Profile: Stephanie Arnold by Julie Bull
When we met to chat, Stephanie Arnold had just returned from a decolonizing conference in Toronto where they had the opportunity to learn from scholars across many disciplines. “It was commonplace for the researchers and scientists to discuss their positionality in the arts and humanities and I appreciated seeing how liberation is implicit in most of the work of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] scholars.”
Stephanie commits themselves to the liberation journey, whether in their day job, their volunteer roles, or within their friend and family networks. They operate at the systems level and are enthusiastic about making change. “Building positive solutions and systems change is fun!”
We chuckled during the conversation, knowing that Stephanie’s definition of fun wouldn’t be relatable for some folks. They explained that their interest in and dedication to systemic change comes from their entire life experiences to date. “Hong Kong was under British rule and then I came to Canada, also a British colony, so my entire life has been an exercise in understanding colonization.”
Stephanie grew up in Hong Kong until they were 10 years old and then their family moved to Toronto. “Growing up in big cities, it was hard to really see and feel the connection to the land.”
Now living in rural PEI, Stephanie has a greater awareness and appreciation of the land and they have even tried their hand at gardening. “I am a novice gardener, and I grew the world’s most expensive kale!” they said with laughter.
Along with literally getting their hands dirty in the soil, Stephanie is not afraid to metaphorically get their hands dirty in a variety of research, policy, and advocacy roles. “I have come to see and understand some of my own privilege and the responsibilities that come along with that.” Stephanie is actively in service within the communities they are a part of, locally, provincially, and nationally. They are the past president of BIPOC USHR, a trustee with Public Schools Branch, and a member of the Rustico Ringette Association, to name a few. Stephanie is also a director with Coastal Zone Canada (CZC), and they’re excited to be co-planning CZC’s conference coming to PEI in 2025.
With their years of experience serving on community-based boards, Stephanie is feeling hopeful with the increase in younger people getting involved. “Now I see my role as one to support the leadership capacity and connections for younger people.”
Looking back to their own younger days, they remember feeling disenchanted with the degree they were pursuing because of its lack of interdisciplinary focus. Stephanie completed their chemical engineering degree, but they knew they didn’t want to be a practicing engineer. “I learned so much about so little and I knew, for me, I needed to learn a little about a lot of things to find those connections.” Stephanie went on to earn a Master of Business Administration at the University of Toronto and worked in the corporate world before switching gears into entrepreneurship.
They moved to PEI with their entrepreneurial partner to work in the tourism industry. Eventually they wanted to pursue additional work avenues, so they applied for a job with CLIMAtlantic. “I interviewed for the job, and I didn’t get it. But a few weeks later, they reached out to hire me for a short contract to write a grant proposal. When they were successful in the grant and received the funds, I was hired to carry out some of the work.” Now the Strategy and Programs Manager, Prince Edward Island Specialist with CLIMAtlantic, Stephanie brings their vast skillset and interests together in a variety of social and scientific ways.
“I basically fell into PEI and fell into climate work, and I know that what I’m doing is the work I’m supposed to be doing because it feeds my soul.” With their multi-disciplinary background, Stephanie is also a PhD candidate in Environmental Science and conducts research with UPEI’s School of Climate Change and Adaptation. “I am thirsty for connection and all of my past learnings are indispensable to the now.”
Clearly a life-long learner and integrator, Stephanie doesn’t let confusions or complexities deter them. “I ask myself: What else can I learn to make it make sense?” In their efforts toward liberation, Stephanie is committed to disrupting dominate discourse. “I’m interested in learning how can we disrupt the way we do things, moving away from competitive structures into more collaborative ones.”