Alumni Profile: Alexa Waud

Photo of Alexa Waud

Alexa graduated from the University of Toronto in 2018 with majors in Peace, Conflict and Justice and Environment and Health. During her time in the program, she was involved in the first-ever Reach Project with Dr. Joseph Wong. Her interests are largely in environment social science, and the flexibility and interdisciplinary nature of the program allowed her to take courses in these topics. After graduation, she pursued a Masters in Oxford at the School Geography and Environment. She then moved to London to organize with the grassroots environmental justice group Fuel Poverty Action. She now works at Traverse, an organization that specializes in social research and public engagement. There, she helps navigate complex social problems through avenues such as deliberative dialogues.


How would you say the program has helped you since graduation?

The program is incredibly interdisciplinary and I’ve stayed on that track since graduation. PCJ teaches to students to look at complex problems through a variety of lenses, and I found this practice extremely helpful, especially when thinking about climate governance. The various PCJ-facilitated opportunities I took part in during my undergrad were instrumental in helping me define my interests and my academic and career aspirations. For example, my PCJ independent study (supervised by Professor Matthew Hoffmann) was on environmental justice within cities looking to be carbon neutral. Beyond getting this research published in an urban studies journal, Metropolitics, the lessons I learnt from this independent study fed into my graduate research and my current work.


A key aspect of the program is providing opportunities for international experiences and entrepreneurship. Could you speak briefly about your experiences with one or both of these and their significance?

The Munk School was very generous in providing me with global experiences that enhanced my undergraduate experience. The first of these was the very first Reach Project which was spearheaded by Dr. Joseph Wong. This project investigated how a cash transfer program in Brazil reached the hardest to reach populations, from favela dwellers to remote Amazonian populations. We conducted interviews with municipal representatives, national government policy makers, and community health and social workers. The field research culminated with a presentation of our initial results in Sao Paulo at the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce. I learned more in the field than I thought was possible, and the experience helped to interrogate what counts as research and how to best conduct it. On a side note, I think the Reach program succeeds in part because it doesn’t underestimate undergraduate students, and to my understanding the Reach Project has thrived with both graduate and undergraduate students participating since.

Later, I was funded through the Richard Charles Lee Insights Through Asia Challenge and was able to conduct research in Delhi the summer before graduation. My research partner—who was studying Anthropology and Material Culture—and I were interested in the culture surrounding specific natural foods in the area, and the connections between the organic movement and the natural Indian farming culture. We studied the tensions between viewing the countryside as a ‘pure’ place and the migration trends into the city.

I also had a placement with Green PAC, an organization that seeks to get more environmental leaders elected, which offered through the PCJ internship program. I was then able to work for them the following summer as a Community Engagement Coordinator.


Would you care to offer any advice to current or prospective students?

Make sure to advocate for yourself and for courses that fit within your interests. There’s lots of potential to connect courses with the main themes of PCJ—seek them out. Study what you’re truly interested in and build your degree around it—PCJ let’s you do this. Also, something I wish I had done earlier is getting involved with activist groups and activism more generally. If there’s something you’re passionate about and you want to start making a difference, don’t wait.


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