|Degree & Grad Year||PhD, 1985|
To celebrate his 2023 Alumni Builder Award, we checked in with Paul Molund, an alumnus who is one of many amazing volunteers who give back to the Faculty.
For more than 12 years, Paul has served as a mentor and inspiration for Land and Food Systems (LFS) students and alumni to be an active part of their community and strengthen their ties to the faculty and UBC. Paul’s generosity, compassion and insight has guided many students through critical career choices and his excellence in mentoring is activating and energizing the next generation of LFS mentors.
Congratulations on receiving a 2023 Alumni Builder Award. How do you feel?
I am extremely delighted and humbled to receive this award. It has been a great honour to be part of other people’s lives and help guide and encourage them to reach further, to achieve their dreams. It has given me a renewed sense of purpose and makes me that much happier to get up in the morning and live my life more fully.
What motivates you to volunteer?
There are many reasons that I like to volunteer. To see the look on people’s faces, when they have somebody who actually listens to them, encourages them and is cheerleader for their life’s journey . I try to give them a safe space to talk, and think about possibilities without being judged. I’ve never been a parent, and not having had kids, I don’t talk to them like a parent; I talk to them as if I’m meeting a friend.
My main motivation for volunteering is that I lost my wife fifteen years ago, and so it’s in her memory that I am inspired to help others. It was a very tough thing, losing her. So not only did I feel that I was helping other people, but I was helping myself.
Are there other ways that you feel you benefit by volunteering?
I feel that I’m getting more effective as a volunteer, able to better connect with people and gain better results for their outcome. I’ve mentored more than 100 people: professional people, people in university, people who have graduated, and I’ve helped them in their life journey. It has been really rewarding, and is one of my life’s purpose. It’s a great reason why I get up in the morning, with a smile, and think, “who can I help today?”
What is one message you would like to share with students about how they can prepare for the world of work?
I want them to look more deeply, to expand their comfort zone and apply for jobs and experiences that will open up possibilities to achieving their dreams. I’ve been mentoring about twelve years now, and have noticed many women don’t have confidence in themselves, yet they are just amazing!!! I try to help them see their strengths and encourage them to apply for the jobs they really want, and be their best cheerleader that I know how to be. I support them to think positively about their abilities and what they bring to the world. And I think it’s really been life-changing for many of them.
How did you envision your own career journey would be when you started university?
When I was in my early 20s, I had a sense of where my life was going to go, and so I had these visions of what my future might become. And I can say that almost none of it came true—[laughing] almost nothing! Not the way that I ever perceived that it would be. However, it turned out really, really wonderful! I mean, I have no regrets. I probably could have done many things differently, and better. But the reality is, the way that my life has unfolded for the things I could control was all good.
How did that career journey actually take off?
I wanted to be a professor, and that’s why I did a PhD at UBC in Food Science. I was one year behind Rickey [Dean Rickey Yada]. So we both did our PhDs together, but Rickey ended up doing the career that I thought I was going to be doing, and I ended up doing food product development for two years, taught at BCIT, worked for Health Canada, and then worked for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
What is something that you are proud of that you have accomplished in your career?
As a Federal food inspector, doing an audit, most companies are afraid of you because you have the power to shut them down. But my style of inspection was to wear my “education hat” about 90% of the time; more than my “enforcement hat”. After the first 10 minutes, the companies realized that I’m actually there to help them, and improve the quality and safety of the Canadian Food supply. Over the years, I had many, many companies phone me to advise them. I had their confidence, so I was able to work with them to help improve the quality and safety of the food supply in Canada.
I also spent a lot of time in Asia, helping to educate food industry, government and universities on how to produce safer food for their citizens and for export to other countries.
And finally, what advice would give to encourage alumni to become mentors?
Being a mentor has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my life. To be an integral part of other people’s lives and witness their journey as an observer and participant is fulfilling on every level. To see someone you have helped achieve success and know that you have a been a small part in helping to change the world towards a more positive future is a great feeling.
I tell everyone of my students that I am a mentor as a volunteer. My only hope is that they themselves will become a mentor someday to help others.