Karen Russell’s involvement in advancing the planning profession began in the mid-1980s when she served as the Student Representative on AACIP (now APPI) when enrolled in the University of Calgary’s urban and regional planning program and was recruited to make a presentation at the Canadian Association of Planning Students (CAPS) conference. After graduation, she first worked for Alberta Culture as an intern in its heritage conservation program before being hired to work as a land use planner in the private sector. In 1990 she was hired by the City of Edmonton as a Heritage Planner where she worked with the heritage team on the city’s first comprehensive heritage inventory and management plan. In 1996, Ms. Russell moved to British Columbia working in both the City of North Vancouver’s Community Development and Engineering Departments for 13 years before accepting a position with UBC Campus and Community Planning in 2009.
Throughout her career, Karen Russell has been actively involved coaching and meeting with planning students and aspiring planners from all over the country. She has served for several terms as a PIBC Councillor and held positions as both Membership and Education Chairs for PIBC. Over the years, she has conducted examinations, mentored and helped shape the careers of many young planners in British Columbia, many of whom are now at work elsewhere in the country.
Ms. Russell’s achievements in the field of heritage conservation are particularly significant. She has been a leader in this regard, especially in her work on heritage guidelines for the Province of Alberta. Karen was a Heritage Planner at the City of Edmonton from 1990 to 1996 and brought this expertise to Vancouver in 1996. She quickly became a valued member of heritage groups and an advocate for heritage conservation with both local and provincial heritage organizations. She was on the Board of Heritage BC and provided leadership during a time where that organization was dealing with difficult financial and organizational challenges. Karen is currently an active member of the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. As a member of the Board, she has provided thoughtful and practical advice on many issues and has continued to provide volunteer leadership.
Karen was an instrumental force on the National Membership Standards Committee as it moved through the Planning for the Future process and the transition of membership certification implementation to the Professional Standards Board. Considerable change is occurring in professional membership standards within CIP and amongst the affiliates. Membership certification and university accreditation standards updating has been a decade long endeavour and Ms. Russell has been there for all of it, representing British Columbia and more recently the National Institute on various professional certification committees including the Professional Standards Committee. Few Members have devoted as much time and effort as Ms. Russell to this process which is now being implemented nationally.
The fact that she continues to be involved and devote her personal time to this difficult and sometimes contentious work is a real indication of her leadership and her devotion to the Profession in Canada.