Kamilla Milligan (formerly Bahbahani), PhD
Manager in the Equity and Human Rights Office
University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia
Kamilla Milligan never took a geography course before she decided to pursue her undergraduate studies in Geography at the University of British Columbia (UBC). During her final year of high school, she began to hear from her peers about all the great things they were learning in geography class, which consisted mostly of lessons in physical and cultural geography. Milligan, who considered herself a bit of a young environmentalist at the time, realized she was completely interested in everything they were studying, from weather patterns to plants to culture. This awakening eventually prompted her to complete a master’s degree in Cultural Geography at the University of Guelph.
1. Can you describe your career path since you graduated?
My career path has been a little erratic. After completing my PhD in Urban Services and Education at Old Dominion University, I taught for a couple of years in an education program in Mississippi. It was a great experience but not the right fit for me, so I came back to Canada and served as a sessional lecturer in Geography at UBC Okanagan for a year. I then joined the university’s Equity Office and worked for about four years before being laid off as a result of a restructuring plan. From there, I decided to start a consulting business that focussed on human rights, equity and inclusion for organizations and workplaces, which eventually led to my current post at the University of Victoria.
2. What resources offered by your university helped you find a job after graduation?
This was one of my bigger regrets. There were some resources but I did not really know how to take advantage of them and get support. Upon graduation, I was able to get a job—which was thrilling—but it unfortunately proved to be the wrong match for me.
3. What connection does your career have with geography?
The ways in which culture serves as a lens through which people see the world continues to be an important principle in my work and one that many people do not seem to fully understand. There is a very general connection between my studies and how I am able to speak critically about the world at my workplace, while remaining open to different perspectives and viewpoints. Geography has helped me recognize that my experience is only one of many diverse human realities; in a way, this understanding makes it easier to avoid seeing myself as unique, and thus, increases a sense of connection with others.
4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?
Bring your own experiences and perspectives to the classroom, even if that is not always welcome. Just because the teacher describes things in a certain way does not mean that that is the way it is. Just because an entire institution is structured to value certain things does not mean that those are what matter most. At the same time, it's important to have the humility to always be prepared to learn. For example, if you are from North America, you are going to have a western-centric approach to how to do things, but that is definitely not the only way to think about larger issues. The things you disagree with the most might be where you are most able to learn. Geography is very well positioned to educate people to change the world. When students bring their own lives into the classroom and stop worrying about what is going to be on the test, that is where real learning and change start to happen.