Doing what they love: Douglas College valedictorians

This week, many students will end their time at Douglas College and begin their journey to a career they love. At Douglas, we’re proud to have so many remarkable students making up our community. We know that each one has their own story, so we’d like to share those of our valedictorians before they head off to do what they love.

Brittany Bailey
Bachelor of Performing Arts

What drew you to study at Douglas College?
The Bachelor of Performing Arts program, itself, was the initial draw, but once I attended my audition for the program in person at the Douglas College campus, I also liked the whole vibe of the school. There is something about the feel of the school that reminds me a bit of the College campus in my hometown, which put me at ease early on. I felt welcome to ask questions and wasn’t intimidated by both the space and the people.

Were there any highlights from your time as a student you would want to share?

I was missing many of the credits that are required to enter into the program in May. I was given the opportunity to enter, provided I completed the English courses and the missing upper level performing arts credits before the start of the program. The project I was offered to work on to complete the credits stands out as an eye-opening and stimulating experience for me. Myself and another future “BPA’er” classmate got to work together to assist Deborah Neville on Douglas College Theatre Department’s production of Agnes Under the Big Top: A Tall Tale. I had been out of the theatre industry for a few years, and my experience with the dramaturgy element and helping coach actors one on one reignited my own passion for theatre and music. I was reminded of the things I love about mentorship and coaching, and how it can relate to my work as a performer.

Is there any advice you would give new students?
It sounds cliche, but perhaps for a good reason. If something scares you, go at it full force. The safety net of school gives you the opportunity to try and explore things and sides of you that you might not have the guts or the financial wherewithal to try once you’re out in the workforce. Also, never cite an abstract. I learned that one the hard way!

What are your plans after you graduate?
I am really motivated to get into a show at the moment. Since the BPA finished January 2016 I have been getting out to as many auditions as I can, and am also on the hunt for an agent.  Finding a balance between coaching/teaching (both music and theatre), as well as performing in various capacities (stage, film, music gigs) is the ultimate goal.



Victoria Dawe

What drew you to study at Douglas?
The Veterinary Technology Program at Douglas College is one of only a few of its kind in B.C., and catered to all of my needs as a working student.
Were there any highlights from your time as a student that you want to share?
Having the opportunity to work with so many amazing animals alongside a great group of friends!
Is there any advice you would give to new students?
Build a support network with your fellow classmates. Particularly if you’re in a tough program, having a group of friends that can support one another will help ease you through difficult moments and make your overall experience much more enjoyable.
What are your plans after you graduate?
I will be completing a four-month internship with Canada West Veterinary Specialists, then pursuing work opportunities as a Veterinary Nurse with cheetahs and other endangered species in South Africa.


Pamela Findlay

What drew you to study at Douglas College?
I have always had my mind set on becoming a health-care professional, and being a nurse was the perfect career for me. I was passionate and determined, but as a mom of two I was also busy. I loved the program layout that Douglas College offered, so when it became time to select a seat, Douglas won hands down! 
Were there any highlights from your time as a student you would want to share?
My favourite memory is taking part in a multidisciplinary simulation with the students of the Justice Institute of British Columbia. 
Is there any advice you would give new students?
Get involved! There are a ton of opportunities to get involved, and peer support is a necessity for surviving life as a student. 
What are your plans after you graduate?
My plans after graduation are to pursue additional education to become an emergency/trauma nurse. 


Jonathan Friesen
What drew you to study at Douglas College?
My wife and I enjoy living in Coquitlam and the College was very close. Plus, seeking a career in Early Childhood Education is my current goal after much encouragement from my family and peers.
Were there any highlights from your time as a student you would want to share?
The students I have had the privilege of working with over these two years are amazing, caring, and motivated to change the world. Many of our instructors encouraged us to do that very thing, and I think we will. 
Is there any advice you would give new students?
Never doubt your own abilities. If you don’t understand something now, learning something else might lead you to it. Work hard, but also take time to rest and recover – you’ll thank yourself for that one in the end. 
What are your plans after you graduate?

After I graduate, I plan to take some time away from post-secondary and enter the workforce as an Early Childhood Educator – inspired, of course, by my wife and my daughter. Also, writing stories and making puppets will factor into my future plans.


Laura MacMillan

What drew you to study at Douglas College?

. The campus was very engaged and provided many opportunities to meet new people. After I completed the Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching  program in 2012, I started working in the Registrar’s Office as an Enrolment Services Specialist. It was a great way to pay it forward to students and help them accomplish their academic goals. I was accepted to PDP at SFU, but decided that I wanted a different career path. I reviewed some job descriptions and noticed that a background in Marketing was ideal. I looked through the Marketing programs at Douglas and noticed that there was a Post-Degree Diploma in Marketing which would fit my work schedule perfectly.
Were there any highlights from your time as a student you would want to share?

Some of my favourite highlights from my time as a Douglas College student were playing on the Varsity Softball team, working as a Youth Camp Leader, and feeling connected with my peers in the BPEC and PDD Marketing programs. Going to Douglas everyday felt like going to a second home because I knew majority of my classmates and the staff/faculty. It was also amazing to work with real-life companies such as Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, Share, Ian White – Life and Relationship Coach, and many more! The hands on experience have provided me with resources that other students from other institutions might not receive. This is ideal for employers since we have actual experience when we go to work for them.
Is there any advice you would give new students?

Take advantage of as many learning opportunities as you can to develop yourselves and to become more competitive in the work force. It is better to try to understand the material and not just achieve a good grade, because we are likely to forget what we got in our second-year marketing course but we can apply the material learned from it for the rest of our lives.
And when you don’t succeed, it is okay because failure can be the best outcome when you are working towards success. 
Become involved with as many clubs or leadership opportunities as possible. This is one of the best ways to meet new people and develop life-long friendships,

What are your plans after you graduate?
I am currently the Sport Science Placement at Douglas. The department is fun and engaging to work with and I can say that I love my job! Currently, I am applying to MBA programs where I will concentrate on Sport Management. I loved the PDD in Marketing so much that I decided to combine both my passions in marketing and sports. I plan to start in March 2017, so I decided to take a five week tour of Europe in September just to have some fun between programs.



Marlene McCaffrey

What drew you to study at Douglas College?
I started out with Douglas planning to go into the Nursing program and became very interested in biology and psychology. When I took a course in Biological Reasons for Behavior with Dr. Marshall, I found my passion. It was a blend of both of my interests. I was also able to complete my BA in an honours program where I was able to conduct research and defend a thesis. I was able to do all that with small classroom sizes, teachers who are passionate about what they are teaching and who truly care about their students. The fact that you can start at Douglas just trying a course or two and stay to complete an Honours Degree in Applied Psychology was an amazing opportunity. As a mature student, age never really occurred to me, I am a believer in life-long education. I believe that you should always challenge yourself and I consider life a journey in the pursuit of knowledge and service to others.

Were there any highlights from your time as a student you would want to share?
Graduating with my Honours Bachelor in Applied Psychology and being asked to be valedictorian has to be the biggest highlight of my educational career at Douglas College. It’s been a long road to graduation for me. I started many years ago and through many challenges and a lot of perseverance, I am so pleased to have reached the end of this journey and prepare to start my next one.

Is there any advice you would give new students?
Take advantage of the many resources that Douglas College has to offer, as well as the ability to go visit professors during their office hours for assistance, advice or guidance. Find your passion in life and even if you’re not sure what that is yet, take a leap and try something that interests you. You might just find, like me, your passion along the way of sampling the many courses that Douglas has to offer.

Don’t be afraid to take on a challenge. Whether that is a participating in a research poster contest for group work you’ve done, volunteering to help a professor in your Department with a Conference or study they are conducting, helping at the Student Union Office or becoming involved in the many groups at Douglas, look for ways to challenge yourself and connect with other students and with the faculty.

What are your plans after you graduate?
My next step is to apply to graduate school. I am hoping that I will be able to minor in neuropsychology at the same time as acquiring a PhD in Psychology. My long-term goal is to work as a child psychologist either in the capacity of research or practice.




Alina Reed

What drew you to study at Douglas College?
The specific program (Child and Youth Care) that was offered close to where I live. I chose Douglas College because of the price (being cheaper than university) and because of the small, intimate classes. I had no interest  in attending an institution where I was anonymous in a large class. This also gave me an opportunity to gain one-to-one support and guidance from the faculty – which I have heard is often not possible at larger institutions. To me, that is a deal breaker.
Were there any highlights from your time as a student you would want to share?
There are many highlights that I can share from my time at Douglas, but what comes to mind is my involvement in the Uganda Project in 2014. I applied to do my practicum in Uganda, and once I was accepted my view of the world and privilege as I know it changed so much. The year preparation was key – many international practicums do not offer that, which is a shame because I got so much out of that year. Additionally, I have to say that a highlight is the support I have gotten from the faculty in the program throughout my four years – especially in my last year in preparing to enter into a Master’s program in the next few years.
Is there any advice you would give new students?
Take advantage of the support and guidance from your professors, in class and outside of class – you will gain so much more than what is taught! Also, take pride in your work but don’t stress too much. Coming from someone who put a lot of pressure on herself, it’s not all about grades. I laugh saying that now because I had (and still have) very high expectations for myself and didn’t really listen to that at all. Finally, take a class that is either outside your comfort zone or something you wouldn’t normally take. You would be surprised how much your perspective can change and how much you can offer to your classmates. 
What are your plans after you graduate?
My plans now are to complete a Play Therapy Certificate through the Canadian Association for Child and Play Therapy this summer, and in 2017 begin my Master’s Degree in Child and Youth Care Counselling in order to become a child and youth clinical counsellor. And who knows, completing my PhD in the future does not sound too far-fetched.


Michelle Salema
What drew you to study at Douglas College?
I liked the Computer Science and Information Systems Diploma program offered at Douglas the best. I knew I wanted to get into technology – the industry is always growing and has so much opportunities – and I knew I wanted the more intimate, small class sizes I didn’t want to be just a number in a class of 100 students, I wanted to build relationships with my teachers and get to know my classmates. 
Were there any highlights from your time as a student you would want to share?
Everyday felt like a highlight, to be honest. I learned something new every time I went into class. But the best feeling was in my last semester when my team and I created a really awesome mobile app. It was the first piece of work that I felt was good enough to be put into the real world. I was – and still am – very proud of it. Throughout creating the app, I overcame a lot of obstacles that I thought I couldn’t get through. But with teamwork, and time, we pulled it together and created something we were proud of.
Is there any advice you would give new students?
Ask questions in class, get to know your teachers and be vocal. You are here to learn, so take advantage of all the resources that you can. Do your work and be passionate about it. It’s better to learn from your mistakes in the classroom than in a real job. Remember what you came here for, and make sure you get it.
What are your plans after you graduate?
Currently, I am working as a contracted software developer for a small startup. The whole things still feels a little surreal. It’s pretty cool to see how someone’s idea can turn into a huge multi-million dollar business. I got the connection through Douglas College’s career adviser and I will be forever thankful!

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