Alumni Keep It in the Family

Rick Girard and Shawna Girard

Rick Girard (BSF 1992) and Shawna Girard (BSF 2018) are never at a loss for dinner-table conversation. Growing up in, studying, and working in forestry a generation apart makes for lively discussions.

“It’s been really cool going into the same industry as my dad. He’s been able to give me some great insights over the years,” Shawna says. “It’s also nice to be one of multiple generations of my family in forestry.”

But Rick never pushed forestry on his daughter. In fact, Shawna’s first degree is a BSc in Psychology from Queen’s University.

Rick’s family has lived in Prince George, BC for four generations, starting with his grandfather who moved there in the early 1960s. Both Rick’s grandfather and father worked in logging, trucking and the local sawmills. So forestry was a natural direction for Rick’s post-secondary education.

“I was in the Forest Resource Technology Program at the College of New Caledonia, and made a connection with UBC by convincing the faculty at CNC to reinstate the Coastal Field Trip, which had been cancelled in previous years,” he says. “We visited the Faculty of Forestry and I particularly remember Dr John Worrall’s class on dendrology, as well as our visit to the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest.”

For two years after graduating from CNC Rick worked at Clear Lake Sawmills in Prince George. With encouragement from his supervisor he applied to UBC Forestry, and graduated with his BSF in 1992.

After graduating, Rick returned to Prince George to continue his career at Clear Lake (by then owned by Canfor). He and his wife Jane were married that same year and started their family. Shawna came first, then Kristie, and then Jackson.

In 1998 Rick left Canfor to join DWB Consulting Services, helping them open a branch office in Prince George. “The opportunity to try the consulting business and change my career path was exciting,” he says. “It was also scary to leave an established company, but my colleagues at Canfor gave me lots of encouragement.”

David and Daniel Bedford founded DWB Consulting Services in 1990. The firm provides a full suite of environmental, engineering, and forestry services to clients throughout western Canada. DWB currently has five offices in northern and central British Columbia, and over 200 staff.

In 2003, Rick became the General Manager for DWB’s northern operations, and became a corporate partner in 2006. Just a few years later, Shawna began working in the DWB office during the summer. “I enjoyed the exposure to the office environment, but then I wanted to try out field positions,” Shawna says. “I did field work for a few summers while studying at Queen’s, and one summer I just decided that I liked forestry more than psychology.”

Shawna applied to UBC, and began her forestry studies immediately after graduating from Queen’s. “I adjusted really well to the faculty because there are a lot of mature students there who are on their second degree or started their first degree a little later than usual,” she says.

As for her decision to get the same degree as her dad, Shawna is pragmatic. “Working at DWB I had been mostly exposed to the operations side of forestry, so I leaned that way at school. Then calculus got in the way, so I shifted my focus to forest resources management.”

After graduating with her BSF in 2018, Shawna moved to Kimberly, BC to work for Canfor as a Forester in Training.

“I was very proud when she graduated, and I sup-ported her transition to working for Canfor,” Rick says. “Her career path is the opposite of mine: she started out working as a consultant with me, and now she’s working for a licensee.”

Shawna aims to get her RPF within the next several months, and hopes to also become an applied biologist. She’s also keen to stay in the Kootenays for a while. “As much as my dad has an incredible reputation, I don’t want to ride his coattails,” she says. “Moving away has given me the opportunity to find out where I fit in the forest industry.”

Both father and daughter have stayed involved with the Faculty. In 2017 Rick and several classmates organized their 25th class reunion, which included campus tours led by Shawna. And in 2019 Shawna and Rick attended the annual alumni reception together at the ABCFP Conference. “It was another proud moment in my forestry career,” Rick says.

One of many moments to spark dinner table conversa-tion whenever Rick and Shawna get together.

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