Douglas 360°

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.

Academic honesty is always the best policy

By Holly Salmon and Shannon Moist, Learning Centre

Academic integrity means ensuring you’re not being academically dishonest, which includes committing academic fraud, cheating, misuse or misrepresentation of sources or plagiarism.

Understanding what academic integrity looks like will make completing assignments and tests easier and your education journey much smoother. There’s no better time than the beginning of term to review your understanding of academic integrity.

“Academic integrity guarantees that I’m learning as much as I can. Without it, my education would be in jeopardy. I learn better when I research and give credit where credit is due—it also provides an opportunity for others to learn from my work as well. Additionally, maintaining honesty on my assignments and exams motivates me to study and really learn the material, which is a great skill to have to succeed in both school and in my career.”

Ariel Buxton, Douglas student and peer tutor

Know what’s expected and your own limitations

Take a moment to evaluate your own abilities honestly. Ask yourself where you are confused or nervous about your skills or knowledge when it comes to academic integrity. Do you know what’s allowed and what isn’t?

Reach out for help when you are unsure, whether it be from your instructor, a peer tutor or a librarian.

Here are a few tips:

  • Whenever you include information you found somewhere else, ask yourself if it needs to be credited. 
  • Always provide credits for images in PowerPoint presentations and provide a citation for any image you use.
  • Develop and use a scheduling and planning system for your assignments so that you schedule appropriate time to complete the work and are not rushed at the last minute. This will help you avoid mistakes and allow enough time to look for source information.

Learn how to cite your sources

The Learning Centre created a guide on how to write with sources, including paraphrasing and integrating sources into your writing. They also offer student-to-student tutoring support; book an appointment for one of the following topics to learn more:

  • Academic Integrity: Understanding and Awareness – Gain awareness of the principles and concepts behind academic integrity, plagiarism, and intellectual property
  • Using Sources in Your Writing – Learn how to paraphrase and quote effectively, without plagiarizing
  • Following Style and Formatting Guidelines – Learn how to access and follow guides and manuals in order to use APA, MLA and other citation styles to format your writing assignments.

Not every program is the same

Different programs, courses and departments may require sources being used and recognized in different ways. Use the Douglas College Library guide on how to Cite Your Sources; this guide is ultimate source on using APA, MLA and other formatting styles in your writing assignments. If watching and listening is more your style than reading, check out the Library’s citing help playlist on YouTube, which covers topics such as when to cite, how to use style guides, citation elements and more.

Still confused?

Don’t worry, we get it – it’s a lot to keep track of, and if you’re taking a variety of courses you may find yourself using several citing styles at once. Librarians are a great resource for helping you understand the whys and the hows for citing sources correctly.

All new-to-Douglas students in Winter 2021 must complete the mandatory Academic Integrity Education module available through your Blackboard account by March 12, 2021.

Getting set for the next stage: How the pandemic helped this theatre grad rediscover the power of story

By Coriana Constanda, Marketing and Communications

The grief of the pandemic has been deeply felt in the performing arts community over the last several months, with live shows canceled and performers not able to gather in person. For Theatre Program grad Julia Siedlanowska, one positive aspect of this time in isolation has been the opportunity to think about what the art form means to her.

“For people who express creatively, they’ve had to do that in different ways. But this time for taking pause and reflecting has shown me anew the power of storytelling and being able to come together communally,” says Julia.

Last November, she and her community put on a live production (with everyone masked and physically distanced) which was greatly appreciated by participants and audience alike. Julia is proud of how her theatre community has supported and sustained each other, and adapted to meet challenges. For example, they hold weekly video group chats to share their struggles and laugh together.

Answering the (curtain) call

Julia’s love for theatre started when she was young. She was a naturally playful child who liked to make people laugh. Her father wrote poetry and plays and took part in the local Polish theatre community, which is what first drew Julia to acting and performing. In high school, a father-daughter pair of drama teachers inspired her to grapple with fun and challenging ideas and take the performing arts seriously.

“What I love about acting is it’s a holistic way of learning,” says Julia. “I get to use my body, my intellect, and engage my emotions. I get to interact with other people. It’s just a full body learning experience.”

What Julia enjoys most about her career is visiting new places, seeing the faces of audience members during and after a show, celebrating with her community, working with and performing for youth, and especially the relationships she creates with fellow artists. She recalls going on tour with a show called Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way, a story of one man’s journey to reconciling with himself.

“We were traveling with Indigenous Elders, who represented our tour. Indigenous protocol was woven into every process, not just within the content of the show, but also how we traveled across country. It was a good example of how theatre can be a transformative experience,” says Julia.

Healing community through theatre

Julia’s work is more focused on community than ever. She loves working with people who don’t always have formal theatre training and one of her goals is to remove barriers between a typical theatre-going audience and community members who may not have access to theatre. She is often drawn to projects sparked by current events. After graduating from Douglas, she directed a project called Wyspa for The Only Animal’s five-month mentorship program, Generation Hot: Waterborne, which premiered at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Julia Siedlanowska (Bill Hawley Photography, 2019)

Wyspa was inspired by the rise in domestic violence from the economic downturn in Alberta as a result of the oil and gas industry going down at the time. We were exploring that with the youth and what the greater implications might be in society.”

Of all her achievements, Julia is most proud of her ability to persevere and evolve, which she partly credits to her training and the healing power of story. Although she wants to continue directing and acting on stage, in the future she hopes to apply her performance and voice coaching skills in a therapeutic setting. She’s begun her master’s degree in counselling psychology and hopes to collaborate with therapists and counsellors to develop programs for play and art therapy.

“I think theatre is a great place to explore big human things through story,” says Julia. “Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways we can really look at ourselves as human beings and question the status quo. So much of my acting training overlaps with many of the principles used in therapy, and I think theatre can be very therapeutic for people. It’s exciting to formalize that and bring my skills into a more therapeutic-based approach.”

Breaking a leg at Douglas

Shortly after graduating from the Theatre Program at Douglas, one of the plays Julia wrote premiered at a festival at The Cultch. Feeling well equipped with the foundational training she’d received at Douglas, she went on to get her Bachelor of Arts in Acting from the University of Wales in the UK. Since then, Julia has worked with diverse theatre and production companies in the Lower Mainland and Toronto, including Pacific Theatre, Arts Club Theatre, Firehall Arts Centre, Full Circle First Nations Performance, Classic Chic Productions and more. She was also part of the Wet Ink Collective and was a young ambassador for the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

A major accomplishment for Julia was recently receiving grant funding from Canada Council for the Arts and B.C. Community Resilience Through Arts and Culture for a project she’s working on called Unsettled, which explores and enacts disability justice. She was also the recipient of an Early Career Development grant from BC Arts Council. The funding makes projects possible and has supported Julia’s work in many ways, including allowing her to attend mentorship programs and knowledge exchanges with directors from across Turtle Island (Canada and the US).

In addition to her graduate studies, these days Julia is working on a new production for young audiences, supported by Toronto Young People’s Theatre’s Leaps and Bounds program. She is also the Managing Director and Associate Artistic Director at Theatre Terrific.

Supporting your health and wellness during tumultuous times

By Patty Hambler, Director, Student Affairs and Services

The events in the United States yesterday were shocking and frightening. As we all process what has happened, and continues to unfold, it is important to take care of ourselves. Reaching out to connect and for support is a positive step you can take for your mental wellbeing.

Connecting with a friend or loved one for a walk outside to discuss and debrief your thoughts and feelings is a healthy way to approach your self-care. Considering the positive steps you can take to speak out against racism and to protect the values you hold dear is another action you can take at this time. Taking a break from online news and social media to focus on your own thoughts and feelings is something you can do to remain strong and focused so you can invest the things that are important in your life like your studies, your work, and your relationships.

Everyone responds differently and whatever you are feeling is valid at this time. For some in our community, past experiences or current lived realities may mean that the events in the U.S. have a more devastating impact on our emotional wellbeing. Please remember that there are supports available:

  • You are welcome to join other Douglas College students and one of the members of the Counselling team at Douglas for Virtual Calm, held as a weekly evening drop-in program starting January 14. You will learn how to calm the mind and practice an activity aimed at increasing your sense of calm and resilience.
  • Douglas College Counsellors are available to connect if you find your worries are affecting your daily life or you are having challenges coping.
  • Professional support is available 24/7 through Here2Talk, a free provincial service for all postsecondary students in the province. You can be referred to community supports and/or speak right away to a professional counsellor anytime of the day or night.
  • The Crisis Lines are open 24/7 and allow you to connect with a trained volunteer responder about anything you are struggling with at this time.

Whatever you choose to do to take care of yourself at this time, remember that you are part of a community at Douglas College and we are all grappling with these challenges; even though we cannot connect in-person at this time, we can still support each other through difficult times.

Lights, camera, action: How this Nursing grad found success on and off screen

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Marissa Bruchmann’s Nursing degree was exactly what she needed to bridge the gap between her two passions: health care and the film industry.

“I got involved in the film industry right after high school,” says Marissa, who worked as an extra and background actor for film and TV while she attended Douglas. “It was mostly for fun and a way to make extra money. When my agent discovered I was studying to become a nurse, she told me there were a lot of opportunities for nurses in the film industry. The rest is history.”

Bound for Douglas College

Despite her love of film, Marissa always knew she wanted to be a nurse.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” says Marissa. “When my grandma was in a care home, I saw how the nurses treated her and how they made a huge difference in my family’s understanding and ability to cope when health issues arose – especially around the time she passed away. I just really wanted to be that person for someone else’s family.”

Having experienced the importance of nurses in her own life, Marissa wanted to find a nursing program that would equip her with the critical skills she needed to succeed. So, she chose Douglas because of the close-knit environment and one on one time with instructors.

For Marissa, the smaller class sizes made a huge difference in her success.

“You have a more professional and closer relationship with your instructors than at a larger institution. I really like this aspect, because I wasn’t just a number in a big lecture hall. I got to know my peers and instructors – my future colleagues – on a daily basis.”

Through her preceptorship (the clinical practicum component of the program), Marissa honed her classroom skills in different hospitals, from Surrey Memorial Hospital’s surgical unit to Royal Columbian’s orthopedics ward. 

She also took part in Fraser Health Authority’s Employed Student Nursing program, where soon-to-be nursing grads get paid to work while refining their skills in a clinical setting. She found herself back at Royal Columbian Hospital, where she discovered her love for emergency medicine.

“There’s a sense of teamwork and collaborative problem-solving between all levels of staff in the emergency department that I really enjoyed,” says Marissa. “I also liked how varied the work was – when you’re on a medical floor, the detective work has already been done, and you know their diagnosis right away. In emergency, everyone works together to figure out what is going on and what a patient’s symptoms could mean.” 

Read more: how three Douglas alumni have had to pivot the way they work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic  

Ready for her close up

Marissa the Baby Wrangler

For Marissa, combining her passion for film and nursing was easy. With over five years of experience in the film industry, she was well-versed in the lingo, how to move around set, how to act around cast and crew and the different stages of production.

“I’ve been a baby wrangler, also known as a baby nurse,” Marissa says of her role on the show A Million Little Things. “When you have a baby on set and onscreen, for example if you’re filming a birthing scene or there is a baby who is a character, production has to abide by B.C. child labour laws and specific safety regulations. They need a qualified nurse who has skills in neonatal care, like me.”

But Marissa’s unique blend of expertise isn’t only being used behind the scenes. She’s played an on-screen nurse on shows like The Good Doctor, where her skills and knowledge add realism to emergency and operating room scenes. 

“The film industry was always a dream I decided to pursue to see if it went anywhere,” Marissa says. “I’m grateful that I get to mix my two passions that are so drastically different but mesh perfectly.”

Doing what she loves

Despite the pandemic, Marissa has been busier than ever as she works on the frontlines in Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency department and in Royal Columbian Hospital’s maternity ward. Unable to work as a baby nurse due to increased safety precautions on sets, Marissa has also been working with a company that provides COVID-19 screening services for cast and crew in the film industry.   

It sounds like a lot, but Marissa says the duality of her career is critical for her success.

“Working in both the hospital and in film means I don’t get burnt out,” says Marissa. “Working in the emergency and maternity wards are incredibly rewarding, but you’re constantly in high stress situations. By balancing it out with film, I make sure I’m still enjoying my work and not losing the passion that made me choose this career.