Wondering if you should take your education to the next level and add a graduate certificate, diploma or degree to your undergraduate degree? Graduate programs can be helpful in situations such as moving into leadership roles or careers that require expertise in a specific field of study. To give you an idea of what graduate school is like, four alumni from different VIU graduate programs share their stories.
Sandipan Debnath, Masters in Business Administration ’21
Finishing school and looking for a job during a global pandemic hasn’t slowed Sandipan Debnath down at all. He is now a business development representative at Wrapbook, a US-based tech start-up digitizing the entertainment payroll industry. Originally from Bangladesh, Debnath is now based in Toronto in her current role.
How did VIU’s MBA program help prepare him for what he does now?
“Today’s rapidly changing business environment and globalization have required university graduates to keep abreast of all the latest business trends. VIU’s MBA program was developed with this in mind and offers topics highly relevant to today’s workforce. Topics such as corporate social responsibility and international human resources provided me with in-depth knowledge of the global marketplace, managing a culturally diverse workforce, and the importance of following ethical business practices. The MBA program provided me with relevant knowledge and allowed me to develop my skills accordingly. »
Lainy Nowak, Master of Community Planning ’19
Growing up in Prince George, Lainy Nowak earned an undergraduate degree in political science and international studies, as well as a certificate in public administration, from the University of Northern British Columbia. Like many undergrads, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduating, so she taught English in Japan for a year. When Nowak returned, she worked in the City of Prince George in a role that allowed her to see how different departments operate within a municipality.
“Development and planning really seemed to be the source of all the buzz and excitement, but I was up against a ‘glass ceiling’ on how far I could get around the city without further training, so I decided to apply for planning school,” she recalls. “To my surprise, I was accepted into Masters in Planning programs across the country. In the end, I chose Nanaimo because it can’t beat being close to the mountains and the ocean.
An interesting experience she had while studying at VIU was a research project looking at how cities can better prepare for natural disasters and climate change. As part of this, she traveled to Christchurch, New Zealand, last year, funded by a Queen Elizabeth Fellowship, to work with that city’s Department of Civil Defense and Emergency Management. In February 2011, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck 10 kilometers southeast of Christchurch, causing nearly 200 deaths and massive damage to structures. Nowak was there to discover lessons learned by city officials that could apply to other communities.
Nowak now works as a planner with the City of Nanaimo.
“I’m grateful to be in a position that allows me to shape the community in which I live,” says Nowak.
‘Max̱w’ma̱widza̱mg̱a Sara Fulla, Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management ’21
As an Indigenous woman and recreation scholar, Sara Fulla had the chance to merge her two worlds with her master’s research project, which explored recreation in a cultural context and Kwakwaka’wakw perspectives on recreation. Fulla received a $17,500 Canada Graduate Scholarship to support her work.
“For too long, non-Indigenous people have shared their views and perceptions of the Kwakwaka’wakw people and our ways of life, and I think it’s time for our own people to share our cultural and traditional knowledge,” says Fulla, who was born and brought up at ‘Yalis, Alert Bay. “I don’t want my culture or my language to be lost. I want our Kwakwaka’wakw traditions to be practiced for another thousand years and more; so that our Kwakwaka’wakw people continue to sing our melodies, speak our language and dance our rhythms.
Fulla now plays an important role in helping other Indigenous students feel comfortable bringing their culture and traditional knowledge to academia as an Indigenous Education Navigator with the Office of Education and VIU’s Indigenous Engagement. Through this role, she supports Indigenous students throughout their post-secondary journey.
“The Master of Arts in Sustainable Recreation Management program allowed me to grow as an emerging Indigenous scholar and focus on the research that mattered most to me by creating my own Kwakwaka’wakw research paradigm focused on lessons and specific concepts. Not only did I work with Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Associate Vice President of Scholarships, Research and Creative Activities at VIU, but we created a committee with Indigenous perspectives that allowed me to lead my research in a culturally safe space. Having recently completed the MASLM program, I feel confident to support Vancouver Island University research, students, and faculty in my new role.
Laura Tait, Master of Education in Educational Leadership ’10
When all public education had to move online in the spring of 2020, Laura Tait, who is assistant superintendent of elementary programs for Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, helped organize the district’s 15,000 students to keep learning at home, then the partial return to the classrooms two and a half years later, then the full return in September 2020.
“We are now seeing that this pandemic is affecting everyone emotionally, socially, psychologically and in a myriad of other ways. These are the impacts that we are currently responding to, from a systems perspective,” says Tait. “What wakes me up in the morning is when a principal calls me and tells me about a kid who led his entire school in a morning dance assembly or a kid who started a whole new game and shared it with peers or when I get an email from a grandparent whose kids and grandkids I supported and she was just writing to say thank you, again! what’s important is what will get us through COVID.”
Tait, who is Tsimshian from Prince Rupert, born in the Eagle Clan and whose mother is from the village of Lax Kw’Alaams, worked for many years as an Aboriginal education teacher in the district, including while she was completing her master’s degree at VIU, an arrangement made possible by the structure of the program, which offers different options for practicing teachers, such as fully online and weekends/during the summer.
Want to know more about graduate programs at VIU?
Register for VIU’s Virtual Graduate Program Expo on January 19 to meet faculty, students, alumni, and recruiters and learn more about graduate program options at VIU. Sandipan Debnath, our first alumnus featured in this blog post, is a keynote speaker. Watch this video for a guide to getting the most out of the event.