Featured Geographer: Siobhan McPhee


Originally from: Tough question – my mother was Irish, my father Canadian but I grew up in Africa and the Middle East.

Interested in Geography because: It gives me the freedom to try and understand our complex world without putting restraints on my research or creativity.

Years at UBC: Two and a half

Reason for coming to Vancouver/UBC: Because I got the job!

Greatest success: I think that there are many I could comment on here. I suppose the cliché would be finishing my PhD. I am also proud of having completed so many trips on my own. I am proud of learning 3 languages as an adult. I am always proud when past students come back to tell me how well they are doing and that they remember me!

Strangest Geography related experience: I have thought and thought about this one and I really can’t say. I figure my own life and my journey to a job in a Geography department is a pretty strange experience in itself or maybe it is just exactly the right thing!

Current research interests: History of the development of the immigration policy in the United Arab Emirates. Labour market inequality, both social and spatial, in the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Favorite research destination: I haven’t found a favourite yet as each place offers its own unique experience.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in life so far? There is no right answer

Any advice for your future students who want to become a geographer? Do it! Geographers are everywhere in academia, policy forums, IT and government. The world needs more geographers because we have a special ability to see the uniqueness of places but also how much they are interconnected.

Little known fact: I was born right here in Vancouver at Saint Paul’s hospital and my first bedroom was at the corner of Yew and West 1st.

Beyond Geography, what’re your favorite books/film/music? I love different kinds of books from the magical world of A Thousand Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez to Lord of the Rings to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I also enjoy reading poetry in both Arabic and English. My favourite Arabic author is Nawal Al Sadawi, especially her book on being in a woman’s prison in Egypt – nothing like Orange is The New Black. I love all music except country and western, but especially like jazz, funk and house music. I will watch anything except horror films – I just don’t enjoy them and feel it is a waste of my time. I love movies and TV as it is the only time I find my brain truly stops working and I find pure escapism.