Some lessons must be experienced to be understood. For Arthur Tsai, testing his limits helped him realize not only what he was capable of, but a path in life that led him to complete both a BSc (1995) in Wood Science and Industry and MSc (2012) in Forestry at UBC, as well as achieve ongoing success heading the market intelligence team at Paper Excellence.
In 2022, Arthur was recognized with one of only 12 UBC Vancouver 2022 Alumni Builder Awards for his ongoing involvement with the Faculty of Forestry as a tri-mentor, guest lecturer, co-op mentor/ relationship builder and Alumni Advisory Council member. The awards recognize alumni who have made a significant contribution to the university and enriched the lives of others.
On top of volunteering with the Faculty of Forestry, Arthur has sat on industry-related boards and the boards of local community and sports organizations. In fact, juggling multiple commitments is something he has perfected since pursuing his studies at UBC.
“Most of my friends wanted me to go into accounting with them, but that program did not interest me,” recalls Arthur. “I somehow stumbled into the Faculty of Forestry, and then Assoc. Dean Tony Kozak was nice enough to bring me into his office and explain the profession of forestry to me. I was so grateful to him for having taken the time. If it wasn’t for him, I would have been lost as an undergraduate student.”
Tony opened Arthur’s eyes to different aspects of the profession, including the vast number of forest products derived from the BC forestry industry. Arthur was hooked.
As an undergraduate student, Arthur took a lumber marketing course taught by Prof. Dave Cohen who shared stories from the marketing realm that incorporated details about different types of wood products, where they are shipped and the end-users who consumed them.
“In the 1990s, Japan was the main offshore market for British Columbia’s wood products outside of North America,” recalls Arthur. “Dave explained how business was done there and what products performed best in that market. That in and of itself was fascinating to me.” Enough so that Arthur worked with Dave to complete a master’s in lumber marketing focusing on demographic factors affecting the demand for wood products: “factors such as age cohorts, population growth, immigration/migration flow,” adds Arthur.
At that time, Arthur was working full-time for Canfor while undertaking a full course load to complete his master’s, all while raising his two young daughters with his wife.
“I was about to quit the master’s program at one point because it was too much to handle; I was so stretched mentally and physically.”
That’s when Dave gave Arthur sage advice that has been a guiding light for him.
“He said to me: ‘You have to set your priorities. First, you need to take care of yourself, then your family, then your career and then school’.”
Recognizing the care and support behind Dave’s words gave Arthur the extra boost he needed to persevere. It was also the reason why Arthur later decided to return to the Faculty of Forestry to mentor the next generation of forestry students.
“I wanted to give back to the Faculty and help others the way that I was helped. Now that I’m more settled in my career and life, I am grateful to have found time to devote to volunteering.”
Mentoring Forestry students, and helping them get co-op placements at Canfor in his prior role, also served to keep Arthur abreast of changes at UBC while helping students pursue their studies and careers.
“To me, success is about how well you care for your family and then, with time, your willingness to give back to your community,” reflects Arthur, whose eldest daughter enrolled in Forestry undergraduate studies at UBC.
“The more you meet other people, the more you learn, the more you connect with different folks and different ways of thinking and different cultures, the more it shapes you for the better. That belief system has really guided me over the years, and it’s something that I hope to humbly pass along to my girls and the students.”
Led by our very own Development and Alumni Engagement Office, and shaped by valuable feedback from our alumni community, the Spring 2022 issue of Branchlines showcases the dynamic and multifaceted fields of forestry.