My name is Lainy, and I will be a Planner

Author: Lainy Nowak

My name is Lainy and I am a planner. I plan activities, I plan my future, and I plan blogs (apparently). My most recent plan is to become a professional Planner and plan cities! This dream has recently brought me back to school to achieve a Master of Community Planning degree at Vancouver Island University. Soon, I will be able to say I am a Planner by trade - but for now, I consider myself a planner by virtue.

Since I was 20, my favorite thing to plan has been trips. I love to travel to far away places and experience new cultures and cities. There is something exhilarating about being immersed in a foreign country that has history, stories, and people very different from what I am used to. I am captivated by things like why people choose to live where they do, build cities in different and imaginative ways, or follow a certain religion. I have been fortunate enough to travel to every populated continent and visit dozens of countries on my quest for more knowledge and a deeper understanding of how the world works. Currently, I find myself on an adventure in New Zealand - because while planning for my thesis, I stumbled upon the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (let’s call it the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship or QES for short).

The QES was my ticket to an adventure that will contribute to my plan of becoming an accredited Planner. I was awarded funding through this scholarship to complete the data collection portion of my thesis, titled: “Planning for Resilience in the Face of Climate Change and Environmental Hazards.” As a planner, I feel responsible for finding solutions to the many complex problems in the world and the QES is helping me achieve this by aiding my dream to become a global citizen and learn more about far corners of the world.

So why did I choose to study Resilience? Well, a few years ago, I lived and worked in Japan. While I was there, I was part of a volunteer group that helped victims of the Great Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 and I also lived very close to the epicentre of the earthquake, so I was able to see first hand the aftermath of a major natural disaster. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my only experience with a major event. Last year, wildfires broke out all over British Columbia, and as an employee of a local government, I was called to volunteer at the Emergency Evacuation Centre in my city. I saw many people lose everything, but I also saw communities come together and support each other under extremely difficult circumstances.

I learned through these situations that it is incredibly hard to plan for the unexpected. But of course, as a planner, I continually found myself thinking: “What if we could plan for these events? What would that look like? How can we achieve this?” This is how I find myself on this journey today, seeking to explore how we can make our cities more prepared for major events so that we can bounce back faster and stronger than we were before. Through my data collection, I hope to learn more about New Zealand and how this nation continues to be a resilient community despite the major challenges and stresses they have faced and continue to face. I hope to apply the lessons I learn to other communities that are at risk of an environmental hazard, including my own on Vancouver Island.

I believe there are many different experiences that can make you a better citizen, but global experiences can make you the best citizen. It is important to grasp any opportunity that can improve the world, your community, and (most importantly) yourself. The QE Scholarship Program has enabled me to chase my dreams of travelling the world, allowed me to learn more about complex problems, and helped me one step closer to being able to say: “My name is Lainy, and I am a Planner.”

- Lainy Nowak, VIU Masters of Community Planning Student & Queen Elizabeth Scholar

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