#UofTGrad17: City Studies, Political Science student to work with Parks Canada’s Northern Engagement Team

Raquel A. Russell

After a successful City Studies Co-op placement, soon-to-be U of T Scarborough graduate, Da Chen is working with Parks Canada to increase awareness of Northern Canada and the issues that are affecting its people.

“While in high school, I had a keen interest in the environment and when I had the opportunity to work for Parks Canada, I was able to rediscover my old passion,” says Chen, who also double majored in City Studies and Political Science program at U of T Scarborough.

Since 2014, Chen has spent each summer working for the federal government agency responsible for the management of national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas across the country. He helped introduce new Canadians to Canada’s national parks and the history behind them.

Today, Chen works full-time with Parks Canada after being hired to the Northern Engagement Team in Vancouver, Canada. His day-to-day tasks include online training sessions on Parks Canada mandates, Canada’s Northern sights and learning about Inuit culture, their way of life, and how climate change is affecting it.  During the last months of his summer position, Chen says, the team will host outreach events across western Canada to engage the public about Canada’s North and join a two week expedition to the Arctic.

It was Chen’s interest in people and social issues that first drew him to City Studies and Political Science, listing climate change as one of his prominent concerns.

“I chose City Studies because cities are the place to start with social change because they are the most populous,” he says.

Earlier this year, Chen was one of six U of T Scarborough students to participate in an in an exchange program to Japan. There, Chen and his peers explored key city-building issues between Japanese cities, Tokyo and Tokoku, and Toronto. His background in the Political Science program gave him tools to examine challenges facing cities.  

“Political Science allows you to understand the policy sides of environmental issues. It’s good to have a background of how the system works in order to then affect change,” he says.

Andre Sorensen, Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Geography at U of T Scarborough, says that Chen brought a lot of his experiences back to U of T Scarborough as a positive and thoughtful mentor to other students. Chen was involved in the Co-op Student Association, the UTSC Parks and Education Club and Geography and City Studies groups.

“Da has been a true leader in Geography and City Studies, partly through his involvement with the Geography and City Studies Student Association (GCSA), and partly through his work as a mentor in the City Studies Co-op program,” says Sorensen, professor and mentor to Chen.

Chen counts it a privilege to be taught by many “world-class” professors at U of T Scarborough.

“They were not just great lecturers, but also great mentors who really looked out for students such as myself,” he says.

Looking back at his undergraduate experience, Chen says he is also proud of the friendships he made through the GCSA and the projects they accomplished.

“The GCSA worked together to host a three-day camping trip in September, 2016,” he says.

It was a first for the GCSA and Chen describes a great turn out that included two City Studies professors.

“Students got to know their professors on a more personal level and developed stronger ties with fellow students,” he says.

Chen looks forward to walking the stage, but he hopes his absence from U of T studies won’t be for long. Following his summer and winter role with the Northern Engagement Team he hopes to do his Master’s in Planning at U of T. 


To read about more of the class of 2017 graduates click here