UBC MEL MHLP Professional Leadership Master Degrees

Integrated Water Management – Celeste Hu

Alumna Story - Celeste Hu

Integrated Water Management – Celeste Hu

After completing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering, Celeste Hu worked for more than five years with an urban planning company in Guangdong, China. She contributed to and led a wide range of projects in municipal engineering and urban planning – from integrated pipeline planning for subway projects to large-scale municipal planning based on population projections for the coming decades – and received numerous industry awards for her work.

Celeste loved her job, but was eager to do more by complementing her considerable engineering experience with new skills on the business side.

“I recognized the value of learning how to be better at managing existing customer relationships and business development, as well as improving my own leadership skills and exploring new strategies for effective management.”

She learned about UBC’s Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) in Integrated Water Management through a social media post in China. After a bit of research, she realized the program was exactly what she was looking for.

“Unlike an MBA, which is usually a two-year program, the MEL is a one-year condensed degree,” she says.

“The program covers topics in leadership, sustainability strategies, human resources and finance, while also allowing me to deepen my understanding of water management.”

Integrated water management courses provide tangible experience

Students in Integrated Water Management complete technical courses that cover a broad range of topics, including environmental hydraulics, engineering hydrology, water and wastewater management strategies, chemical and biological industrial water treatment design.

Although Celeste already had a master’s degree in civil engineering with a focus on water resources management, she says the engineering courses taught through the MEL were very helpful.

Highlights included field trips to local facilities, such as the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in Richmond, and conducting hydrological fieldwork at a roadside creek near Spanish Banks. The frequent guest lectures from leading industry professionals were also informative for deepening her understanding of “the real problems we are facing every day.”

The project management class taught by Dr. Cheryl Nelms, the general manager of project delivery at Metro Vancouver, provide Celeste with tangible experience in her field. In this class, she and her capstone project teammates completed a project focusing on whether it would be viable to use reclaimed water from the Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant to partially replace potable water for uses like industrial processes and sewer flushing. Integrating project delivery knowledge, the students ensured the project’s practicality and coherence.

“We reviewed the regulations and codes that would apply in this situation, as well as the argument for using reclaimed water based on projected population growth in Metro Vancouver.”

Business courses advance communication and leadership skills

Integrated Water Management includes business courses taught through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. Classes cover organizational leadership, strategy and innovation, and strategy and leadership. An intense four-week business boot camp exposes students to six core business competencies, from accounting and contract management to business case development, and students can also take an additional business course of their choosing.

Students from all sector-specific MEL specializations attend these classes, along with students from the Master of Health Leadership and Policy. It’s a very diverse group, and Celeste says this had great value for her experience.

“My classmates were all from different countries and cultures and came to UBC from diverse professional backgrounds,” she says.

“All the group projects we completed in these business courses were a good opportunity to learn from others, to listen and find out what they care about.

It was an inspiring learning experience to see how different backgrounds contribute to different ways of approaching and solving problems.”

A new career in Canada at the City of Vancouver

Shortly after graduating, Celeste was hired by the City of Vancouver for an engineering position. She is excited to bring her background in civil engineering, drainage, and planning to projects in Vancouver.

As for advice for others pursuing the MEL?

“The program lasts only a year, and time will pass swiftly,” she says. “Therefore, cherish and make the most of this precious learning journey, commit fully to every aspect and strive to realize your utmost potential.”