Rabab Wali has a down-to-earth attitude as well as an impressive track record of academic and extracurricular success, complemented by the visionary goals she has for her future. Wali is a full-time U3 student majoring in Environment and minoring in International Development Studies. Along with her commitment to school, she has been engaged in research in her field, is a committee member of the SUS Environment Committee, and volunteers regularly with the Muslim Student Association.
Interested in the crossroads of sustainability and social justice, Wali investigated structural racism in the food system in Montreal, specifically in Park Extension borough, for her ENVR 401 research project during the Fall semester.
“My research involved investigating ways in which people of colour or low income groups may be denied access to resources through unintentional institutional structures,” said Wali. “It was a lot of fun because we could do interviews with the residents [….] Park [Extension] is one of the most diverse communities in North America.”
Wali and her team have applied to present their findings to the Quebec Public Integrative Research Council (QPIRC) in late March, as it is a Montreal-based community study. Wali also engaged in research this past summer, spending three months working as a research assistant for a PhD candidate studying plant pathology in Kashmir.
In addition to her involvement in environmental research at McGill and abroad, Wali is a committee member of the SUS Environment Committee. She attributes her involvement to her dedication to environmental issues outside the classroom.
“Environment is my major, but I want to see what people in my major are doing around me, to be immersed in what I’m studying,” Wali said.
The committee’s mandate explains that it “strives to foster a culture of sustainability within SUS by maintaining purchasing policies that favour environmentally benign and socially responsible products and services.” Green Week is among one of several projects she has helped organize.
“Green week is a week of sustainable-focused events occurring [in] the third week of March to raise awareness of environmental issues,” Wali said. One of the highlights of the event is Eco-Couture.
“During Eco-Couture, we promote sustainable fashion.” According to Wali, the Eco-Couture event is used to break the traditional boundaries of sustainability to enter cultural modes.
Wali hails from many different global regions and cultures. She was born in Ireland, raised in the United Arab Emirates, and is Pakistani. She attributes her interest in global sustainability to this unique upbringing.
“I think exposure to different cultures is the best way to develop new ideas and ways of thinking,” she said. “Every place has something to offer and opens up perspectives.”
Her cultural roots and history have also encouraged her to volunteer with the Muslim Student Association. She has contributed time to the association by organizing ski trips for the members and fundraising for events through ticket sales.
Wali reflected on what has contributed to making her time at McGill excellent, noting the innovative research as a highlight of the institution.
“I love it because you constantly hear of professors conducting amazing research,” she said. “It’s a great place to meet people doing amazing things [….] The campus is also incredibly diverse.”
Wali has exciting and ambitious professional goals for herself in the future.
“I hope to work in humanitarian assistance in relief organizations, particularly in the Middle East [in Yemen and Palestine],” she said.
McGill Tribune: What is your favourite spot in Montreal?
Rabab Wali: The Jacque Cartier Clock Tower.
MT: What is your favourite winter activity?
RW: In the United Arab Emirates it is hot all the time, so I was super excited about snow. I love skating. Snowmen are super hard though.
MT: Coffee or tea?
RW: I love tea, but I drink coffee for the caffeine.
MT: Most memorable children’s book?
RW: Everything by Enid Blyton, a British author who wrote short stories.