Tim Coffin
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MA in Sustainable Design
Executive Director for Trails Manitoba

Where did you earn your undergraduate degree and what was it in?

I earned my undergraduate degree from the Royal Military College of Canada. I graduated with a bachelor of arts in business administration. My choice for attending this university was part of the larger process to become a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

Why did you choose to earn an MA at MCAD?

After a long career as a pilot and officer in the Air Force, I had approached a point in my life where I was seeking change; I wanted to pour my energy into making the world a better, more sustainable, and happier place, and felt that this program (after a lot of research) was perfectly suited for what I had desired. As a non-designer in the traditional sense, the MA in sustainable design program allotted the flexibility and environment for me to learn at the same pace as the others, who had designer backgrounds.

What was the online education like?

My online experience was fantastic. I won’t lie, there was a definite learning curve in the beginning, but provided that you were able to set aside some dedicated time every week, and continued to be active in the conversation, it was quite manageable. The sustainable design online experience had a perfect blend of rigidness and flexibility built into it!

How has the MA impacted you?

The sustainable design program has been a real eye-opener for me. Each course within the program has tweaked or changed my mindset in one way or another. Not only has it helped to shape my vision for a second career, but has helped to change my (and my family’s) everyday decisions to live more sustainably. I look forward to sharing this knowledge with others and continue to push the benchmark towards a more sustainable future.

What was your biggest takeaway from the program?

Looking back on the program, there were so many aspects that stood out to me: the professors, classmates, courses, projects, sustainable frameworks. Everything was top notch! 

However, to answer your question, the biggest takeaway for me would have to be the ‘sustainable design experience.’ What I mean by this, is that for two and a half years, I was deeply immersed in sustainable design. I became a sponge and soaked up as much information as I could; I conversed with classmates who individually, and collectively had inspired me each and every day; and, was not only taught, but mentored by professors, who all have incredibly diverse backgrounds. It was an experience that I was rarely accustomed to seeing. Each and every one of us was there to make a difference. We were a think-tank attempting to re-design the world, we were an advocacy group inspired to make a difference, we were a tribe working at the highest level.

What advice do you have for current MCAD students?

Technology has improved our lives in many ways and has made it more efficient, but there are still many improvements (especially ones that are sustainably driven) that need to be made. Using the frameworks and lessons learned from the sustainable design program will help this become a reality. We are all designers, collaborators, and change-makers for a better world of tomorrow.

Stay engaged, stay active in the conversation, and continue dreaming for a better tomorrow. It will help guide future sustainable actions!

Describe what you do for work and how you feel about it.

I recently took on the role as the executive director for Trails Manitoba, a not for profit organization dedicated to recreational trail development in Manitoba. As the official body overseeing the coordination of trail building for the Trans Canada Trail (aka The Great Trail) in Manitoba, it’s my responsibility to provide coordination and oversight for all aspects of trail stewardship that is undertaken by our members. As an avid outdoorsman and lover of nature, I feel that I have been given an incredible opportunity to help inspire people to get outdoors, and in the process protect our most important and valuable resources.

How did you get your job?

Through the process of completing my post-grad practicum, where I worked with one of Winnipeg’s largest parks to help create a system to standardize their trail network, and through completing my graduate thesis, where I designed a sustainable geared fitness trail, I was fortunate enough to make some very good connections who identified other lines of work that I may have otherwise missed. The position that I am currently working in became available a couple of months after graduating from the sustainable design program… and, well, the rest is history!

Current obsession?

Trails! Devising ways to increase trail usage and enhance people's connection with nature.