Douglas 360°

Dear new students: You will regret not attending Strong Start

By Hannah Lohnes, Early Childhood Education student and Student Assistant, Student Life

Hello fellow students! My name is Hannah, and I am a soon-to-be second-year student in Douglas’s Early Childhood Education program. 

I attended Strong Start: New Student Orientation when I started at Douglas in September 2020. It was my first semester back to school after taking a few years off from post-secondary education. I was incredibly nervous about navigating a new school during a pandemic, with online classes. I did not know what services were available to me, how the online system worked or who to talk to about the hundreds of questions I had. Ah! Starting anywhere new is terrifying, and I was so afraid I would miss something important. 

Answers, advice, tips and more 

Luckily, I got an email from the College asking if I wanted to sign up for Strong Start. I had no idea what it was but thought, “Might as well sign up for everything they send me. Something will probably be helpful!” It ended up being the best decision I could have made. Through the short online Blackboard course, I learned all the basics of Douglas, like its history, where the campuses are and the various College services. I swear I finished it with a notepad full of more questions and things to check out! But at that point, I knew where to go to get the information I wanted. The Blackboard course was very easy to use, and with it being self-paced, I could pause and go do other things. So I finished the course over a couple of days. 

I had no idea there was so much support you can receive as a Douglas student. In my previous college experience elsewhere, we were not made aware of anything beyond, “enrolment services is in that building, and the cafeteria is over there.” I didn’t know that a college could have tutors that support you in your classes or a department that  help you create a learning plan if you had accessibility needs (they have been amazing at working with my focus and memory problems!), or that you could even get a job as a student assistant with many of the service departments. After going through Strong Start, I wanted to be as involved as possible in college life. 

Read more: Staying connected during a pandemic: my Student Ambassador experience

Knowledge equals confidence 

This orientation to Douglas also came in handy once I got hired as a student assistant helping with Kickstart coaching, in-person campus tours and the upcoming Friday Hangouts this Fall. I felt prepared to answer student questions about services and confident in leading the campus tours as I knew I could better assist my fellow students with the information I’d found most useful when I started. 

I highly recommend Strong Start to any new student who has questions or concerns about starting at Douglas College. The information it provides was crucial to my first semester’s success, and for knowing what is available to me for the next few years of studies. You have the whole school supporting you and cheering you on, you just need to know where to look. Go forth and succeed – you’re going to have an amazing time here. 

Get on board: This Human Resources alum found and cultivated her talent — for talent acquisition

By Zach Siddiqui, Communications Coordinator

Recruitment is a thrill for Riddhi Shah. As a human resources professional, Riddhi loves the ever-changing, people-oriented nature of her work — every day means a fresh experience. 

“I like to stay occupied,” she says. “And HR is a field where I can always look forward to a new conversation.” 

Human resources wasn’t always Riddhi’s goal. But finding her aptitude for it led her to enrol in Douglas’s Post Degree Diploma in Human Resource Management. After a year of juggling her studies, career and extracurriculars, Riddhi’s proving that it’s never too late to break into this industry.  

A sudden re-orientation 

Once an aspiring journalist, Riddhi earned her bachelor’s degree in mass media. By graduation, though, her interest started flagging. Unsure of her next steps, Riddhi found direction after scoring an interview at a recruitment agency in her hometown of Mumbai, India.  

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure what human resources was until I researched it before my interview,” she says. Despite that bottleneck, she got the job, soon throwing herself into a daily rhythm of research, outreach and connection. 

“As a recruiter, you link the right people with the right opportunities,” she says. “But what does an engineer do? What about an IT expert? Which skills make someone the right candidate? I learned so much about not only HR, but also the lives people lead in the industries I was doing HR work for.” 

Riddhi fell in love with her newfound trajectory and continued her line of work for almost three years. Nonetheless, she saw a widening gap in credentials between herself and her coworkers. 

“I’d started completely fresh. Meanwhile, some of my colleagues had already earned their Master of Business Administration in the HR field,” she explains. “As I advanced in my career, there were just too many fish in the pond. I had no MBA, diploma or certifications. I couldn’t show employers what I was capable of. 

“If I wanted this career, I had to educate myself further.” 

Read more: Striking the right chord: How this music alum found his calling in film and TV

Training on passion 

In researching her options for studying abroad, Riddhi eventually came across Douglas’s Post-Degree Diploma in Human Resource Management. The one-year diploma program teaches principles of management, labour relations, employment law and more. Students also receive support and training through the Career Boost Program, which coaches students through job-hunting before and after they graduate.   

Riddhi began her first courses in the thick of COVID-19’s onset, making her one of many who had to navigate the switch to online instruction. However, she notes that she always felt supported. She credits the diligence of her teachers and counsellors for this, as they consistently provided quality education and resources despite the circumstances. 

“The professors teaching in this program are very passionate about what they do,” Riddhi says. “Honestly, that gets transferred to us, too. Listening in class, you think, ‘I want to do this work as well.’”  

Riddhi’s program is one of many paths to earn the Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation. Nationally recognized, and critical for aspiring HR professionals, the CPHR credential broadens students’ options for career advancement. 

Read more: Taking his education to the bank with help from the Career Centre

Fringe benefits 

While enrolled in the Diploma program, Riddhi regularly looked for more ways to get involved in the HR world and learn more about the industry. She eventually landed on becoming a student ambassador for CPHR BC & Yukon, the non-profit organization which grants the CPHR in B.C. It also provides its members with benefits like job boards, networking events and professional development workshops. Riddhi has found these benefits instrumental in building her own career. 

“If I hadn’t become a student ambassador, I wouldn’t have been so active in terms of being a part of the institution,” she says. “It keeps you updated, it helps you meet so many industry professionals and, as a student, it prepares you for the job search once you’ve graduated.” 

As an ambassador, Riddhi’s main role was to liaise with the College and with fellow human resources students about CPHR, news from the Canadian HR scene, and the benefits of becoming a CPHR member. As a member of CPHR BC & Yukon, students can apply for the CPHR designation after graduating from an accredited human resources program like Douglas’ with a minimum 70 percent average and gaining three years of HR work experience.  

Taking this route allows you to forgo the CPHR National Knowledge Exam. You’ll prove your expertise through your work in the classroom, instead. Besides the Post-Degree Diploma, another option for students with bachelor’s degrees is Douglas’s Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Advanced Human Resource Management, a two-year program with a stronger focus on business fundamentals.  

Read more: Staying connected during a pandemic: my Student Ambassador experience

Strategic planning for the future 

For people who want a career in human resources, Riddhi believes the most important thing is to be proactive. 

“Long before your graduation date, you should know your goals — what field of HR you want to break into, what companies you want to target and what you want to accomplish,” she says. “That’s your homework.” 

In an industry devoted to finding the “right candidate,” it’s doubly important to sell yourself as exactly that, Riddhi says. With confidence and preparation, she believes success in human resources is attainable for anyone. 

“While working as a recruiter here in Canada, I’ve seen what companies are looking for. Students, especially, are getting rejected just because they’re not coming across as strong personalities in the interviews. 

“But there are certainly jobs you can start your career with. It just requires that little bit more of an effort — that final push to present yourself with power.” 

Having completed her diploma in April, Riddhi is moving forward with a career in the recruitment sphere of HR, earning a corporate recruitment position in May. Her current goal is to earn her CPHR designation and become a talent acquisition manager in the next five years. In the meantime, she wants to continue acquiring new credentials and certifications wherever she can. 

“The diploma at Douglas played a significant role in helping me get my desired position,” she says. “The skills and knowledge I gained in the program have shaped my career. I want to keep growing and developing like that because the things you learn are what bring value to the life you live.” 

Down to business: This marketing student is taking on the new BBA Marketing

By Zach Siddiqui, Marketing and Communications 

If there’s one thing that defines Lucy Jakoncic, it’s the effort she pours into what she wants to accomplish. After over two years of working toward her Diploma in Marketing Management, Lucy is now taking on Douglas College’s newly established Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Marketing – and the pressure doesn’t ruffle her at all. 

“Goal setting is a really important part of my life. And whether it comes to career, fitness or personal goals, I always stick to them,” she says.  

“To me, figuring out what my goals are and helping other people figure out theirs is the key to success. And that’s what I want to achieve.” 

Investing the effort 

The BBA in Marketing is an eight-semester program. It blends classes on business and marketing theory with practical learning in the field. After completing the degree’s first two years, students can specialize in Hospitality Marketing, Digital Marketing Communications Management, Trades Marketing or Professional Selling and Sales Management – the latter being the concentration Lucy began in Summer 2021.  

However, Lucy didn’t always have a business career in mind. She first started at Douglas for the Nursing program, but quickly decided that the career path wasn’t right for her. After that, it was at her mother’s suggestion that she chose to explore the marketing sphere, and she enrolled in the Marketing Management Diploma Program – though she admits openly that the transition wasn’t seamless.  

“When I started this program, I hadn’t done sales classes or anything before,” she says. “So I was shy. Quiet. I hated doing things I wasn’t already skilled at or navigating any kind of website or software I wasn’t familiar with. 

“Being here really taught me to adapt – now I push myself. Now I enjoy doing things that are out of my comfort zone.” 

The original plan for Lucy was to finish her marketing diploma and transfer to another school for her bachelor’s. Through her friends in the program, she was excited to learn that she could complete her degree at Douglas.  

“Why leave when it’s all right here?” she says. 

Read more: Mechanic shifts gears to business owner with dreams of running one of the most successful auto repair shops in the Tri-Cities 

Tested by the marketplace 

For Lucy, one of the key aspects of her diploma – and by extension, the BBA – was the practicum component. Students in the BBA program will be able to take on a practical project as an intern with a local business.  

“As much as the early parts of the diploma made me fall in love with sales, I was still missing the learned confidence, the real experience,” she says. “Back then, if I were to go for a job interview, I wouldn’t have known what to talk about.” 

Securing an internship through her program at Douglas quickly changed that. Not only did Lucy develop hands-on experience through her new workplace, the Senior Services Society of BC, but after her practicum ended, the employer hired her for a paid full-time position. Now, she works with them in content creation, social media management and marketing campaigns.  

Her professional portfolio has only diversified since then. She also manages social media for Wilson Media, a digital marketing agency, and balances her two jobs with studying for her degree at Douglas and a real estate license from UBC. 

“I want to motivate other students to pursue this degree,” she says. “To know that the work you’re doing in this program is not just a course or busywork. It’s worth your full effort because it gets your foot in the door, it gets you the experience and it can even turn into something more. Just like it has for me.” 

Read more: Investing in Douglas put this grad on the path to financial and career success 

Reaching the targets 

Speaking from experience, Lucy emphasizes that the BBA is accessible to anyone who wants to dive in and do the work. That includes not only Marketing students like herself, but also anyone looking to switch in from a different field of study. 

“If you like marketing, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you,” she says. “Even if you’re not studying it already, there’s room for electives from your original program, or from other subjects you want to explore first. There are paths to just bounce in and get started.” 

Lucy’s parting advice is this: Take it seriously, because what you put into the program is what you’ll get back out. 

“I love the organizations I am working at now,” she says. “I’ve learnt so much. And as an individual, I’m now confident and prepared. Once I complete my BBA at Douglas, I’ll crush the interview for any marketing position.” 

As for what that position might look like for her when the time comes? When it comes to setting that particular goal, she’s open-minded.  

“Here’s the best thing about marketing,” she confides. “With so many possibilities out there, you really don’t know where your career path may take you.” 

Top brass: This music alum and her saxophone build community through their sound

By Zach Siddiqui, Communications Coordinator

“It was always the idea of the saxophone that really captured me,” says Kaylar Chan, a graduate of Douglas’s Music Diploma Program.  

Taking up music from a young age, Kaylar was inspired by her grandfather’s love of classic woodwind players like Plas Johnson. Now, as a Douglas alum, she has built a resilient, self-driven career in the Vancouver music industry, playing gigs and creating fresh sounds with all kinds of people.  

We caught up with Kaylar to ask her about her beginnings at Douglas, her relationship with music today, and her advice for anyone interested in pursuing music themselves. 

Why did you choose Douglas College? 

I grew up in Surrey, so it was always just across the water. And it was in a part of town that I really loved: the New West Quay, a beautiful, historic place to spend time. I still remember my orientation day, and what it felt like walking into the school. The campus looked beautiful, but intimate. Just the right size not to feel intimidating. I still have the T-shirt from that day, you know; it’s one of my beloved pyjama shirts. 

How did the Music program set you up for success?  

Douglas taught me how important it is, as a musician or otherwise, to build relationships, to open yourself to people. The music industry reaffirms that for me the more I engage with it, and Douglas’s Music program let me connect with so many people. The program is how I met my current partner, at our audition – and we just celebrated our 11th anniversary. Some of my best friends are from Douglas, too, and I still play music with people from school. It’s the network I built there that I take forward with me into my current career and lifestyle. 

Read more: Striking the right chord: How this music alum found his calling in film and TV  

What career path have you taken since graduating? 

Before COVID-19, I had made it to a point where I was self-employed, my own boss, deciding my own schedule. Just making music with as many people as possible. I was performing two to five times a week, especially with my main band, Raincity, which started with three Douglas students. Then, once COVID hit, I was fortunate enough to have been able to reorient my work somewhat. That meant doing less gigging and more creating, discovering what I wanted to say with my craft. I focused more on teaching lessons, producing film scores, painting and recording/writing lots of music, including my first solo works ever. Luckily, gigs are trickling back in now. But we can only wait and see. 

Kaylar Chan (pictured right) performing with her band, Raincity.

Can you tell me more about Raincity and the music you make? 

We’re a five-piece rage-funk band. Defining our genre is hard because we’re trying to create something people haven’t heard before. But we make music that might speak to those who’ve felt unseen in the world.  

What about this band resonates with your personal values? 

Raincity embodies a lot of what is important to me – especially the representation and recognition of women in the music industry and in the world in general. There are three women in the band, and us five coming together… The strength and support of my bandmates are why I’m comfortable with dancing on stage, swinging the saxophone while yelling into the world.

At the same time, this isn’t a story unique to me. Growing up, I only saw a few artists in the media who would make me think, “I’m capable of that, too.” I didn’t experience that until I searched it out myself in my 20s.  

What’s your biggest goal for the next five years? 

A huge goal we’re trying to realize right now is creating a studio space on the property I live on. With a base like that, you can really foster a community — not just one of talented musicians, but also of amazing friends, all with different perspectives. It’s like I said before: music comes down to the network you build and how you interact with people. That’s especially true in Vancouver, surrounded by a sea, snow, mountains and a national border. There’s not a lot of directions that we can easily take, so there’s this close sense of community. Everybody knows everybody, especially if you’ve been around and have been putting yourself out there for a long time. 

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

What’s your advice for students considering the Music program? 

The great thing about Douglas is that the College is always doing their best to stay ahead of the curve. This is especially true when it comes to keeping up with the industries its students are working to enter, like music. And they do so in a way that is much more affordable for young people starting to make these big decisions. My courses at Douglas were completely affordable for me, just from working part-time.  

What would you say to a budding musician who’s hesitant to pursue music as a career? 

As a career path, music gets a bad rap for certain things, like financial stability. Be open to surprising yourself, though, especially if you already have a relationship with music. It’s an artform that can connect you with people, networks and opportunities for success in ways you’d have never even considered. In the end, happiness is really the point, right? Spend the time you have doing things that fulfil you. And music is that for me. 

Poet, prosaist, professor: Amber Dawn guides writing students through the art of creating in crisis

By Zach Siddiqui, Communications Coordinator 

Last year, Amber Dawn was one of many authors whose book launches were complicated by a global upheaval. Though her latest poetry collection, My Art is Killing Me and Other Poems, did hit shelves, its promotion was quickly stifled as the world scrambled to adapt to COVID–19. What remained stronger than ever, though, was her dedication to the Creative Writing students under her wing at Douglas College during the pandemic. 

“I feel very honoured to be teaching creative writing,” Amber Dawn says. “We can’t really be launching a lot of books. There aren’t public gatherings, so we can’t publicly gather to appreciate literature. But it’s a wonderful time to be creating something.” 

The rhythm of adversity

Amber Dawn juggles author credits in poetry, fiction and memoir, along with experience in editing anthologies. Her debut work, the award-winning Sub Rosa, is known for its adept exploration of sex work through speculative fiction. My Art is Killing Me is her latest of several texts since then, deals with the pain that artists face in making their art, especially through the lens of the behind-the-scenes struggles in the publishing industry. 

At a time when many creatives are grappling with stressful transformations in their fields, the themes of her latest work may be more poignant than ever. In Amber Dawn’s eyes, the pandemic – and its aftermath – could be a moment for writers like her students to blossom under hardship. 

“Some of our favourite artists throughout time have created liminal or outstanding works during crisis,” she explains. “I try to remind my students of that. While many of us are managing crisis, the other side of that is that we’re in touch with ourselves. 

“Imagination and possibility are working at an all–time high, and it’s such a treat to be reading what they’re working on.” 

Read more: Creative Writing instructor transforms short story into whimsical, yet poignant, graphic novel

Putting pen to paper

Amber Dawn’s creative roots lie in the Downtown Eastside, where she started taking free community writing classes in her early 20s. After spending time in writing groups and developing an interest in slam poetry, she enrolled in courses at Douglas, where she was already studying in the Stagecraft and Event Technology Diploma Program

creative writing instructor Amber Dawn

“It was a really accessible place for me to start, and I gained a lot of skills,” she explains. Soon after that, she transferred to UBC’s creative writing program, completing her undergrad and graduate studies there. During this time, she began to design and teach courses at Douglas as an adjunct professor. She debuted as an official member of the department in September 2019.   

While Amber Dawn is an established author, she brings little discussion of her poems or stories into her classroom. To her, everything hinges on making space for her students and what they themselves create.    

“I want to feel to them like a clean slate,” she explains. “So that all of the focus is on them and what they want to do.” 

Read more: English Instructor “brews dissent” in new book on craft beer and medievalism

Write and repeat

Amber Dawn teaches introductory and second-year classes in poetry, memoir and fiction, particularly speculative fiction and short stories. For students interested in pursuing creative writing long-term, her advice can be summed up in one word: practice.   

“Someone might have a certain charisma or uniqueness about them the first time they’re in their very first play. But to become a professional actor, you have to train, and train, and train. Same with music, with any of the art forms: practice is key.    

“So for students starting out in creative writing, I would say, let yourself be a beginner. Honour the newness of the craft. Know that through practice and through taking more classes, you’re going to see your craft improve and mature. Have patience with yourself.” 

As much as Amber Dawn’s own content factors little into her syllabus, there are still lessons she feels her students, current and prospective, can take from her journey as an author.   

“I worked very hard,” she says. “I worked for 10 years. I was writing actively and taking classes actively for a decade before I published my first book. 

 “And I believe in my students at the same level as I believed in myself at the time.”   

For more information about the Creative Writing Program, visit the Douglas College website.

Trail running builds resilience in women, Douglas College study finds

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office   

The need for speed   

In 2018, Selene Lincoln pursued a degree in Therapeutic Recreation at Douglas College. When it came time for her to develop a community-based research project as part of her program, she had the perfect focus: her newfound love for trail running. Selene wanted to look into the gendered differences in building resilience through trail running. 

“It’s important to understand that gender and other social determinants of health impact the way we experience and conceptualize outdoor adventure,” says Selene.  

As an avid runner, clearing trails on a weekly basis, she knew firsthand that missing a trail run often affected her mental and physical well-being. On days when she missed a run, she would feel run-down and stressed. Inspired by her own experiences, Selene decided to explore whether trail running develops and supports resilience. 

In therapeutic recreation, resilience-building is an important factor for many clients. Therapeutic recreation is a rehabilitation process which uses recreation and other leisurely activities to address physical and mental illness or disabling conditions in people.  

Read more: How one Therapeutic Recreation alum finished off her last semester during the pandemic – and landed a job!

Ready, set, go… and interpret the data   

Selene began by sending a survey to local trail running communities. The survey caught the attention of North Vancouver’s Gary Robbins, a celebrity trail runner, who shared it with his social media followers. Soon, responses started pouring in from all over the world, including Germany, Italy, New Zealand and the U.S.  

A total of 121 women and 28 men filled out her survey. Due to the imbalance of survey responses from women and men, the men’s responses were omitted from the study; she decided she would instead dive deeper into the women’s perspective.  

To prove that trail running built resilience, Selene had to show that her data matched the themes set out in a previous study on building resilience through outdoor activities. (“Gender matters: Exploring the process of developing resilience through outdoor adventure.”)  

The study suggested an outdoor activity can be effective in building resilience if it meets specific criteria:  

  • participants spend time in pristine environments   
  • it allows them to have a separation from normal life  
  • it provides social support  
  • the experience is intense and challenging 

Read more: This alum is bringing joy to seniors with dementia in the midst of the pandemic

Selene found each of these criteria reflected in her female participants’ responses. First, participants said that while trail running they spent time in natural environments. They mentioned being in forests and that the outdoors was a main motivator for trail running.  

Secondly, trail running gave them a separation from normal life. Participants discussed trail running as something that allowed their minds to wander and took them physically away from their normal routine or challenging emotions.  

Thirdly, being a part of a trail running community provided them with social support. They viewed trail running as a chance for networking, interacting and connecting with others. This community offered participants both support and motivation.  

Lastly, participants discussed the intense, challenging experiences they faced while trail running, and the positive impact on their day-to-day life. Respondents felt a sense of accomplishment and increased confidence after tackling a trail run. While the first few miles of a run were always the hardest, they also knew it wouldn’t last forever. They were able to apply this mindset to challenges in their daily lives. 

Selene says the data clearly shows there is a relationship between trail running and resilience. Moreover, it showed a profound relationship between women and the wilderness.

“The women are articulate about their motivations for trail running. They are rejecting the dominant messaging found in history and media that tend to masculinize nature. Instead, they are reclaiming their experiences as a profound opportunity for personal growth and the development of resilience,” says Selene.  

Participants indicated that they gained a sense of empowerment, bravery and tenacity through trail running. They also reported a gain in transferable outcomes such as resilience, perspective and mental health supports. Each of these changes improved their daily lives.   

Selene says understanding how resilience is built and supported is a significant factor in therapeutic recreation. 

“We work with client groups who are marginalized in a variety of ways, whether through disability, mental health or socioeconomic status, and we use recreation as a tool to move people towards their goals. Understanding how resilience is built, supported and drawn out is key to creating a successful and person-centered plan.”  

Crossing the publication finish line – what’s next?   

Earlier this year, Selene’s article, “Building resilience through trail running: women’s perspectives,” was published in the Leisure/Loisir academic journal, a publication which focuses on scholarly papers in areas of recreation, arts, parks, sport, travel and tourism. In the future, Selene hopes to pursue more research into resilience-building within nature and its relevance to COVID-19.    

“The pandemic has solidified the importance of access to recreation, leisure and natural spaces as were adapting to social distancing requirements during the start of COVID-19,” says Selene. 

From the classroom to the frontline: How one Douglas grad combined his education with a career in firefighting

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Nick Cirillo always had firefighting on his career radar.  

“My dad was a firefighter, so it was always in the back of my mind,” says Nick, a Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching (BPEC) grad who has been working at Richmond Fire-Rescue since 2019. “But I wanted to get an education first. That’s where Douglas came in.”  

Blazing his trail 

Nick knew there was no one-size-fits-all approach to the career. Fire departments like to hire firefighters with diverse skillsets, he explains. 

“You never know what you’re going to come up against in the field, so they’re looking for a variety of tools to outfit their firefighting toolbox, so to speak,” Nick, whose colleagues have backgrounds in everything from finance to a Red Seal trade to the military, explains. “The hiring process is based on a points system where different things can give you an edge over other candidates. My bachelor’s degree was one of those things.”  

Not only did Nick’s BPEC degree give him a leg up on other candidates, but he credits his college experience as one of the reasons he was able to keep up with the rigorous hiring process.  

“I treated becoming a firefighter like preparing for a final exam,” says Nick. “The easiest way to get eliminated in the hiring process is by making a mistake. You really have to make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Using the skills I gained as a student at Douglas really helped me during this stage.”  

Read more: this BPEC student came to Douglas for the learning atmosphere – and stayed for the degree of her dreams 

Climbing the firefighting ladder  

Though still a junior firefighter, Nick is excited about his career development.  

“I look forward to the potential of becoming an instructor and helping future probationary firefighters,” says Nick. “The coaching aspect of my degree gave me a solid understanding of how people learn. This will help when teaching skills to firefighters in training.”   

Nick says that when he was a probationary firefighter, he found the training officers who had a more hands-on, individual coaching method – like he learned in the BPEC program – had the most success in teaching the skills needed for the job.  

“They performed personalized evaluations and gave on-the-spot, constructive feedback to correct mistakes. I’m a better firefighter today because of their approach.”   

Adjusting to a new normal 

Nick’s first year at Richmond Fire-Rescue has been far from ordinary. Having wrapped up his mandatory year-long probationary period with the department in October 2020, most of Nick’s experience firefighting has been during the pandemic. 

While firefighters are highly trained to respond to medical emergencies of every degree – including those that might be associated with COVID-19 – in order to provide additional support to other emergency responders, Nick and his team have only been responding to serious, life-threatening medical calls since March 2020.  

Despite these new barriers, Nick can’t imagine being anywhere else.  

“My team is more like a family to me at this point, and the job definitely keeps me on my toes.”  

Not only for improving English: how the ELLA program helped this Post-Degree Diploma student’s journey every step of the way

By Maggie Tung, Communications Coordinator

When Amie Sarabosing, a Post-Degree Diploma in Marketing Management student, was looking to study at Douglas College, she didn’t think she needed to take classes to improve her English. It’s her second language, and she thought her language skills were up to par. She got a wake-up call when she couldn’t meet the English proficiency requirement to start her post-degree.  

ELLA program student Amie

Amie realized that while her English was serviceable for day-to-day activities, her academic writing and speaking needed improvement. So, she enrolled in the English Language Learning and Acquisition program (ELLA) — and she’s never regretted her decision. 

ELLA focuses on improving students’ English ability in a college environment. Its courses teach them how to write effectively, understand academic texts, and conduct university-level conversations – all things that Amie is very grateful for. 

“Doing ELLA before taking my academic courses was the best decision,” Amie says. “It made my transition to studying my post-degree a lot smoother. Instructors don’t spoon-feed you, so you have to do your part and take initiative.”   

Before her time in ELLA, Amie wasn’t confident in her ability to express herself in English, especially in public speaking or conversation. Now, not only has ELLA strengthened her English skills, but it has also made her more self-assured.  

“I was able to comfortably talk to my professors and ask questions,” she elaborates. “It actually felt like I was ahead of my classmates in my post-degree diploma program because I was exposed to the library and resources from the ELLA program. I knew how to do citations perfectly too. Since ELLA class sizes are so small, I improved so quickly in just one semester. It made studying at Douglas so much easier.” 

Learning more than English in class 

ELLA made learning English fun for Amie because it covered topics relevant to her everyday life.  

“I think what’s unique about the ELLA program is we got to discuss Canadian culture and global issues. In an academic class, the focus is only on specific topics relating to the program, not necessarily real life. They don’t talk about culture and ways to adapt to it. In ELLA classes, Canadian and international studies and issues were incorporated into the teaching in ELLA classes. It made the class very interesting.” 

Instead of being forced to write and speak about topics she felt detached from, Amie felt free to explore the subjects she had a genuine connection to.  

“For example, in our speaking class, we practiced public speaking a lot. The class expounded on many different topics. We weren’t just learning English but also about current events and international and domestic cultures.” 

Read more: English Language Learning program gave this student the confidence to pursue her dreams in Canada

Making lifelong friends 

Taking ELLA in her first semester at Douglas allowed Amie to meet like-minded people.  

“In the class, with both domestic and international students all learning English, we bonded quickly over how difficult it is to learn the language.” She continues, “My classmates were from China, Korea, Hungary, South America and the Middle East. We learned a lot from each other. ”  

More than that,  Amie is confident that many of the fellow students she met through ELLA will be  lifelong friends. 

“I am still close with people I met on the first day of class,” Amie exclaims. “I wrote a note here, ‘Friends for life’; that was one of the best parts about this program.”  

Using ELLA to go beyond her studies and to employment 

Amie is finishing her post-degree diploma this August. While excited, she isn’t nervous about her next step because she already has a job in Douglas College’s Student Support Department, working as a Student Support Navigator Assistant. She applied for the position as a student, and plans to continue working there after graduation. Her employment there is something she credits to  the help of her ELLA instructors. 

“I didn’t have anyone I could use as references to find a job when I started at Douglas. I was able to get my job with the help of my ELLA teachers. Because I was a hardworking student, they gave me a nice reference. I think it was a huge factor in my getting hired.” 

Sharing her positive ELLA experience 

Ella program English learning friends
Amie and the friends she made through ELLA.

Amie wants other students to know the importance of learning a language and culture thoroughly before beginning their academic studies. 

“I highly recommend that students who are new to Canada take ELLA first before transitioning to academic studies. Even if they think they have a good command of the English language, Canada has certain standards. I say this because I lived it.” Amie says. “The ELLA program helped me not only academically, but with my employment, and I met great friends along the way. It is one of the best and most unforgettable experiences of my life!” 

Interested in the ELLA program? Visit the Douglas College website and complete the eligibility form. 

Celebrating my heritage while finding my community at Douglas

By Aly Hillaby, Bachelor of Social Work student

June became National Aboriginal History Month in 2009, and in 2017, the name changed to National Indigenous History Month. The change is significant because the word “Indigenous” is recognized internationally in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was created in 2007 after two decades of negotiations. The UNDRIP is a comprehensive guide that sets out minimum standards required to protect the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples in terms of culture, language, health, education, employment, protection of traditional lands and their right to participate in decision-making. 

Acknowledging the cultures and contributions of Indigenous Peoples

Since 1996, National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 has celebrated and acknowledged the diverse cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in Canada. June 21 was chosen because it is around the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a day that is important for many Indigenous peoples and communities. Across Canada, this day is celebrated with cultural performances, activities, arts and other events that recognize the contributions of Indigenous people.

With many events being held virtually this year, Douglas College students and other community members can take this opportunity to participate and increase their understanding of the diverse cultures, arts, traditions, worldviews, languages, experiences and histories of Indigenous peoples.   

Read more: Guided by the Raven and Eagle: How this Psychiatric Nursing grad found clarity by following her Indigenous roots

New ways of learning and growing

Indigenous history month day

Experiencing aspects of our own and different cultures is a great way to continue to grow. Growing up, my main source of knowledge about my Indigenous roots was through the education system. I found that education about Indigenous people often paints them in one general stroke – thus losing important details about what makes each group unique.

National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day present an opportunity to learn about the history and diversity of Indigenous peoples, and to recognize the strength and resilience that generations have shown in order to uphold, pass down and reclaim cultural knowledge and traditions. Taking the initiative to learn more about different Indigenous cultures and groups may help you have a better understanding of yourself and others. My journey at Douglas College involved this type of learning and growth.

The welcoming environment of Indigenous Student Services

My experiences as an Indigenous student at Douglas have been incredible. Indigenous Student Services (ISS) feels like a community. I came across ISS when I was looking for a quiet place to study at the New Westminster Campus. Ever since then, I have stayed connected. I found a welcoming environment where I had opportunities to not only learn more about my culture, but grow as a person.

When I moved from the New Westminster Campus to the Coquitlam Campus, I was worried because I felt like I was losing a place where I belonged. Luckily, my hesitations were unfounded. I found the same type of environment at the Coquitlam Campus and got to know many more wonderful people. I felt heard and encouraged. It’s a place I go and say hi to people in between classes, check in with staff, grab myself a coffee and just unwind or talk about things going on with the people around me. 

The ISS team encouraged me to participate in events that came up at the school, organized lunches and events and updated me about things going on in the community that I was interested in. 

Throughout this past year, I still go to ISS to work or study because it is such a great place. I’m excited for when we can be back in person, and I can see everyone’s welcoming faces again. 

If you want to learn more about Indigenous culture, art and history, here are some resources to check out:

Q&A: How one Therapeutic Recreation alum finished off her last semester during the pandemic – and landed a job!

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

After experiencing the positive impact a therapeutic recreation team had on her as a child, Emma Martina was inspired to pursue a career in the same field. Despite the challenges of pivoting quickly to online learning last March due to the pandemic, Emma graduated and landed a job as a Therapeutic Recreation Assistant with Vancouver Coastal Health at UBC Hospital.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Therapeutic Recreation?

When I was younger, I stayed at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice with a family member. It was a confusing and difficult time where I was surrounded mostly by adults, but the therapeutic recreation team and the army of volunteers worked hard to make the space comfortable for us to enjoy childhood activities with other families.

Upon reflection, I recognized how vital those supports were for my psychosocial health, development and bereavement. After completing the Health Care Assistant program at Vancouver Community College in 2013, I became a registered care aide at George Derby Centre in Burnaby. It was amazing to witness the recreation staff and the various programs having such positive effects on the residents. I worked in complex and dementia units for four years and it reinforced the real impact therapeutic recreation can have for all ages and levels of health care. 

Read more: This alum is bringing joy to seniors with dementia in the midst of the pandemic

Why did you choose to come to Douglas College for your diploma? What was your experience with the program?

As a union member myself, I wanted to support a public college. Plus, all the therapeutic recreation staff I had met were all Douglas graduates and highly recommend the program.  

From the first email, it was clear to me that the program was extremely well organized and welcoming. And it was, from the first day to my last. I felt very supported by the faculty who all had amazing resumes full of lived experiences working in a wide range of therapeutic recreation roles. The small cohort size made it feel like a family where we could have open discussions and learn from one another. The program was well-paced and enabled me to build up to heavier course loads and practicums. 

What was it like to study remotely/online during the pandemic? What were the benefits of your online learning experience? 

We made the shift from in-person to online learning really quickly once the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. It was a bit overwhelming at first because we were at the end of the semester and we had projects and exams that we had been anticipating to complete in person.

Despite the quick shift to online, my professors were incredibly supportive and graceful. One of the benefits I experienced was how many hours I saved not having to commute, while still having a supportive classroom environment through Zoom. I can see the online diploma program as a great option for students who may have other responsibilities that would keep them from attending in-person classes, or for people who want to pursue a career in therapeutic recreation but don’t live in the Lower Mainland.

I took some elective courses in advance of the diploma program, which helped increase my confidence and competence. I went to Strong Start: New Student Orientation which was very helpful for me to meet fellow students and learn about the various resources available through the college.

Emma and her resident Eva Tokke, who worked with Douglas College until 2017!

How did Douglas prepare you for a career in Therapeutic Recreation? 

I also utilized a lot of resources and services at Douglas College – from accessibility services to financial aid to the learning center – which improved my advocating skills, aided my time management and made my diploma experience better. These skills in turn made me more competent and confident in the recreation assistant job search. They helped me find an employer who values providing their employees with positive tools and resources to succeed.

What was your most memorable time at Douglas?

The most memorable part of my Douglas experience would be the relationships with my cohort and professors. They are an inspiring group of women who are very dear to my heart. To have had such a close, supportive cohort from very different walks of life – all with a common goal to bring healing and hope to others – is amazing. 

I learned something long-lasting in every elective and diploma course I took. The teachings provided in the Therapeutic Recreation program have changed my paradigm forever on the endless abilities we are all capable of and intrinsic value in every life.

What were the most challenging and fulfilling aspects of your experience at Douglas?

The first semester with a full course load was overwhelming. I struggled with my health science course and was afraid I would fail and fall behind in the program. Within the first two weeks, I reached out to the learning center and hired a private medical student tutor who I saw every week for my first year of the program. This investment paid off and became one of my most fulfilling memories of the program. Not only did I do well in my health sciences courses, but I learned to love the material and appreciate my body and mind more than ever.

What words of wisdom do you have for future Therapeutic Recreation students considering taking the online diploma program? 

Taking the Therapeutic Recreation diploma online is a great option for those who want to make a difference in their home community, but don’t want to move to the Lower Mainland or commute long distances for school. You get the benefits and flexibility of learning online and can apply and hone those skills with work placements in your area. 

If you’re still unsure, attend an online information session! Sometimes timelines or course loads can seem daunting. Attending an information session can humanize and ground those narratives. Two years can seem like a lot – especially if you are balancing other responsibilities – but those two years are going to go by regardless, so if you feel the longing for change, go for it! 

The pandemic has sadly shown the fragility of many careers, but you will always have stability in health care. If you enjoy human connection and engagement, you can and will learn all the skills needed to help you succeed.

Finally, you’ll never be limited by working in therapeutic recreation. There are various environments, roles and demographics where you can find your passion. 

The Therapeutic Recreation diploma will be offered online starting Fall 2021. Learn more about the diploma on our website.