One of the School of Population and Public Health’s greatest assets is the people who support important research and facilitate the education of health leaders. In this series, we feature some of our incredible staff so you can get to know them better and learn about their impressive backgrounds.
Alexandra Warren, SPPH’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Engagement, has an interdisciplinary background in Environmental Studies and Religion from a women’s college in Wellesley, MA. She also attended the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, UK for an MSc in Environment, Culture and Society and has recently attained a Project Management Professional (PMP) designation. Alexandra knows a little bit about all we do here at SPPH, she handles a number of different projects regarding strategy and prioritization and is always on the go. When she’s not working, she enjoys reading, playing with her puppy and travelling. We talked about her interests, hobbies and experience at SPPH.
What attracted you to work for SPPH?
I chose to work at UBC because I wanted to be back in a vibrant, academic environment where ideas, innovation and philosophical discussions are welcome and encouraged. I wanted to work at SPPH specifically because of its interdisciplinarity. We work on topics from infectious disease to occupational health to environmental sustainability to child mental wellness, and I wanted to be a part of an organization that looks at all angles of an issue, instead of focusing narrowly on one aspect.
How would you describe your role? What is your favorite part? What is the most challenging part or something new you have had to learn?
My role is very exciting, because it’s never routine. I have a number of different projects on the go at any given time, so I’m never bored. I get to learn about all aspects of the School, and I participate in discussions about overall School strategy. My favorite part of the role is that I need to know a little bit about all of what we do here at SPPH. That’s also the hard part, because it means I am expected to know a little bit of all of what we do!
Do you have any advice for incoming students?
Be open to adjusting your academic plans. Take a course outside of your main stream of studies, just because it interests you. It could lead somewhere very cool. I know it did for me!
Who or what inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by women in leadership positions, and by all people who take stand for what they believe is right – especially if it is hard to do. I am inspired by Dr. Bonnie Henry doing an extraordinarily difficult job under even more difficult circumstances, yet never wavering in her commitment. I admire all of us who are making difficult decisions every day during this pandemic. It has been hard and some fatigue has set in, but yet we put our heads down and keep going. That’s perseverance.
What’s one thing on your bucket list?
I would like to travel to Japan and walk a pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku. Also, I would also like to do another academic degree (or three) at some point in my life.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to read. My favorite genres are historical fiction, fantasy, and memoirs. I also unashamedly love young adult novels. In addition to reading, my newest interest is playing with my puppy. He is almost a year old and makes me laugh with his ridiculousness every day.
What was your own university experience like? Where did you go?
I attended a women’s college in Wellesley, MA, for my undergraduate degree. I purposefully chose a small, liberal arts college so I could pursue the whole multitude of topics of interest to me. I also played on the varsity softball team. Though I entered university insisting I would major in International Relations, an Introduction to GeoSciences course changed the trajectory of my academic studies. I quickly changed my major to Environmental Studies, and in third year, I added on another major in Religion. I then attended the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, UK for another interdisciplinary degree, called the MSc in Environment, Culture and Society. My education has not stopped since. I love learning and I pick up as many side courses and projects as I can fit into my schedule. My most recent one was attaining a Project Management Professional (PMP) designation, which I did in October 2019. If I could, I would spend my entire life getting degree after degree at universities around the world. My passion for education is why working at UBC is such a wonderful fit for me.
What has been a remarkable or interesting personal project?
In 2013, I walked El Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, over the Alps, westerly across Spain to the final destination of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It took me 32 days, including two rest days. When I initially chose to do El Camino, I wanted to see a bit more of Europe before heading home after graduate school, but needed to do it on the cheap. So, I thought, why not walk? I realized very quickly that walking El Camino was not just travelling, and that it would profoundly change my life forever.