Beyond MFRE: Gabi Menard works at UBC by day, and researches trade wars for her PhD by night

Gabrielle Ménard (Gabi) – MFRE’13

PhD Student, Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems (ISLFS), UBC, Faculty of Land and Food Systems

Beyond MFRE is a series of interviews regarding our alumni and their life after the program. From PhD candidates to project managers in international companies, MFRE alumni share their stories across sectors and industries.

Gabi Ménard successfully juggles PhD studies and work at UBC, where she has been part of the MFRE staff since graduation in 2013. Passionate about the issues surrounding trade, her thesis involves researching international trade impacts in the Integrated Studies program in Land and Food Systems (ISLFS) program.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I received a bachelor’s degree in Human Geography and Economics at Concordia University and afterwards I pursued studies at MFRE. While I was an MFRE student, I became quite interested in trade policy and trade research.

What is your PhD research topic? Why is it significant?
My research involves the study of international trade of highly perishable agricultural commodities. We hear about trade every day in the news, whether it’s about trade wars, trade and development or trade and the environment, etc. Therefore, this topic is relevant and applicable to all sorts of current global and local issues.

What are some of the impactful experiences you’ve had so far as a graduate student of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems?
The FRE 502 course taught by Dr. Rick Barichello was inspiring as it introduced economic models that can be used to frame various complex policies. It was fascinating to combine these models with econometrics and see the power of these tools in understanding the complexities of the world.

Last year, I had the opportunity to present my research at the AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) in Ottawa, in the presence of other researchers from the academic and government sectors. I learned a lot from this experience and I believe that there should be more interdisciplinary dialogue between academia and other sectors now, and in the future.

What do you hope to achieve for your future academic or career goals?
After my PhD, I would like to dig more into my research and gain expertise in this field of study. I would want to shift from academia and focus on opportunities involving consultancy, NGOs or governmental agencies.

As the MFRE Academic Coordinator & Graduating Projects Manager, and now a PhD student, how do you juggle both of these roles in your day to day life?
We have a strong team at MFRE which has allowed me to enjoy the work that I do for the program, while pursuing PhD studies side by side. It’s important to maintain a regular daily routine that includes both work and leisure activities (for me, that is soccer!). This balance will help you to stay focused and energized.

What advice can you give to MFRE students interested in starting a PhD afterwards?
Attend research seminars, take an active interest in readings and talk to professors who share similar research interests as you. You can choose to undertake a Graduating Project that aligns with your research interests and further apply the quantitative and qualitative skills that you learn in a practical setting. Don’t feel afraid to ask questions!

Learn more about the possibilities that an MFRE degree can bring here.

Photo credits: Alana Thorburn-Watt