UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May
First Nations Access Program Makes Dream Come True
Aboriginal student begins Forestry career.
By Brian Lin
Chris Andersons 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 grandmothers 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 bands 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, hes
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
didnt have without post-secondary education.
But I never thought Id 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 UBCs 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 wouldnt have considered going to university
if it werent 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
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 UBCs 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. Wed 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.