Convocation ‘22: Kennedy Mitchell, BSc Forestry

Donna McKinnon - 6 June 2022

A passion for stewardship, inside and outside the forest

Throughout her journey, Kennedy discovered that leadership goes beyond achieving a goal. It’s also about fostering and mentoring inclusive communities, stepping up when it's needed and demonstrating self care.

In her studies, Kennedy has been the beneficiary of these guiding principles, but she has also mirrored them — championing her field of study and taking on various roles to make it a more welcoming place for students in (or considering) the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences’ forestry program.

Kennedy’s dedication has earned her a number of awards including the Indigenous Careers Award, the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Scholarship and two NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards

With more forestry research in her future, the open sky is the literal limit. 

Congratulations Kennedy!

What led you to pick the U of A for your studies?
It was close to my family and I already lived in the city.

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at the U of A?
The Revelstoke Ski Club trip with friends in forestry and environmental and conservation sciences before school was shut down.

Second to this was the trip to Ontario and Québec for the Canadian Institute of Forestry Conference.

Did you take on any leadership roles while you were a student?
I think that leadership can involve fostering and sustaining an inclusive and caring student community. Everybody has the power to engage in leadership activities by helping one another, speaking up for yourself and others, keeping an open-mind and leading by example. 

The forestry community at the U of A has played a large role in my success as a student. During my time in forestry, I have tried to share this community with others, support other students, volunteer and participate on the Forest Society executive. The forestry community and the Forest Society offers a sense of belonging, support, connections and tons of experiences that can make your university experience all the more worthwhile.

Did you face any significant obstacles or challenges during your program?
One of the challenges I faced during my program was deciding what to do and wanting to quit or take a break several times. This last year was especially difficult after spending such a long time online. Support from friends and professors has helped me persevere and I am excited to be graduating. 

There are many opportunities in forestry to work for the industry, institutions, environmental groups and organizations, Parks Canada or for the government. Sometimes it was hard knowing what decision to make and what job to take. Professors like Carol Frost and Ellen MacDonald in the Department of Renewable Resources inspired me to pursue research and I decided to try working as a research assistant in the summer. I loved it and have since continued to work in research labs doing fieldwork, data processing and writing.

I have received two NSERC awards (my undergraduate research paper will be published in The Canadian Journal of Forest Research) and am working for Barb Thomas in the Thomas Tree Improvement Lab, who has also helped me greatly this past year and has been a big inspiration for me.

What advice do you have for current and future students?
Please get involved with the Forest Society, or any other student groups. Meeting new people and experiencing new things can change your life in the best way. Do not be afraid to grow as a person and leave people behind in the process, you might be destined for greater things.

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?
Going on a trip and spending some time outdoors.

What's next after graduation?
Working in tree breeding and forest genetics or another area of forestry research.