What Joël Thibert (W. Garfield Weston Loran Scholar ’00) remembers most about being interviewed for Loran was the inspiration it provided him. “Just attending the interviews encouraged me to become more like myself,” he recalls, “and to pursue the things that I believed in.” He was also struck by how varied the other candidates were in their interests, backgrounds, and ambitions: “It was inspiring to enter a world where different paths are deemed possible. For the Loran Scholars Foundation, there is not ‘one type’ of candidate who is interesting, but several.”
Joël’s own path led him to a position as a project manager for Montreal’s Quartier international de Montréal, a non-profit organization that focuses on developing the cultural life of the downtown core. Joel has a long-standing interest in urban planning: he did his Master’s degree in the field at McGill University, and he has done research for the Canadian Policy Research Networks. The latter, he remarks, was a great experience due to the freedom he was given. He chose to research the issue of affordable housing; through this project, he got hands-on exposure to the field, visiting developments and meeting with developers and consultants. “It was,” he says, “a very good way to bridge the theory I had learnt in school with the practice of social housing.”
Joël also put theory into practice between his undergraduate studies and grad school by living in Latin America. With an interest in the culture and a desire to live in a big city, he found himself in Bogota, Colombia. He was in charge of designing an environmental education curriculum, which he then taught to Grade 7 and 8 students.
Teaching kids about the environment was a natural extension of his undergrad work at McGill. He had switched to the environmental program after originally pursuing international development studies. “The W. Garfield Weston Loran Award did not influence my choice per se, but gave me the freedom and, tacitly, the support I needed to change my mind and reorient my academic journey. I am not sure I would have had the courage to start over had I not held a W. Garfield Weston Loran Award,” he says.
The environment program, adds Joël, gave him what he was looking for: “Inspiring professors, engaging classmates, and a lens through which I could see—and change—the world.” Whether in academia or a housing project, in Canada or Colombia, Joël has been trying to do just that in his various endeavours.
Joël recently completed his PhD in public policy at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, where he was a Trudeau Scholar. He is an associate partner at McKinsey & Company.