My experience changed my life and who I am, and it’s important to me that students are aware of the opportunities available at the University of Lethbridge. Stay curious about people, courses and opportunities. There’s so much knowledge out there, and some of it is outside your textbook
After learning how to quilt at age 11, Emily Demyen (BA ’18) has always had a passion for crafts. Making candles and wreaths, paper quilling, and painting are all ways Emily expresses her artistic side. But don’t let these fun hobbies fool you; she doesn’t have time to craft all day long. Emily is a diligent and persistent worker. Finding moments of mindfulness throughout the day is essential to bringing her best self to her personal and professional lives each day, a skill she honed throughout her eight-month co-op work term, applied and independent studies at the University of Lethbridge, before beginning her professional career.
It’s 2016, and although Emily doesn’t quite know it, she is about to meet some pretty incredible people as her uLethbridge experience takes a new direction. As she walks through the empty hallway, Emily wonders if she’s in the right place or whether she should go inside. However, this hesitation changed the second Emily stepped into the Career Bridge office and met program coordinator Stacey Gaudette-Sharp. “I went in to discuss the library applied study opportunity but ended up with an eight-month co-op work term instead! I joined the Career Bridge team, and the rest is history!” For Emily, co-op was the perfect environment for realizing her passion, skills and building genuine relationships.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without Jasminn Bertteoti, the director in the Career Bridge office. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. She had so much faith in me as a person, as an employee and as a student. I’m so grateful for her kindness and her friendship. I could just show up at her office without an appointment. If you can find someone on campus who has your back like that, you’ll never feel alone, and you’ll always be able to get through whatever life throws your way.”
For Emily, studying subjects that genuinely interested her gave her the passion and motivation she needed. As a general major social sciences student, she pursued streams in history, kinesiology and sociology. “Study what you’re interested in. It will make it a lot easier to engage with the material. There are going to be some classes you take that are less enjoyable, no matter which degree you take, but if you find something that feels easy to you, you are going to be very successful,” she advises.
Emily’s genuine and positive perspective is also due in part to her work at the Centre for Oral History and Tradition (COHT). “I met Dr. Jenna Bailey through the COHT at one of her workshops. Afterward, she approached me and asked if I wanted to help work on her documentary project ‘We are the Roots.’” Emily couldn’t wait, and her work began summer of 2017. ‘We are the Roots’ is a documentary focused on the story of a wave of Black immigrants who settled in Alberta and Saskatchewan. It was an oral history project that included stories from 19 descendants of the original settlers. This award-winning documentary is available on Bailey and Soda Films. Emily worked as the associate researcher, editor and photo editor on the project. “I spent many hours transcribing interviews, going through archives looking for the perfect photo or article and reordering sections of the film. Jenna’s faith in me was everything. She trusted my ideas and my work, which gave me so much confidence.” Emily believes in the transformative power of education and feels it is the best way to learn about other perspectives, people, and cultures.
“I was able to contribute my ideas in a way that felt impactful and meaningful. At first, I felt a lot of pressure to get it right, but the more you work with oral history, the more you realize it’s not about you or anything you’re doing. Your job is to tell the story.” Research work inspired her to think more about the oral history tradition, and it gave her a deeper perspective on the history she was learning in class. “Oral history is special to me because I finally got to hear about some of the real-life content of my sociology classes, such as systemic racism.” She later worked on another project with Dr. Bailey, transcribing videos for Dr. Bailey’s Ivy Benson book project. Ivy Benson managed the longest-running all-girl dance band in British history, and through photos and stories, Emily caught a glimpse of life for the band members. “Without Jenna’s passion and ability to create genuine connections with her interviewees, I don’t know if we’d get these stories. They’re personal, and some of them are hard to tell and hard to listen to as well.”
I was able to contribute my ideas in a way that felt impactful and meaningful. At first, I felt a lot of pressure to get it right, but the more you work with oral history, the more you realize it’s not about you or anything you’re doing. Your job is to tell the story.
Most recently, Emily worked on the second part of ‘We are the Roots,’ the second generation of people from the original 19 in the project. This project coincided with the growing Black Lives Matter movement, and Emily found this work deeply impactful. “We want to believe we’ve come so far, but not a lot has. The discrimination their grandparents and great grandparents faced is not a lot different to what they are still experiencing today,” she says. After watching many videos and listening to countless stories, sometimes pausing them for a tissue, they completed this project. “The research assistantship deepened my empathy and understanding of the issues I’d spent so much time studying,” Emily adds.
A few weeks before her convocation, Emily applied for a position at the Registrar’s Office (RO) and was surprised and excited to land an interview. She was a natural fit and began work in July of 2018. As part of her position as a Curriculum and Scheduling Specialist, she was tasked with a software project. “I never imagined myself working with a software program or a lot of data, but it’s definitely a good fit for me! I’m fortunate because, for many, it can be tough to find a job that’s enjoyable but also feels like it’s something you’re good at doing. I’m grateful to be in a position where I feel good at my job, and I can keep learning and growing because that’s something that a lot of people want, but not everyone can find.”
The Registrar’s Office takes care of the student experience from start to finish, from admission to convocation and everything in-between. “I think some people don’t realize what we do and how much we do. Working in the Registrar’s Office has been the best way to see the University's inner workings and what it takes to get from start to finish because when you understand all of the steps required, it makes supporting students a lot easier. After all, you know where they might be struggling along the way. But I also love technology, so I’m grateful to be working with new software programs and all that fun stuff.”
For Emily, the tight-knit uLethbridge community is a perfect fit. She strives to give those around her a sense of belonging and pay forward her own positive experience, even in an online environment. “It can be hard to show up online the way you do in person, but it’s important. Smiling and asking people how they’re doing takes only a few minutes at the beginning of a Zoom call, and those conversations really make people feel connected and remind people they aren’t just a screen. We all want the same thing, to help students and enrich their educational experience.”
Emily’s success did not come from chance. Her passion and grit led her to explore many opportunities at uLethbridge and carve out a path unique to herself. “My experiences changed my life and who I am, and it’s important to me that students are aware of the opportunities available at the University of Lethbridge. Stay curious about people, courses and opportunities. There’s so much knowledge out there, and some of it is outside your textbook,” she adds.
At convocation, Emily looked back on the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance with a sense of accomplishment. “I’m the first in my family to go to university, so I felt a deep sense of pride hearing my name called,” she says.
When she isn’t in her craft room or shopping at Michael’s, she might be out walking her golden retriever and best friend, Max, watching baseball with her husband or planting flowers in the garden. While Emily greatly enjoys her current position, she hopes to attend grad school in the future, and we wish her the best.