Felicitas Egunyu, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
After completing a master’s of Environmental Studies in the Waterloo-Laurier graduate program in Geography, Dr. Felicitas Egunyu took on several clerical jobs before landing her first professional position at Golder Associates. As an environmental biologist and project co-ordinator, Egunyu contributed mostly to environmental permitting assignments for mining, oil, and gas projects in Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Five years later, she decided to pursue a doctoral degree in Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan. Since graduation, Egunyu has stayed on at the university as a postdoctoral research fellow and is currently involved in a research project that is examining the sustainability of development in Chile’s protected areas and buffer zone communities. She is also involved in another project that is investigating the role of social networks and social learning during technology adoption in rural agricultural communities in Ethiopia.
1. What resources offered by your university helped you find a job after graduation?
Wilfrid Laurier University held a career fair and even though I did not get a job out of it, the event proved to be an invaluable experience. The fair taught me lessons in networking, especially after I attended a presentation by an undersecretary in the
Ministry of Environment who offered advice on how to get work and encouraged us to network. I eventually found a position outside of my domain—one of those jobs you just do—but developing those networking skills assisted me greatly in landing a job at Golder.
2. Looking back, what would you have done differently?
First, I would make better use of the university’s career center. The second thing I would do differently is contact people at companies I am interested in working for to find out what a typical career path looks like in their organizations. I would also ask if their companies offered volunteer positions because some employers do not advertise these opportunities even if they have them. Lastly, I would inquire about any student-led projects. For example, when I was doing my master’s degree, I was interested in working for parks. Instead of proposing a project to them—which I did—I should have asked what things they wanted studied. Doing something they were interested in might have given me a better chance to secure a job at a park.
3. In what ways did your program prepare you for your career?
As a student, you have to learn how to manage your own time. This is especially true when you consider what courses to take, the time it requires to complete assignments and, as a graduate student, the time and people management skills your research project demands. When you move into a career, you work on bigger projects but use the same types of time and people management skills you developed during your studies.
4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?
Programs actually differ based on the university, so make sure to do your research before applying. For instance, some offer very strong physical geography programs, while others specialize in human or social geography. If you are already studying geography, talk to your professors and learn about courses you can take and things you can do to better equip yourself for a career. Network with members of your cohort because geography students tend to come from different backgrounds and they might know about alternative resources you are not aware of. Use the university’s career center, network at conferences and volunteer your time—you never know when you might meet that someone who leads you to your job.