IFSA Students Connect in Quebec City

SEFS students Salina Abraham, Rachel Yonemura, Miku Lenentine and Cleo Woodcock recently had the opportunity to attend the Canadian American Regional Meeting (CARM) as part of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA). The conference was held in Quebèc City in Canada, just north of Maine, from February 9 to 14. As a student-run international nonprofit, IFSA engages students locally, regionally and internationally for broader understanding of forestry. CARM is the regional-level gathering that connects students from across the United States and Canada to network, learn and share current natural resource issues and management techniques.

Here’s what Salina and Rachel wrote about the experience this year!

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Three plane rides to our destination, special orders of fleece-lined jeans, and the preparatory Skype meetings could not have prepared us for the week we were about to experience. After being transported from the Pacific Northwest into the winter wonderland that is Quebec City, we successfully dragged our suitcases across the snow-covered campus of the Université Laval. In a few short hours, we were surrounded by many other students sharing our passion in environmental science—and confusion for what was to come. This year’s CARM, after all, went above and beyond the historical precedent of a two- to three-day weekend conference filled with various lectures, site visits and bonding activities.

In case the red glow doesn’t give it away, you’re looking at the foresters' Valentine’s Day party!

In case the red glow doesn’t give it away, you’re looking at the foresters’ Valentine’s Day party!

The Université Laval Organizing Committee ensured that the international attendees to this conference were integrated into all aspects of life in Quebec City. CARM students participated in a wide range of activities, from snowshoeing through Forêt Montmorency, the world’s largest teaching and research forest; learning about Université Laval’s wood engineering program; and a delicious and informative visit to a traditional “sugar shack” to uncover the secrets to maple syrup engineering. The conference workshops covered topics such as IFSA International structure and updates, regional obligations and opportunities, as well as ways to improve engagements with our community, and understanding our role as emerging young professionals in the forestry sector and world of environmental science. We also heard from a local hydrologist, the dean of Université Laval, Canadian professional organizations, and a number of graduate and undergraduate students presenting on their newest research.

Creating an inclusive, well-connected community was one of the major takeaways from this trip for all of the students. During our week we shared dorms, halls and conversations with the students in Quebec City. These conversations expanded our perspectives on forestry, and our eager expositions on the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest surely expanded some perspectives as well. After a foresters’ Valentine’s Day party, where we found our ‘matches’ and a day full of forestry competitions and games, it was apt that we closed the conference in the apartments of U-Laval students. Gathered on the limited couch space or floor with musical instruments in hand, we sang songs in French and English and felt the warmth of an inclusive, open space. That’s the type of community our local committee of IFSA hopes to cultivate continually at SEFS.

One of the most essential pieces to CARM and regional meetings is that they serve to maintain the strength of IFSA as a nonprofit organization. Regional meetings are opportunities for IFSA international officials to meet with members and share the organization’s accomplishments and new opportunities, and enable local committee members to step up into leadership roles. As head of the International Processes Commission of IFSA, Salina wanted to take the opportunity to use CARM as a thermometer for youth attitudes on regional and international issues.

“As my commission is tasked with representing IFSA members globally on an international stage, it is imperative that we continually have these conversations with each other to fully understand what that means,” she says. “Through assistance from Professor Indroneil Ganguly, I was able to do an independent research project to dive into this topic through focus groups at CARM. Thanks to my commission and SEFS support, this method will be replicated at regional meetings across the globe—with Northern Europe and Southern Europe coming next. It is my hope that we, students, can be better represented through and informed about international environmental policy.” (Read more about Salina’s research.)

For those interested, do not worry, our conversations with our Canadian and American counterparts have not ended! Everyone is welcome to join us at our Northern America IFSA Coffee Hour held on the third Monday of every month at 8:30 a.m. through Google Hangouts (the next one is on April 18; email Miku for details at miku.ifsa@gmail.com). IFSA has a bunch of events lined up for Earth Week next week, as well, including publication and resume workshops, an alumni networking event and even a movie premiere. Also, U-Laval created a summary video of CARM if you wanted to check out some of the fun.

And as always, stay tuned for IFSA updates—new officers, new positions and new events!

Photos © UW IFSA.

CARM attendees in the middle of Forêt Montmorency, the world’s largest teaching and research forest.

CARM attendees in the middle of Forêt Montmorency, the world’s largest teaching and research forest.

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