Douglas 360°

Make connections, grow your skills and promote research at Douglas

By Alison Henwood, Communications Officer, Research and Innovation Office

Did you know that you can support and promote research happening at Douglas College – and get paid for it?

Cassidy Penney, Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching student at Douglas College.
Cassidy Penney promotes science and tech research at Douglas.

Student Research Ambassadors work within their faculties to raise awareness of research, share opportunities and get their fellow students involved.

Our current SRAs, Megan Scott (Health Sciences), Lauren Wittal (Health Sciences), Cassidy Penney (Science and Technology) and Jennifer Browning (Humanities and Social Sciences) share why they applied for the role, what they’ve been up to, and how the experience has enriched their time at Douglas.

A life-changing experience

After taking a Research Methods (SPSC 3256) course, Cassidy, a fourth-year Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching student, was intrigued by the research process.

 “One of my main jobs has been to promote science and tech research at Douglas College through social media,” says Cassidy. “That has involved collecting stories on current projects. It’s so neat to be able to get a glimpse into another field of research through the eyes of the researchers themselves.”

Read more: This Chemistry instructor is turning coffee grounds into biofuel.

Lauren, a third-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, was intimidated by the thought of being involved with research, but that’s exactly what led her to become an SRA.

Lauren Wittal, Bachelor of Science in Nursing student at Douglas College.
Lauren Wittal was once intimidated by research, but not anymore.

“I felt research was something only people with a PhD could do,” she says. “I wanted to get a better understanding of research, how it is conducted and, additionally, as a BSN student, I wanted to increase my understanding of research to follow evidence-based practice.”

One of the highlights of being an SRA for Lauren has been supporting a study on the lived experience of nurses during COVID-19.

“This study has been so eye opening.  I have talked with nurses who have been working on the front lines for a year,” she says. “Through virtual focus groups, I’ve heard about their challenges, their strengths, and what has given them hope. Actively participating in research has been a life-changing experience.”

Read more: This Sport Science instructor created a video game to help rehabilitate stroke victims.

Jennifer, a second-year Criminology student, was interested in different disciplines and how they informed criminology. 

“I am also a curious person by nature, so I love to know what kinds of questions people are asking and how they are going about finding the answers,” she says.

Jennifer got involved in the first Humanities and Social Sciences Poster Board Event, which involves recruiting and managing presenters, working with faculty, and a lot of organization.

“Even though we are still in the recruitment phase, it’s shaping up to be an exciting event that I hope Douglas students will want to attend.”

Megan, a third-year student in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, got her first taste of being involved with research as a member of the Douglas Student Union’s Health Sciences Journal Club. Since then she has gotten involved in research much as possible.

Being an SRA helps you to engage more with faculty, other students and the College as a whole.

Jennifer Browning, criminology student

“Being in the nursing program, I quickly realized how important it is to be involved in research, as health science rapidly evolves,” she says.

Megan has worked with fellow RA Lauren to create a Health Sciences Research social media presence as well as promote ways to get involved in research at the College. “We created an Instagram page and also post to the Research at Douglas Facebook page,” says Megan.

“We have also been active members of the BSPN Research Interest Group, which is made up of Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing students and faculty members who come together to share, participate and facilitate research, and we sit in on meetings with the Research and Scholarly Activity Committee, as well as provide support to faculty research projects.”

Read more: This English instructor is telling true tales of dementia through comics.

The best thing you’ll ever do

Lauren says becoming an SRA is the best thing you’ll ever do at Douglas.

“When we get involved, we get so much more out of our education. Not only does it look good on a resume, but the experience of analyzing a journal article or conducting a research study is an amazing learning opportunity.”

Megan Scott, Bachelor of Science in Nursing student at Douglas College.
As she prepares for a career in health sciences, Megan Scott knows the value of actively taking part in research.

“Being an SRA helps you to engage more with faculty, other students and the college as a whole,” adds Jennifer. “I feel a much greater connection to Douglas now, which I didn’t think was possible with everything being online.”

“It is truly amazing how much engaging in research at Douglas has enhanced my educational experience,” Megan says. “I feel so connected with resources throughout various different departments. I am so thankful for this opportunity.”

Want to become a Student Research Ambassador? Visit the Douglas Careers site and keep an eye out for upcoming opportunities at the start of each semester. You can also join our Facebook group, Research at Douglas, to learn more.

4 ways the Career Centre can help you plan for your dream job

Have you thought about what you’ll do after you graduate? Do you want to find a part-time job, try a few jobs before you choose your career, or gain skills and experience through a Co-op semester?

The Career Centre is your go-to for all these questions and more. They offer programs and services to help you learn how to apply your academic knowledge to your work and plan for your future.

Career clinics

These are a series of weekly workshops to help you learn what to do, and what not to do, on your career path. There are 28 topics, including how to write resumes and cover letters, how to network and use LinkedIn, job search techniques, negotiation skills and more. Additional specialized workshops are offered throughout the semester. You can check the events calendar on CareerHUB.

1:1 coaching by appointment

Career coaches are there to support and champion you through your job search, applications and interviews. They can teach you about cultural awareness, answer your questions and help you work through any concerns. Book an appointment on CareerHUB.

Career Boost program for post-degree students

If you’re a student in a post-degree program, this is where you will develop skills and knowledge about the local market to help you succeed in your job search. Hone your skills while you look for work to complement your study area. Join anytime in the semester and get career coaching to support you to reach your goals.

Co-operative education program

Co-op alternates a semester of academic studies with a semester of paid, full-time work. You’ll get hands-on work experience that’s relevant to your career. Students typically take their first Co-op terms in the third semester of their program. This is a great opportunity to apply classroom theory to a real work environment, build self-confidence and gain experience for your resume. You can find a list of all eligible programs for Co-op on this page.

Visit for workshop dates and times.

Discovering his passion: how this alum’s time at Douglas helped him build the foundation for his career

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Psychology alum Aran Armutlu not only earned a degree at Douglas, he also gained an interest in advocating for students and education. 

“I’m a firm believer that education leads to social and economic mobility,” says Aran, who now works as a Student Engagement Coordinator at Simon Fraser University (SFU), developing workshops, volunteer opportunities and leadership programs for students. “When we reduce barriers for people to access quality education, we are directly and positively impacting a person’s ability to create opportunity for themselves. I think it’s really important for people from different walks of life to have access to education.”  

A rocky start

Despite Aran’s interest in education, his own relationship with it wasn’t always positive.

“At 17 I had no idea what I wanted to do,” says Aran, who started his post-secondary journey at Concordia University pursuing a business degree. “Business wasn’t something I was really interested in, and I wasn’t sure if I was even ready for university. I felt directionless.”

Knowing that business wasn’t his path, Aran took time off to work and figure out what he wanted to study. After two years and some soul-searching, he decided to come to Douglas for a change of pace and a fresh start.

“I told myself I wanted to do it differently this time,” he says. “I wanted to find opportunities, get involved and explore what I wanted to study. Feeling connected to my school was the biggest thing for me.”

Aran did just that. Shortly after starting at Douglas, he joined the Student Ambassador program, where he got involved with student orientation and helping students transition to college life.

“I immediately felt connected to my peers, and that I had found my sense of place,” says Aran.

Read more: How Student Ambassadors play an integral role in the future of Douglas College

Advocating for students  

This newfound connection extended to academics. Studying at a college allowed Aran to get a quality education at a more affordable price. This gave him the freedom to explore a wide range of subjects as he figured out what he wanted to focus on, which turned out to be psychology. He planned to take the first two years of his bachelor’s degree at Douglas and transfer to university. Then, fate intervened.

“Douglas announced the Applied Psychology degree program and I knew I had to stay,” he says. “I loved it at Douglas. I loved the smaller community feel in my classes, the connections I’d made and my professors.”

Staying at Douglas meant getting more involved on campus as well. Because he’d already forged strong relationships with his peers and fellow Student Ambassadors, he continued building on that foundation.

“Instead of starting again and having to build new relationships at a new school, I took bigger steps at Douglas and got involved with the Douglas Students’ Union,” says Aran.

And the decision paid off. Aran was elected to the DSU’s board as the Director of Finance and Staff Relations Officer, where he worked with faculty and administration to improve the student learning experience and make education more affordable. He went on to become chairperson of the B.C. Federation of Students (BCFS), a provincial-level student union. 

Discovering a career

While Aran’s interest in advocating for students was fostered by his involvement in student leadership, it was long-standing Douglas physics instructor, Jennifer Kirkey, who introduced him to another one of his interests: Open Educational Resources.

OERs are public domain, no-cost and freely accessible resources – such as textbooks, multi-media files, software and much more – that are created to increase access to education and knowledge.

 “The whole point is to reduce as many barriers as possible to knowledge and make it less about ownership and more about accessibility,” Aran explains. “It really caught my interest, and I knew it’d be a huge benefit for students.”

As part of the DSU and BCFS, Aran helped adopt OERs both at Douglas and at post-secondary institutions across the province. He is currently a member of SFU’s OER Working Group, where he works to create awareness and build capacity for adopting OERs.

In 2019, Aran was the 15th recipient of BC Campus’s Award for Excellence in Open Education, an honour that his former instructor, Jennifer Kirkey, also received.  

“Education is a huge social justice issue – it has an impact on society as a whole. It’s why I care so much about the work I do,” says Aran.  

SHIFT-ing the Conversation: An interview with Jakub Burkowicz

SHIFT 2021 aims to explore and uncover the wide-ranging social impacts of COVID-19. Panels and community dialogue sessions will feature stories, lived experiences, arts, and culture. This event series will zero in on sexual and gender-based violence, mental health and well-being, anti-racism and decolonization, and what we as individuals and a society can – and should – do in these novel times.

Jakub Burkowicz, a sociologist and faculty member at Douglas College, will be a panelist for the Teaching Showcase. (March 4, 2021, 10:30am)

We chatted with Jakub about why he got involved with SHIFT, what he thinks about systemic racism and how to create anti-racist virtual classrooms.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in SHIFT

I first learned about SHIFT when I started working at Douglas College in 2017. I was in the same department as Lisa Smith, Chair of Anthropology and Sociology, who is on the organizing committee, and I accepted her invitation to moderate a SHIFT panel that year called Women’s Sport as Politics. This time I will be presenting at the Teaching Showcase where I will give a talk on how white educators like me can implement anti-racism in the classroom. My teaching and research areas are race and ethnicity, social movements and social theory, and I am excited to draw insights from all three for this event.

  1. SHIFT is about tracing the social impacts of COVID-19 and places a focus on dialogue and conversation. Can you share with us a social issue (or two or three) you feel needs to be brought to light and why?

The social issue I will be tackling is racism in the classroom. In an obvious sense, racism itself is spotlighted in the media as movements push for social change. If movements like Black Lives Matter indicate anything, it is the growing willingness in the general population to recognize systemic racism as a social issue, especially as it concerns police brutality. While that is important, Canadians are less willing to recognize systemic racism in other institutions, like education for example. That’s where I come in. I see myself, especially as a white person, as being responsible for doing something about it. Systemic racism doesn’t just affect police departments – it’s endemic to social institutions in general.

  1. For you, what does equitable, anti-racist teaching look like in a virtual classroom?

You don’t get to read people the same way in a virtual classroom. I remember teaching a class on white privilege before the pandemic and seeing one of my students tense up. I was able to say to them, “You look uncomfortable with this.” I could address that, and I can’t do that in a virtual classroom. My lectures are all asynchronous, so there is also that lack of real-time interaction with students. 

What this means is that now I focus exclusively on the discussion boards and written assignments. If students embody racial prejudice, I see it as my job to point it out to them. But it’s never that straightforward. Students do not tend to openly announce their biases. This means that I must read between the proverbial lines and look for unconscious biases reflected in things like denying or downplaying racism or taking Eurocentrism for granted. It also means extending that invitation to my students to call me out if they ever see me engaging in those kinds of behaviours. Normalizing this is, I think, quite healthy. 

Besides that, anti-racist teaching in the virtual classroom also means creating space for BIPOC students. I do so by encouraging students to share how they identify, and acknowledging and examining how our social identities shape our perspectives.   

SHIFT-ing the conversation: An interview with Amber Brown

SHIFT 2021 aims to explore and uncover the wide-ranging social impacts of COVID-19. Panels and community dialogue sessions will feature stories, lived experiences, arts, and culture. This event series will zero in on sexual and gender-based violence, mental health and well-being, anti-racism and decolonization, and what we as individuals and a society can – and should – do in these novel times.

Amber Brown, a fourth-year student in the Honours Applied Psychology program at Douglas College, will be moderating the Student Research Showcase (Wednesday, March 03, at 1:30 PM).

Amber provided us with some insight into her work with SHIFT and the impact of COVID-19 on communities and research.   

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in SHIFT

I am currently an Honours student in Psychology pursuing explorative multicultural research towards Indigenous peoples at Douglas College. Learning about SHIFT from passionate faculty members is how I got involved, and I stay on with the project because I want to support student-led research. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back to the DC research community and contribute to what I hope to be an empowering experience for other student researchers.

  1. SHIFT is about tracing the social impacts of COVID-19 and places a focus on dialogue and conversation. Can you share a social issue (or two or three) you feel needs to be brought to light and why? 

The ability to self-isolate in a safe place is a privilege in a pandemic world, as many who live in unstable or violent households are unable to do so. This dynamic is evident from the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic. At the same time, many shelters and temporary housing options have had to decrease their occupancy due to COVID regulations. Overall, we are failing people who face housing security and domestic violence and much more government support is needed.  

  1. How do you think researchers have had to adjust their focus and methods in light of the urgency of the pandemic and its devastating impact on communities?   

I’ve noticed that, with a seemingly universal sense of loss and uncertainty, people can forget to consider the systems that were failing beforethe pandemic. Despite all of us going through it together, the pandemic has intensified existing stratifications of class, leaving vulnerable groups further behind. Many researchers have had to turn to a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” approach, highlighting ‘loud’ or palatable social issues in hopes of securing needed attention and support for vulnerable communities.

While I understand the rationale behind this, I am afraid it will take us on a dangerous path. Often, research focused on marginalized communities can lead members of those groups to feel like they are another statistic with the odds against them. I want to avoid these groups feeling ‘researched to death’ but rather research them back to life.

I would like to see research that promotes what is currently working for these communities, what success looks like for them, and to show the public and policymakers that these groups are more than capable when supported.

Beating the winter blues: How to enhance your self-care when it’s cold and grey outside

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

Feeling a little down these days? You may be experiencing the winter blues, a milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder that affects your energy, appetite and mood. Upwards of 15 percent of Canadians experience the winter blues. And this year that low feeling may be compounded by anxiety around the pandemic, including ongoing social restrictions and mandates to stay indoors.

If you’re struggling, check out these tips and resources from Douglas College and beyond to help you uplift your mood and stay well mentally, emotionally and physically.

Wellness events and activities

The Virtual Health Fair Week: Wellness in a Time of Virtual Learning is happening online March 15-19. Join us for this week-long series of events focused on prioritizing and supporting your health and well-being during a time of virtual learning.

Check out our Wellness Activities page for activities you can do at home any time, from meditation to colouring, journalling and more.

Get your endorphins going by joining a virtual fitness class like yoga, circuit training or boot camp.

Connect with like-minded peers through one of the many clubs run by the DSU or by getting involved at the College through volunteer programs.

Seven students hold a yoga tree pose on mats in yoga class pre-pandemic.
Yoga class pre-pandemic; you can still get your exercise in at home with online fitness classes!

Learning Centre

School can affect your mental health, especially if you are struggling with a particular course or subject, have a lot of projects on the go or are studying for exams. The Learning Centre offers tutoring, writing assistance and advice from peer tutors to help you succeed.

Peer tutors work with you to improve your study and writing skills and can help you understand concepts you are learning in your courses. If you are not a fluent English speaker, English language tutors are available to help you with the writing, listening, reading and speaking skills you need to succeed in your courses.

You can also take workshops on a variety of academic topics, from study tips, to grammar, to improving your communication skills.

All services are online and free to Douglas College students.

Indigenous Student Services

Students who identify as Indigenous can access culturally sensitive and specific support, including one-to-one sessions with an Indigenous Student Advisor or peer mentor, advocacy, or a quiet space to study and connect with other Indigenous students. Visit our website for more details and contact information.


Counselling services at Douglas include personal, career and education counselling. These services are free and offered on Zoom. If you want to talk to someone, contact Counselling to make an appointment.

Additionally, Counselling hosts wellness workshops and group sessions each semester. Two drop-in sessions run weekly:

  • Virtual Calm, Thursdays at 7:30pm. Learn activities and exercises to help calm anxiety and improve mental resilience.
  • International Café, Mondays at 9:30am. Domestic and international students come together to talk about culture, diversity, life in Canada and more.

Visit Counselling’s webpage for the full list of all offerings and to register.

Additional mental health and wellness resources

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has created a Guide to Student Mental Health During COVID-19 with lots of helpful tips and information specifically for students.

Check out our Wellness Resources page for informative articles on mental health and well-being, and suggestions for self-care, healthy habits and more.

Here2Talk is a 24/7 confidential counselling and community referral service, free for students.

If you are experiencing a crisis or personal emergency, you can get help from community agencies, many of which are available 24 hours a day.

Finding his rhythm: Music Technology grad engineers a career he loves, one beat at a time

By Coriana Constanda, Marketing and Communications

Not many people can say they make a living from making music. But Adam Castillo can. One of his favourite things about his job is connecting with artists and learning their stories. He works as an audio engineer with rap, hip-hop, R&B and indie vocalists, and started his own production company, MDKNGHT Studios, in 2016 while attending the Music Technology Diploma program at Douglas College. He mostly makes music for the local Metro Vancouver scene, recently mixing and mastering three albums: Wishful Thinking (artist @fleetwoodhueyy), the Casper Project (artist @dxadpoxt) and M3 (artist @gravehearted).

“A lot of artists think that to make it in the industry you have to move to places like Toronto or Los Angeles, but I feel like there’s going to be some really good music coming out of this city within the next five or 10 years,” says Adam.

Most of the vocalists Adam works with are emerging artists who haven’t recorded any tracks professionally. He connects with them largely through recommendations, word of mouth and social media. Although he produces music to share all kinds of stories, the sad songs – the ones he and his audience can relate to – often move Adam the most.

“When I started out, it was with friends who just needed a way to get what they had in their heart into a song,” says Adam. “I was going to school at the time, so I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll help you with that.’ Sometimes people come with a heavy song about hardship or heartbreak. So it’s almost a therapy session, just through music.”

From play to passion

Adam’s parents were always singing karaoke or playing music at home when he was a kid. As he got older, he got into Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Then, one day, he decided to play a real instrument. He got an electric guitar and started learning songs by Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. He joined some bands in high school and practised for hours every day. Music wasn’t just an interest, hobby and skill for Adam, it was also a way to process and express his thoughts and emotions.

Music has always been a means of expression for me. If I go through a tough experience and keep it bottled up, it doesn’t get resolved. Music is a creative outlet for that energy.”

After high school, Adam’s parents wanted him to become a doctor or police officer. So he stopped making music and took some college science courses, but he wasn’t enjoying them and his grades weren’t great. After a few years at college, he took a break from school to work for a while. It was at this point he discovered the Garage Band app and, as he started experimenting, he remembered how much he loved making music.

Around the same time he was getting back into music, he saw an ad for the Music Technology Diploma (MTD) at Douglas College. He considered a couple of other options for music programs, but Douglas offered one with practical application and it made the most sense financially.

“I made the decision to attend the MTD program thinking, I’ve spent all this time on things I’m not into. This time I’m going to try something I’m decent at and that interests me.”

Throughout the program, Adam took courses on music theory, production, audio engineering and recording, branding and marketing, film scoring and more.

“What I appreciated is that the instructors are also musicians,” says Adam. “They’re down to earth and genuinely helpful, they’re creative and passionate about teaching music. One of the greatest benefits of the program was making industry connections and collaborating with likeminded people, as well as getting different perspectives on the industry.”

One of Adam’s biggest challenges was the extensive coursework and projects each semester, including a final showcase at the end of the program. Although he struggled a bit at first, learning how to effectively manage his time and balance his workload helped prepare him to succeed.

Inspired by music legends

Although Adam also plays his own music, he chose a career in production because he prefers to be behind the scenes and enjoys creating the atmosphere for the artist. His musical influences include everything from Eminem and Dr. Dre, to Pink Floyd and the Coldplay, to classical music. He’s inspired by diverse genres, as well as the sounds of nature and his surroundings, his personal experiences and other people’s stories. He wants his work to evoke a wide range of emotions and take audiences on different journeys.

“I want the listener to feel like their vibe is heightened. There’s a time and place for party music, but I want to talk about real things as well. So I think the challenge is to mix both. Ideally, I want people to feel like they are in a different place for a moment. To be immersed in the story.”

Some of the artists he admires most include The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac and Biggie Smalls. When it comes to his creative production process, Adam’s approach is a combination of going with the flow and efficient time management.

“If I’m feeling a certain way or if I’m experiencing an abundance of a specific energy, I try to channel it through music. In my opinion, the ‘realest’ art is created this way.”

Making dreams come true

In the future, Adam would like to open a fully equipped co-op studio to provide a recording space for artists, as well as opportunities for younger producers and audio engineers. Another dream of his is to teach in the MTD program at Douglas and work with up-and-coming talent.

When it comes to the next generation, Adam’s advice to young artists interested in entering the industry is to learn the technology and software side of the work as much as the business and marketing side, so they can streamline and promote what they make. He recommends being open to constructive criticism to improve and hone one’s skills, and reminds young artists to enjoy the process.

“Have fun, trust yourself and create what makes you feel good,” says Adam. “Don’t force creativity. If you’re not feeling it, set it aside for a bit and go recharge. At the end of the day, if you’re happy with what you’re making then you’re on the right track. Also, keep in mind that there is no end-game as an artist or musician. Even the best in the world are still improving and learning new things. So never stop growing and always strive to be better than yesterday.”

High impact: How this alum found his calling in coaching and personal training

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

For alum Aaron Chew, becoming a personal trainer and strength coach was in the cards.

Growing up, Aaron played basketball, football and volleyball, but it wasn’t until he was in university pursuing his Criminology degree that he became more interested in general fitness and bodybuilding during his free time.

The more he learned through his own fitness journey, the more he started considering pursuing personal training professionally.

“Originally I thought personal training would be something I did as a side gig to a career in law,” says Aaron. “But as I started to get more involved in the industry and started learning the intricacies of training athletes, I was fortunate that a lot of opportunities started to come my way. It was something I was passionate about, so it made sense to continue pursuing this path.”

And his willingness to pursue his passion paid off. Over his career, Aaron has worked as a strength coach, manual therapist and clinician with clients like the BC Lions, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Kori Hol from the Team Canada Bobsleigh team and Basketball BC’s 2017 Canada Summer Games team.

Journey to coaching

Knowing he wanted to explore the possibility of becoming a personal trainer, Aaron turned to Douglas’s A to Z: How to Become a Personal Trainer.

For Aaron, the program was a great way to build on the knowledge he’d already gained through his own fitness journey. A to Z’s three modules – fitness theory, weight training and personal training – equip students with the knowledge they need to succeed in the industry, while preparing them for the BCRPA Fitness Theory Exam, recognized as one of the leading qualifiers for fitness professionals in British Columbia.   

“There aren’t many places that offer this type of program,” Aaron says. “There are a few private organizations, sure, but I appreciated that this type of program was being offered by a recognized, college-level institution. It prepared me to work in the industry in six months.”

After completing the program, Aaron worked with athletes at SFU, UBC and the University of Washington. To build on his knowledge and experience, Aaron went on to earn his Master’s in Kinesiology at UBC and his Massage Therapy diploma at Ontario College of Health and Technology.

“Strength and conditioning is kind of the ultimate jack of all trades profession. You have to be pretty good at everything in order to succeed,” Aaron says. “I like to vary and broaden my experience and my skillset to make me a better coach and educator.”

 Read more: A quest to improve his health led Criminology alum Sumeet Sharma to compete in international weightlifting championships

Full circle

While Aaron’s academic and professional journey has taken him across North America, he recently returned to Douglas – this time, as an instructor of the very program where he got his start.

Providing Canadian bobsleigh athlete Kori Hol with a Fascial Stretch Therapy treatment.

“It’s full circle, in a way,” Aaron says. “I’ve had the benefit of having a lot of great teachers, instructors and coaches over the years who have inspired me. One of my goals is to give back and pass on knowledge like they did for me.”

And with his wealth of experience, he has a lot to offer.  

“The coaching and personal training industry is extremely competitive and volatile in terms of trainers trying to fight for their own space. So sometimes trainers can become super specialized in order to one-up or outdo each other,” explains Aaron. “The biggest thing I try to impart on my students is to not pigeonhole themselves into that narrow way of thinking or practice because it can get you into trouble in the long run in terms of your own development.”

Aaron continues to take his own advice. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has pivoted to offer his services – everything from coaching, to sports nutrition, to lecturing – entirely online.

“Coaching online has been a challenge, that’s for sure,” says Aaron, who is still coaching his existing and long-term clients like Kori Hol online. “But it’s allowed me to continue to learn new ways of providing real-time feedback in a way that continues to resonate with the athlete.”

Want to connect and network with people like Aaron in the Douglas community? Join Douglas College Café, an exclusive mentoring and networking program. Learn more on the Douglas College website.

8 tips to manage your finances as a Douglas College student

by Emma Horsley, Associate Registrar, Student Success, Curriculum & Graduation

It is never too late to start learning to manage your finances, and the wonderful thing about Douglas is we have Student Success Advisors (SSAs) who can provide you with guidance and advice. Here are some favourite financial planning resources and top tips from our SSAs to help you manage your finances as a DC student. 

1) Create a budget and find tools that help you stay on track. 

Budgeting is an organized way of managing your money. It allows you to plan your finances based on what money is coming in and what is going out. There are a lot of great budgeting tools available. We like the Canada Student Budget Worksheet and Canada Budget Planner

Once you have created a budget, find a tool that works for you to track your day-to-day expenses and help you stick to your budget. A simple paper and pen can work, but there are also great apps to help you track your spending. For example, Mint

2) Reduce your costs and spend your money wisely.  

By exploring your options, you can get better deals that will save you money. Small changes in your perspective and habits can result in big savings. Here are some ideas that may help you save:  

  • Look for eBooks or used textbooks. 
  • Take advantage of student discounts.  
  • Use the library (public libraries are open during Covid).
  • Check your bills and try to pay them in full and on time so you don’t pay late fees, interest or penalties. Pay down your most expensive debt first. 
  • Negotiate better plans on banking fees and services like cell phone and internet. 
  • Review your budget and spending: What’s a necessity and what’s a nice-to-have? Factor in everything from rent, food and bills to clothes, shopping and entertainment.

3) Build your financial knowledge and ask questions. 

It’s never too late to learn key principles that will help you build your financial knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your bills, bank statements, loan documentation or tuition payments. It’s ok if you don’t understand something – seek out experts who can help, and check out some of our favourite online resources to build your knowledge: Managing your money and Money Tips and Tools

4) Be aware of phishing and online scams.

One important part of building your financial literacy is knowing how to protect your money and yourself from fraud. Be aware of fraudulent texts or emails claiming to be from government or financial institutions. No government or bank agencies should be asking for your personal details by text or email. If somebody reaches out to you about free money, a prize or award, be suspicious. Ask questions and do not share your passwords or personal information with anyone. This is a great website for reviewing existing frauds and provides helpful tips on how to identify them.  

5) Understand your Student Loan options. 

The federal and provincial governments operate a variety of student loan programs to provide financial assistance to post-secondary students. The purpose of these loans is to supplement your financial resources, and you must start paying them back six months after you finish school. Student loans also have lower interest rates than bank loans or personal credit lines. We encourage you to apply for full-time or part-time student loans two months before your term starts. The latest you can apply, with all the required documents, is 6 weeks before your study term ends. This website is a great resource to learn more. 

6) Take advantage of the ‘free’ money available to students. 

There are several funding options that do not need to be paid back. Government grants and scholarships are available for Canadian students, and the Douglas College Bursary program is currently open to all students. Consider also exploring external award and scholarship opportunities that exist at Douglas, and in your own communities.

We highly recommend you look into the benefits available to you as a student. For example, your DSU Health and Dental program, the UPASS (available if you’re enrolled in courses on campus) and other student programs like the Student Price Card (SPC).  

7) Have a goal and plan how to achieve it.  

Setting and defining your goals, and tracking your progress, can help you achieve your objectives. Use the Program Guides and myPath to plan your academic goals, and a Financial Goal Calculator for financial planning. 

Your Student Success Advisor is a great resource to support you with planning your goals. Reach out to them to book an appointment. Every Douglas College student has recently been assigned to an SSA. If you do not know who your SSA is, email to find out!

8) Know where to go for additional help. 

Regardless of how much planning we do, unforeseen financial circumstances sometimes come up. If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation and require a bit of extra help, consider reaching out. Douglas College has support through the DSU Emergency Food Bank and the DC Emergency Fund. Contact your Student Success Advisor to learn more.

This Child and Youth Care student overcame personal challenges and now wants to help young people

Having experienced hardship and personal struggle in her youth, Marie-Patrice Cusson decided to enrol in the Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care program to learn how to provide children and young people with the emotional support she wishes she’d had when she was younger. Now a second-year student, Marie reflects on the challenges she overcame while growing up, how her experience made her more empathetic and how Douglas is helping her prepare for a career supporting young people to heal, grow and thrive.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What was life like growing up?

My name is Marie-Patrice, I’m 20 years old and a second-year Child and Youth Care student at Douglas College. I was born in Vancouver but currently live in Port Coquitlam. My younger brother and I grew up with parents who divorced when I was six years old. I also have a physical disability (two dislocated hips). My life wasn’t always stable; I had doctors’ appointments, conflict at home, we didn’t have a lot of money and we moved around a lot. When I was three years old I joined choir and did that for 15 years – I love musicals and singing. Every Monday I had choir for three hours and I felt it was the only steady part of my life. My conductor was always compassionate and comforting, offering me snacks when there wasn’t enough food at home. Although I had some support from family, friends and choir growing up, I always wished I had more emotional support at school from 8-16 years old. So, I looked for ways to use my personal experiences to help others.

What motivated you to enroll in the Child and Youth Care (CYC) program at Douglas?

Marie-Patrice Cusson

Ever since I was young, I have wanted to help people. I lacked the support I needed in school and didn’t have someone who understood what I was going through, so I thought my emotions didn’t matter. I was happy, coped well, and was grateful for the people who helped my family, but I needed someone to talk to about what I was feeling. So now, I want to validate what kids are going through. I want to help them understand that what they are feeling is okay and provide them with emotional resources, and Douglas is helping me do that.

What are you enjoying about learning at Douglas?

It has been the most reflective experience I have ever had. Douglas is such an open-minded and accepting environment. It provides inclusive and creative learning that focuses on helping students clearly understand the material. The instructors are very easy to talk to and are always willing to help.

Have you done any work or volunteering relevant to your program?

I did a lot of volunteering in high school with the City of Port Coquitlam as a camp leader for their kindergarteners and musical theatre camps. It was great helping kids socialize and interact with each other. I was also able to help them when they felt down or lonely by giving them a trusting relationship. Until recently, I was volunteering with the Signal Hill Value Project. They choose five students from various high schools and take them on a retreat for three days, where they learn that each individual is unique and has innate value.

What are you most proud of in your life so far – challenges you have overcome or accomplishments you have made?

I am proud that, despite everything in my childhood and with my disability, I have always had goals. I was the ambassador for the Centre for Child Development, which focuses on physiotherapy for kids with disabilities. I am proud of all of the service trips I went on in high school. I went to New York in Grade 12 to help underprivileged children in the Bronx, where we provided help with schoolwork. I also went to Los Angeles to help the homeless community on Skid Row. Some people may think if you have a disability or struggle financially that you can’t achieve as much in life, but I’ve worked hard and persevered, and I am proving that it is possible.  

What are your career goals after graduation?

After I finish my BA, I want to be a youth worker and help develop programs for kids to learn how to care for their mental and emotional health. I also want to get a master’s degree in either child and youth counselling or social work.

What advice would you give students considering the Child and Youth Care program at Douglas College?

If you want to have a reflective and enriched learning experience with people who will change your life through kindness, you should absolutely do it.

Interested in our Child and Youth Care program? Attend an upcoming info session to learn more.