Celeste Longhurst joined the Macdonald University Advancement Team early in the new year. In this position, she leads the AES fundraising campaign and manages the Faculty’s University Advancement team whose activities also include alumni relations.  Celeste hails from Toronto and has worked in philanthropy throughout her career, with a focus on fundraising for environmental organizations. She joined us from the National Wildlife Centre, where she was Director of Development, and has a Bachelor in Environmental Science from Queens University.

What inspired you to pursue a career in fundraising with a focus on addressing 21st century environmental challenges?

Despite growing up in the city, I have always been passionate about nature as a child, I spent a lot of time exploring the outdoors with my family, which helped instill a deep understanding and respect for the natural environment. Pursuing an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science was a natural next step, and I remember being so excited to learn that people had full-time careers in this area – I thought people just made the world a better place on their own time! After I finished university, I was lucky enough to embark upon an impactful career in the environmental non-profit sector, starting out coordinating and managing a suite of national grant programs that provided funding to community and environmental organizations across Canada. As a funder, I saw first-hand the immense impact that philanthropic support could provide to the incredible individuals and groups working to address environmental and agricultural challenges, and I realized that I had found my calling developing meaningful, impactful partnerships to support a better world.

What life experience has most influenced your career path?

In 2011, I was selected as the Canadian delegate for a youth climate change training expedition to the Arctic in Svalbard, Norway. I spent a week on a re-purposed Chilean navy vessel travelling up the western coast and doing land expeditions during the day. I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand the incredible beauty of the Arctic – watching polar bears walk off into the distance until they became one with the ice, seeing glaciers calve giant icebergs, and experiencing this incredible ecosystem that is at once so resilient, and so fragile, was incredibly impactful for me. My trip to Svalbard really drove home the importance of my work to raise funds in support of the global environmental challenges we are facing, and to contribute to a healthier more sustainable environment for generations to come.

What has been your favourite experience working at McGill to-date?

I feel very lucky to have the chance to work at Macdonald – it is such a beautiful campus and it’s really inspiring to see the diverse range of applied research and best practices in environmental and agricultural sectors happening on-site. Volunteering to support convocation was an honour, and made me really proud to see the incredibly talented students graduating and taking their next steps in their academic life and future careers – it reminds me of myself not too long ago, and knowing that I am supporting the next generation of agricultural and environmental experts as they embark upon their journey of making the world a better place, is so inspiring and rewarding!

What are some of your favourite outdoor activities?

I love spending time outdoors, especially during the warmer seasons! Some of my favourite outdoor activities include planning and growing my food garden each season and exploring the natural beauty that Canada has to offer, whether on foot walking with my dog or cycling on trails. I have to admit that I am not much of a winter person, but I have seen how popular outdoor winter sports are here and will have to give cross-country skiing a try next year!