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Spotlight: Dr. Justin Bull on Leadership Development

September 14, 2021
UBC MEL MHLP Justin Bull on Leadership Development

Dr. Justin Bull is the academic director of the MEL and MHLP programs, and full-time lecturer at the UBC Sauder Robert H. Lee Graduate School.

Leadership requires a willingness to break from the status quo. In a time of constant and accelerating change, emerging leaders must navigate a range of environmental, social and technological trends to make this leap with confidence. This requires new mastering new skills while cultivating a broad understanding of the challenges faced within an industry sector and the business acumen to implement change.

UBC’s Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) and Master of Health Leadership and Policy (MHLP) offer a blend of business and technical education to professionals in engineering and health care. Technical courses taught through the Faculty of Applied Science make up approximately half of the curriculum; these are balanced by business and leadership classes taught through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. Together, these courses give students an integrated understanding of the most important issues in their industry and an appreciation of the tactics and strategies for leading projects and teams to sustainable solutions.

Leadership isn’t innate or magical, and like any skill, it can be acquired.

The MEL and MHLP support students’ leadership development by teaching theories and then asking students to apply these concepts first within the classroom and, ultimately, within the work environment. Our program equips students with the skills needed to lead in diverse, multicultural and unfamiliar settings, with learners joining cohorts of students from across the world and a range of technical disciplines. Through immersive educational experiences, students receive a crash course in managing in a changing world.

Where possible, the MEL and MHLP programs integrate experiential projects that create opportunities for students to work directly with industry partners. Capstones, research projects and practicums push students to cultivate their technical and research skills while communicating with diverse stakeholders in real-world contexts.

These postgraduate degrees are positioning our students to take a leap. This could be to jump into a new industry or a step up into a new role and responsibilities. We support this growth through an educational curriculum that refines students’ technical and business skills, as well as by supporting them with professional development opportunities.

We want to make sure students know how to be persuasive, how to communicate complex business cases and how to effectively build their own brand. Workshops and additional coaching support enable students to gain these essential skills, empowering them to take ownership of their professional development.

I highly encourage early- and mid-career professionals to consider the MEL or MHLP. These master’s degrees offer students a unique opportunity to experience the leading edge of research in their sector and gain the business knowledge needed to achieve meaningful results and sustainable change. It’s an incredibly rich and exciting educational experience that is fantastic preparation for the leap ahead.


Justin Bull teaches extensively on sustainability, innovation and strategy, with a focus on graduate and executive learners. He earned a BA in International Relations (2005) and a PhD in Wood Science (2015) from the University of British Columbia. His doctoral work focused on measuring and comparing the environmental performance of paper and digital value chains in global media markets.

In addition to his academic commitments, Justin is a mentor-scientist at the Creative Destruction Lab Climate stream. With a focus on companies that are developing solutions to the climate crisis, he helps early-stage founders identify market opportunities and position themselves for future fundraising rounds. He is also a board member with the Tla’amin Nation, assisting a modern treaty nation with their economic development strategy, including sitting on the Nation’s finance, audit and risk management committee.

Prior to his faculty appointment at Sauder, Justin worked extensively as a management consultant. Key projects included: advising Lyft on a sustainability strategy for their Canadian operations; advising industry groups in BC and Alberta on how to strengthen their relationships with First Nations; and advising IKEA’s central procurement team (located in the Netherlands) on how to develop and execute a sustainable procurement strategy. Before beginning his doctoral studies, Justin worked with a coalition of non-profits located in Washington, DC, that advocated globally to secure the legal rights of Indigenous communities seeking to manage and control their traditional forest lands.

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