there] opened my eyes to the truly global scale of the negative impacts of human‑induced climate change, despite how distant and uncharted the continent may seem.”
While confronting the reality of a changing world was difficult, Young feels that her experience on the expedition was a positive one. “I learned that in challenging times, there is enormous value in maintaining relentless optimism. I stepped off the ship with a better sense of my own personal motivators, and an ability to assess whether the projects I take on truly align with those.” True to Homeward Bound’s mandate, the program also made a significant impact on Young’s approach to leadership: “In my future work, I will be more intentional about bolstering, valuing, and listening to fellow colleagues, knowing that these behaviours are what contribute to a productive team who is invested what they do.”
Young’s trip was funded by the Alaska Climate Science Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Resilience and Adaptation Program.
Can you convince a population of tea connoisseurs to fall in love with coffee? It’s no easy feat, but that’s exactly what Matt Chitharanjan, MA’08, is trying to do. Despite being the seventh‑largest coffee producer in the world, Chitharanjan says, India exports the vast majority of its crops, and a widespread coffee culture has yet to take root nationwide.
Chitharanjan and his wife Namrata Asthana hope to change this with Blue Tokai Coffee, their new chain of roasteries‑cum‑cafés that sources its beans exclusively from local farms. A long‑time coffee lover, Chitharanjan was disappointed by the dearth of options for a good cup of brew after his 2012 move from Chennai to Delhi. While some major international chains have made inroads to the Indian market, the most he could find was instant coffee grounds and stale, expensive imported beans. Moreover, he realized that there were no retailers showcasing the high‑quality, single estate Arabica beans grown in the country’s southern coffee belt.
Seeing an opportunity, the couple used their savings and support from friends and family to purchase a roaster and began making contacts with farmers to find the best that they had to offer. Blue Tokai launched in 2013 as an e‑commerce operation, and the response far exceeded expectations. Not only did individuals take an interest – both within India and abroad – but wholesalers began picking up their coffee to serve in restaurants and other commercial operations. Somewhat unexpectedly, Chitharanjan has also become something of a coffee educator, teaching customers used to instant coffee about the many ways in which it can be brewed and offering a selection of presses, grinders, and drip‑pots for sale.
Blue Tokai has been so successful that, in 2015, they opened their first café in Delhi, and have since opened two more cafes in Delhi and a second roastery café in Bombay. Last November, Chitharanjan gave a presentation about his coffee venture to a group of UBC grads who were exploring India through the alumni UBC Travel Program.
Find out more information at www.bluetokaicoffee.com.
Phil Chow holds a 2002 Certificate in Internet Publishing from UBC Continuing Education. He recently started a digital consulting agency, noticedwebsites.com, which allows him to work anywhere in the world with Wi‑Fi connectivity. Now based in Vancouver, he hopes to become a digital nomad, working and travelling for up to a year.
Vancouver‑based MIZA Architects, founded in 2015 by David Zeibin, MArch’08, and Mike Wartman, MArch’08, was recently honoured with two top awards in the 2016 City of Edmonton Infill Design Competition. The company was Best in Class for the Single Detached home category, and Best Overall in the entire competition. MIZA’s team also included intern Warren Scheske (BA’09, MArch’14). Infill development usually earmarks undeveloped urban land for construction projects and is a contentious topic in Edmonton. The Infill Design Competition showcased design innovation and redirected the conversation toward beneficial infill development. MIZA’s entry, titled SlimCity, describes a 17‑foot wide “skinny” house designed with environmental features, long‑term flexibility for a variety of users, and the capacity to quadruple the number of people living on the site.