Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Canada
Master of Science in Geography 2018
Bachelors in Geography 2014
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About Alison Milan
Alison Milan (she/her) is a Policy Analyst for the Impact Assessment Division (IAD) for Natural Resources Canada, having worked there since graduating from York University in 2018 with her MSc, Geography. In her role, Alison is also a coordinator of Indigenous engagement for cumulative effects research conducted across the various Natural Resources Canada sectors.
What made you choose your program at York University? Why did you decide on your major?
I was fortunate to have the chance to take four Geography courses during my four years of high school. I had a fantastic Geography teacher, Kendall Brownlee, who exposed me to the fact that the study of Geography spanned almost anything and everything. I knew that in my post-secondary studies and career after that, I wanted to have that same day-to-day variety and exposure to different topics and challenges, and I knew I could find that in something related to Geography.
In my second year of undergraduate studies, I found myself in Arts stream of Geography. I loved that I could take both the critical human geography and physical geography courses for the same degree. Having done both, I felt that I got a very well-rounded education that afforded me soft skills beyond that of other peers studying at other schools or in other programs. In my work in Science Policy, I use many of the critical thinking, writing, and research skills I learned from Human Geography while also applying the science and technical literacy I gained from Physical Geography.
I enjoyed the physical geography education I received so much that I returned to York to complete my Master of Science in Geography. Seeing a research project from inception to conclusion was satisfying and built my confidence in my decision-making and technical skills.
Describe how the program prepared you for your post-graduation journey.
I was lucky to have the guidance of many incredible instructors and mentors during my time with the Faculty, and I will limit myself here to those still teaching or associated with the Faculty. As a Human Geography major, the 2nd year Hydrosphere course (taught at the time by the top-notch duo of Dr. Rick Bello and Dr. Kathy Young) really drew my attention to the science side of Geography. Always appreciated the care and challenge that Dr. Taly Drezner and Dr. Alison Bain provided; I know I am better for having learned from them. I also cannot understate the influence of Dr. Steven Tufts, whose time, and efforts to engage the undergraduate population made a huge impact on me and I am sure many others. I will be forever grateful for the guidance and influence of the professors I had at York.
Getting involved in the student groups both during my undergraduate and graduate degrees we what made my university experience so positive. Go to events, network, do something other than schoolwork! You will not regret it. It makes your student experience both more enjoyable and enriching.
Describe a project you are working/worked on that you feel contributed to positive change.
A component of my work has been to provide support the cumulative effects research community at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to better plan and execute their Indigenous engagement. I have acted as a point of contact for the cumulative effects science community in the department when they plan to engage with communities on their research projects and field work. I led the planning and execution of a series of learning sessions for NRCan scientists and policy practitioners across the country. While many have expressed the desire to have their work do better for Indigenous communities, they often do not have the knowledge or the tools. Having the scientific literacy to understand the work of the researchers and be able to "speak their language" has been a key skill to better understand their needs specific to their work. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do something I care about through my work.
What interests do you pursue in your spare time? What are some of your passion projects or hobbies?
As a parent to a toddler, spare time is not something I have an abundance of. I am lucky to primarily use active modes of transportation, so I suppose biking and walking to all the places I need to be in my day-to-day is like a hobby. As a devout lover of summer, I am still learning to love winter. Downhill skiing and snowshoeing helped a lot.
What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to achieve in the next 1-5 years?
As a support for meaningful Indigenous engagement and positive-space ambassador, I hope to continue to be an agent of positive change within the federal public service. I have ambitions of leadership and the ability to make bigger waves in the science-policy world.