Adele Therias reflects upon her journey from participant to project lead
Alisha Samnani // Managing Editor, News Editor
Adele Therias // Photos via CityStudio
“It was amazing. I mean, that was probably the best part of my undergrad,” remarked Therias. “[The course] was called Integrated Science and the focus was on climate change and sustainability. We would stop in different places and learn about the different industries or different nonprofits that were around, how the government worked, and how the country had been affected by tourism and climate change—we basically did a tour of Iceland!”
“The [project] in China was only one week—it was a research forum on smart cities and the environment. There were about fifteen UBC students and the same amount of Chinese students,” recalled Therias. “It was challenging—there were definitely language barriers. My group decided to focus on wellbeing and public space. We would go around and take soundscapes of these different public spaces—it’s a great way to visit the city. It was a fantastic learning experience.”
“I learned a lot about design thinking. I learned a lot about collaborating with partners and professional etiquette, how you actually reach out to people and learn to engage with various stakeholders,” said Therias. “I also started to build a network, a professional network that was really amazing to graduate with.”
While the CityStudio Network exists across Canada and Australia, the first CityStudio North Vancouver projects at Capilano University weren’t launched until September 2019—only two years after Adele Therias participated in her first CityStudio experience as an undergraduate.
“It was for an urban forestry class. We were asked to redesign a portion of the Arbutus Greenway,” recalled Therias. “[Our group] had one person who was incredible at drawing. She actually drew out all our ideas—we had a huge focus on how we could engage with people and increase their feelings of wellbeing in the space. And it was—we could just go crazy wild with our ideas just because there were no limits. It was really fun.”
That initial experience shaped how Therias approaches her work as CapU’s CityStudio Project Lead. “I don’t know what happened to those ideas. I never actually got to meet my partner at the City of Vancouver. We got to go to HUBBUB, but I don’t know if the ideas were ever really shared,” recalled Therias. “That’s something that in my work now I take really seriously in terms of, you know, connecting students. They know who their partners are and have a chance to talk to them at least. I really want students to know where their work goes because I know how important that is.”
Although CapU’s CityStudio participants aren’t jet setting across the globe, Therias aims to make projects as engaging and relevant for students as possible. Projects in the Fall 2020 semester focused on topics such as mental health, decolonization and community safety.
“We usually have an Idea Jam once a year with the City of North Vancouver; we get everyone in a room together with representatives from different organizations and we brainstorm together about areas of their work that could use new, creative ideas. That’s usually a huge source of projects for the whole year,” said Therias. “We tried to recreate it virtually, but it was really challenging.”
“As a result, my approach this year has been a lot more research-based: I’ve been going into City Council minutes, and trying to figure out what projects are coming up. That’s how the alcohol in public spaces project happened,” Therias chuckled. “I saw it in the news and thought, ‘students might like to work on a project related to alcohol. I should reach out.’ Thankfully, we managed to format a research project around it, but it’s a different process now for sure.”
Virtual or not, Therias remains optimistic about the influence student work can have on the city. “Last year we had a group of students look at parklets—small, temporary public spaces—and try to think of ways to extend the idea and be innovative with it. They came up with the idea of barklets; parklets that are basically for people coming with their dogs.”
“It was such a popular idea—everyone was talking about barklets,” said Therias. “I recently found out from one of our CityStudio partners that the City of North Vancouver is working on creating a barklet—they’re actually calling it that—and they want to keep in touch with the students to see their final report.” The positive reception from community collaborators caused the City of North Vancouver Council to extend the pilot project at CapU for another three years.
Therias is excited by the variety of projects offered during CityStudio’s pilot year, and hopes to include more departments in future semesters. “CityStudio projects can happen in all faculties and programs. Sometimes people think it’s just for tourism or business; but the goal is really to reach as many different [faculties and programs] as possible.”
For more information on CityStudio North Vancouver or how to participate in an upcoming CityStudio project, email Adele Therias at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.