At the end of the day, the university is where you come and you learn things. When you finish, you still make mistakes. It's not like you finished your bachelor's degree and you're done learning. Even when you're done university, you still have to keep going in life.
Imogen is a change maker. While some talk, Imogen takes action. It is just who she is. But why, what shaped her? Six-years of university helped, but that is only one piece of her story.
Sixth-year student Imogen Pohl is close to completing her degree at the University of Lethbridge. A traditional four-year undergraduate degree was not in the cards for her. Instead, she set out to get the absolute most out of her uLethbridge experience as a double major co-op student.
"Growing up in Grande Prairie, I didn’t see a lot of career options for girls, as it was an emerging oil town” Imogen recalled, “I'm sure it's very different now, but that's how I remember it." In addition, for as long as she can remember, Imogen wanted to be a teacher, noting, "My earliest memory is teaching my teddy bears what I learned in school.” For that reason, she chose uLethbridge because of its excellent teaching program. And while that is what drew her to Lethbridge, she changed her academic direction within two weeks after arriving on campus. She recalls seeing “all of these really cool female role models, like neuroscientist Dr. Robbin Gibb. I thought, 'that's so cool! You get to do things like research and science." By choosing a liberal education university, Imogen had the opportunity to try different classes and change majors more than once, an experience she does not regret, as it's given her great insight and helped her decide her academic path, eventually deciding on a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Minor in Liberal Education and a Bachelor of Management in Human Resources and Labour Relations.
Intent on truly experiencing her education, Imogen immersed herself in diverse experiences, both on and off-campus. One of the highlights was discovering co-operative education and completing five co-op work terms. Her first co-op took place as vice president academic of the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union (ULSU), where she advocated for the student body and sat on multiple committees. Her favourite part of being on the Students’ Union was helping students and seeing the changes she was making at the University of Lethbridge. An example of these changes occurred when Imogen sat on the "Double Majoring Committee," formed to allow students to double major formally. Imogen explained that in the past, "technically, in order to double major, you'd have to switch majors every semester to get into the classes you wanted, so I got to take a huge part in creating double majoring."
In a very unexpected way, her first co-op work term led to her next four co-op work terms at CKXU, the U of L's very own radio station. "Of all things, the washroom for my student's union position was on the other side of CKXU, so I thought I'd just pop in and say ‘hi.’ And that's how I got involved in CKXU!" But the path to this great job was a bit tricky. Just two days before the interview, she broke her foot. She recalls, "I literally rolled up on my little scooter thing, wearing my dad's sweatpants and hadn't showered in a few days." Despite it all, Imogen landed the job and has worked there ever since.
For Imogen, co-op benefits extend beyond work experience and the chance to earn money. For her, getting the co-op designation on her degree is paramount. "People are like, oh yes, co-op. You get money, cool. But in this day and age, when there are more people in your major than some entire faculties, you really need to help yourself stand out," she explained. Aside from setting yourself apart, the co-op office can help students navigate difficult situations. When Imogen's mom passed away in January of 2019 during her position with the ULSU, Imogen turned to the co-op office for support. "My mom was terminally ill and I was taking care of her and I didn't know how many bereavement days I could get. The co-op office was able to help me navigate Alberta labour laws. I appreciated that the co-op office was able to help me traverse this situation," helping Imogen take the time she needed to care for her mother and then grieve without losing her position.
Since co-op and classes don’t keep her busy enough, Imogen dedicates significant time to organizations both on campus and throughout Lethbridge. On-campus, Imogen sits as the elected president of Kappa Beta Gamma (KBG) sorority and the first active member to be elected Secretary Officer of KBG Canada. One of her most significant responsibilities was creating inclusive bylaws for this traditional organization. "I was helping to make KBG more inclusive because, unfortunately, some sororities do exclude people who aren't cis-gendered women," Imogen explained, adding that this is a subject very close to her heart, "as someone with a disability and who is part of the pride community, just because something is not explicitly excluded, it doesn't mean the organization is inclusive. In our bylaws, it didn't say you couldn't be trans or nonbinary, but it didn't say you could. People shouldn't have to ask the question 'am I included' and so this had to change." Imogen worked with Pride Toronto, one of the country's largest pride bodies, to write an official gender diversity statement for KBG. This statement outlines that members who are not cis-gendered women, including trans, nonbinary or gender-fluid persons, are welcome to join the organization. “Anyone within our guidelines interested in being a member of our organization and upholding our motto is more than welcome to join,” she added.
Aside from her sorority involvement, Imogen has sat as treasurer of the object manipulation club and the co-coordinator for TedXUleth with Kathleen Massey, Associate Vice-President (Students). She also currently sits as co-president of The Meliorist, U of L's student-run newspaper. As for off-campus volunteering, Imogen is a board member of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta. Diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 19, Imogen brings essential knowledge to the table. She also sat as a member at large with Special Olympics Lethbridge and continues volunteering with them. She helps run a group of Girl Guides in Coalhurst and jokingly adds that her current sorority is “Girl Guides for grownups.”
In terms of her university experience as a whole, Imogen wishes more students understood the breadth of resources available to U of L students. " If you're thinking, ‘hey, I could really use this kind of support,’ it is probably already provided by the university or can be found in a club," she explained. Imogen disclosed that in her own experience after losing her mother, accessing support on campus was very important and not something to be ashamed of. And if you are not sure where to seek help, Imogen says, "Don’t be embarrassed if you go to the wrong department. They will help you get where you need to be,” adding, “don’t just sit there hoping help will come to you. Go find it!”
This year has had many unexpected and uncontrollable challenges, and like many students, Imogen has struggled with adapting to the “new normal” of the pandemic. “COVID has McWrecked me. I’m really tired. Definitely hitting that COVID fatigue, and I’m taking a bit of a mental health leave from my co-op work term. With schizophrenia, I need to know when not exactly to throw in the towel, but place the towel on the rack and take a break. So that is what I’ve done.” For now, she continues with her board positions and sorority obligations and looks forward to completing her current co-op position after this short pause.
Imogen is a determined student and aspires to become a lawyer one day, specifically in the field of corporate law. She is confident that her work in the ULSU has helped prepare her for this next step, saying that she was, "there to help mediate situations and go to 'court' for students,” to some extent.
Imogen is a shining example of diving in and getting the most out of your university experience while understanding the importance of maintaining wellness. Even superheroes get a day off every now and then.