Sara Hutchinson has some words of advice for students beginning their University of Lethbridge journey: research shouldn’t be reserved solely for the lab or in the field.

Research our institution. There are a wide range of opportunities for students to engage in, and more students need to take advantage of them. Work-integrated learning (WIL) is available to all students, and all students should engage with it as it provides invaluable experience.

Meet Sara | Academic. Traveler. Reader.
Program: Bachelor of Arts | Major: Archaeology  
Hometown: Vulcan, AB

Sara speaks from a position of strength when it comes to work-integrated learning. The archaeology student has participated in two independent studies, two Work2Learn (W2L) positions and a field school.

After her first year, she took part in Dr. Shawn Bubel (BSc '96) and Dr. Kevin McGeough's (BA '96) archaeological field school at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. There, she spent two months focused on studying and excavating the site and learned valuable archaeological field and lab techniques.

Sara read Latin texts and translated them along with Dr. Christopher Epplett in her first independent study. In her second, with Dr. Bubel, she independently analyzed the faunal collection from the excavations she had participated in at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

Sara’s first W2L position was with Food for Thought, where she helped prepare the initiative for the start of the fall semester and developed marketing material. She is currently in her second W2L position, where she assists with marketing, event planning and volunteer management as a student engagement coordinator with Career Bridge.

She found one of the biggest benefits of those WIL experiences was creating greater connections with the archaeological, student and local communities.

“The importance of work-integrated learning has become increasingly evident to me, and that has translated into valuing career and personal development outside of these opportunities,” adds Sara, noting that learning to work in a group setting has been essential to her development as an archaeologist, student and professional. 

She has also found her many extracurricular activities have complimented her classroom studies. Sara is vice-president of the Archaeology Club on campus, serves as the ULethbridge representative on the Canadian Archaeological Association student board and volunteers at the local food bank. She also went to Italy this past summer with Saint Mary's University to participate in an archaeological field school.

“Although most of these opportunities have been archaeological-focused and have helped me develop my skills in that way, each of these opportunities has taught me new things as well,” says Sara, who also has a passion for writing and recently completed her fifth, novel-length draft. “I am learning interpersonal skills, event organizational skills, travel skills and much more!”

She originally chose ULethbridge for its robust neuroscience program. Sara discovered archaeology, however, through her involvement with the Global Citizenship Cohort (read more about her experience here) and switched majors after her first-ever Archaeology 1000 lecture by Dr. Bubel.

“Dr. Bubel has had a profound impact on me since my first year. She has helped me unlock my life's passion and has encouraged me every step of the way,” she says.

Sara credits Dr. McGeough for helping her stay realistic in her journey. She says he helped her hone her skills and stay on the right track in her undergraduate studies, so she can accomplish everything she wants to in life.

“Dr. Epplett has also had a major influence on me,” she says. “Through our Latin studies together he has helped me tackle the one thing I have always struggled with, language learning.”

Sara also has praise for the Career Services team she works closely with in her current W2L position with Career Bridge. The support of her co-workers has proved invaluable in her professional development and her university journey, and she says their advice and encouragement have pushed her to maintain her best self.

“Sara is an all-star who has seamlessly started contributing to department objectives,” says Tracy Horne, of Career Bridge, of the student's W2L role with Career Services. “She is incredibly productive and polite reviewing student documents, recruiting students to events and initiatives and assisting office staff with anything asked of her.”

As for her most memorable experience at ULethbridge, Sara says it isn’t one standout moment, but all the small moments together.

“I've been blessed with outstanding professors and amazing colleagues and though completing a bachelor’s degree can seem like a daunting task, each of them has made the journey all the more enjoyable,” says Sara, adding she is the first in her immediate family to attend university, and could not have accomplished all that she has without their support.

Sara was also honoured to be named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship,

As for the future, her plans include pursuing a master’s and a PhD, and Sara aspires to become a professor like all those who have inspired her.

“I want to have the capacity to devote my life to my area of study as well as find a way that my passion can help those around me and develop our global community,” she says.