Interview with KPU Alum Marie Pudlas
Graduate of the School of Horticulture Urban Ecosystems Degree Program
KPU alumni Marie Pudlas says that she "Likes to keep myself busy otherwise nothing gets done." How true. As an active student of the Faculty of Science and Horticulture (FSH) Urban Ecosystems degree program, Marie’s ‘get it done’ attitude, creativity and warm personality left an impression on the KPU community and, quite literally, on the Langley campus. Her graduating research project, the Music Garden, was inspired by listening to music students practice outside. What began as an inspired idea became a collaborative effort between the Arts, Engineering and Horticulture students and faculty.We recently caught up with Marie to talk about her Music Garden project, her passion for novel ecosystems, life as a KPU student, and life after graduation. Read more of Marie’s interview below…
FSH: What do you do for a living now?
MP: I work for the City of Burnaby in the Parks and Recreation department doing Eco-sculpture and Invasive Species. I got to work in Invasive Species because of my education at KPU, which is very cool.
Eco-sculpture involves creating living works of art. In the City of Burnaby, I work with steel frames in the shape of animals, filling them with soil and plants that decorate various locations around the City of Burnaby.
FSH: Did you ever envision doing this while you were at KPU?
MP: When I was in high school, I did a two-week work experience with the City of Burnaby to help with some plant displays for an event at the PNE. They called me back for the same event the following year—maybe because they knew I was interested in going to KPU for Horticulture—and I’ve been there ever since.
FSH: Did you have an ‘aha’ moment when you knew what you wanted to do for your education/career path? What was it?
MP: As a teenager, my mom sent me off to my aunt and uncle’s home to help them garden. I needed money and they needed help. I had no idea what I was doing, it was mostly trial and error but my uncle would guide me here and there. I just knew from that experience that I wanted to have a career that was outdoors, not stuck inside at a desk. However, on cold rainy days, I sometimes question that!
FSH: What was the best advice that you received during your time at KPU?
MP: The best advice I got was from a classmate who I carpooled with. He always said “Don’t take things too seriously.” You can really get bogged down with all the details of school, work, and life. Every time I was feeling overwhelmed, I would repeat his words and it helped put things in perspective.
FSH: What was your most memorable moment as a student?
MP: My favourite moment as a student was actually presenting the proposal for my research project, the Music Garden. Taking the creative ideas that were rolling around in my head, putting them down on paper, presenting the project to faculty and peers, and then getting everyone’s feedback. The discussion after the presentation was rich with questions and bouncing ideas off of each other. I really enjoyed the process of working together creatively as a group — getting their constructive criticism and brainstorming ideas to make the project even better.
FSH: What was a favourite/funny moment with a faculty member?
MP: I only had her for one class but Betty Cunnin, one of the School of Horticulture instructors, was always so positive and enthusiastic. I remember conveniently hanging around her office to ‘bump’ into her so I could run my ideas for the Music Garden by her. She was always super helpful and excited about the project.
FSH: What was your funniest moment as a student?
MP: There were lots of funny moments, especially during inclement weather when things got cold and soggy. You need a sense of humour on those days. For fun, we’d often sneak up stealth-like in the electric Easy-Go cart and surprise classmates.
FSH: Describe KPU in 3 words (or less)?
MP: Diverse and ever-changing. I’ve seen huge changes just at the Langley campus during the last five years.
FSH: What is your lasting impression of KPU?
MP: The diversity of the programs available and the diversity of the people there.
FSH: Any tips or words of wisdom for future students going into the same program?
MP: When I was working on the Music Garden project, I reached out to different faculties and students from other programs. It was a stretch for me but getting the input and hearing the inspired ideas that others had for the Garden was great! I’m so glad I took the initiative to reach out and connect with everyone who was involved with the Music Garden.
My other piece of advice would be to explore the other KPU campuses. The Urban Ecosystems degree program is based on the Langley campus but as part of my research project I got to visit some of KPU’s other campuses and was blown away by what was there! Cool random places and labs — stuff I’d seen on YouTube but was totally different to see up close. I totally recommend touring around the other campuses to see what’s there.
- Experiment. Take a leap of faith and try different things.
- Take the initiative and make things happen.
- Reach out and talk to people.
- Explore KPU’s other campuses.