Where are you from? What is your background?
I am born and raised in Lethbridge! I attended the U of L for both my undergraduate and master’s degrees. I received a BSc in Biological Sciences (Coop) in 1999 and a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology in 2005. I love everything about the University of Lethbridge; so much so, that I’ve never left! The U of L has so much to offer, from small class sizse, and a liberal education, to being situated right in the coulees; but most importantly for me, is the feeling of community that I get when I step on our campus!
I am a Registered Psychologist and the Manager of the Counselling & Career Services team on campus; previously I’ve worked as a research scientist, barista, waitress, fast food worker, nail technician, crisis line worker, and group home supervisor. All of these roles brought me to where I am now. I’ve always worked with people and I thrive in helping, and collaborating with, others. On a personal note, I am an identical twin and this is a huge part of my identity. When my sister and I both attended the U of L for our undergraduate degrees in the sciences, we would confuse a lot of people! It was not uncommon to have complete strangers approach me about the chemistry exam or ask me why I always changed my outfit.
When did you join the uLethbridge team and what do you do here?
I joined the counselling services team in 2004 after completing my practicum within the department. At that time, counselling services was a very small department of three, nestled in the Registrar’s office. Since then, our services have drastically expanded to include 10 professional counsellors offering mental health support, career services, and sexual violence support and outreach. We also have our own separate location in Anderson Hall. As a snapshot, in 2007/08 our department offered 2150 counselling appointments to students and this past year we offered 8,217 sessions; this is not including group counselling, wellness workshops, and countless outreach and training initiatives. I worked as a counsellor within the department until 2016, when I became the Manager of Counselling & Career Services. I have counselled countless students over the years and I feel it is such an honour and privilege to work with this client population; not only are students experiencing merging adulthood and the most change they are likely to experience in a lifetime, they are also navigating identity development, career concerns, financial stressors, interpersonal issues, academic needs, and often serious mental health difficulties (anxiety, depression, etc.).
What is the best part of your job?
I truly LOVE my job! I feel proud to work at the U of L and to be able to serve students. In my role as a manager, I have the opportunity to learn from students first hand about their experiences on our campus, and to also liaise with faculty and other Student Affairs staff to ensure that we remain responsive to student needs. I enjoy the variety that my work brings- I manage a robust and highly skilled team of professionals, I serve on various committees to effect and evaluate change, and I counsel students.
How has your job changed since the COVID-19 pandemic?
Since the pandemic, we have moved all of our services to online. We continue to offer personal counselling and career coaching sessions via zoom or phone and we have been offering group sessions that have been very successful including the Pandemic Support Group, Mindfulness for Pandemic Care, Book Club and other mental health focused group offerings. My team has been exceptional during the transition and we are proud that we didn’t experience any disruption in services to students!
Do you have any tips to help employees stay connected and productive as we head into the summer months of working from home?
By biggest tip to employees would be to create structure and boundaries to your work day. As a counsellor, I have always been very mindful of creating work life and home life separation, but with the pandemic, work was now IN my home and I found myself not having concrete or emotional boundaries for myself. It struck me one Friday recently, that the ritual of walking into my home on Friday afternoon, throwing down my bag, and yelling out to my family, “it’s the weekend!” was not there anymore and that this is why I didn’t feel like it was the weekend. My advice would be to create new rituals to communicate to yourself that work has started and that work is over. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at the beginning of your work day, or closing your laptop at the end of the day. Lastly, I would say go outside every day and be active in whatever way that brings you joy! People always ask me how I have so much energy and I always say it is a simple equation, “I GIVE energy, to GET energy!”. It is crazy to see the reward you will get from being active, energizing your body and soul, and feeling empowered through movement. Better yet, get active with a friend or family member and have a social distancing walk.