Grads reflect on being set up for success by Brock

Embracing every opportunity and building strong relationships will lead to both reward and support.

That is the consensus of three of Brock’s 3,500 newest graduates, who shared some lessons they carry forward after last week’s Spring Convocation.

Brooke Kapeller (MS ’22) completed her Master of Sustainability part time after landing work in the not-for-profit sector while still a full-time student pursuing her degree.

Now working on watershed management for the Bow River Basin Council in Alberta, she brings together stakeholder groups to make collective decisions. Kapeller says she gained invaluable experience interacting with multiple stakeholders during her thesis research at Brock, when she worked with 18 stewardship and conservation organizations across the Niagara region to study successful stewardship initiatives.

“My exposure to these non-profits and stewardship groups in Niagara sparked my interest in working in the sector,” she says. “Seeing how these groups operate and all of the super passionate people that work in the non-profit world was very inspiring to me.”

Kapeller encouraged other students to stay open to opportunities, which can come from unexpected places.

“At Brock, one of the best things about my program was how many different opportunities there were,” she says. “I felt like there were no barriers to me pursuing what I wanted to try or learn about, and if there was something I was interested in, I had support to go and do that. I felt like I had more room for growth than if I were in a larger university doing a more specific, single-discipline degree.”

Avery Keith (MA ’22), who completed a Master of Arts in Applied Disability Studies, shares Kapeller’s endorsement of jumping at opportunities to explore interests, even if they’re slightly outside of your research focus.

Keith’s thesis research with supervisor Nicole Luke centred on virtually training caregivers of children with cortical visual impairment to teach social skills using applied behaviour analysis techniques to support them. However, she also volunteered in the Dwivedi Brain and Language Lab in the Department of Psychology when she got the chance, even though it was not directly related to her project.

“It’s great to take advantage of the different opportunities the University and your professors offer to further your own professional and personal development,” says Keith, who now works as a behaviour technician in a new Urgent Response Services program for the Ontario Autism Program. “I found that really rewarding, and I’m still working on a ton of different research projects because they make me more interested in learning and in the field in general.”

Viewing her graduate student cohort as collaborators rather than competitors showed that a rising tide lifts all boats, she says.

“Our field is small, especially in Canada, so we really want to build good working relationships with the students and professors who we’ll be working with in the future,” she says. “In first year, we would all congregate in our study room to share ideas and talk about opportunities. That small community we formed helped so much when the pandemic hit and everything went virtual.”

Robyn Cumiskey (BA ’22), a Political Science major, says she shared a similar experience of getting by with a little help from her friends.

“The thing that I think I’ll miss most from my undergrad experience is the opportunity to see the friends I’ve made during my degree every day,” she says. “I was fortunate to make several really close friends, all from the same POLI 1P98 seminar in first year, and we have stayed friends ever since, even making a point of building our schedules together each year so that we would always see each other.”

She says this sense of community and collaboration was also attributable to the size of her program, which gave her the opportunity to engage with professors more frequently and in more depth.

Cumiskey plans to return to Brock in the fall to start her graduate studies.

“I’m coming back to Brock in September because of the incredible environment the Political Science Department has created, both academically and socially,” she says. “I’m really excited about this coming year and the opportunities it will present to work as both a teaching assistant, helping to teach the courses that I’ve taken and loved, and a research assistant, growing and improving my knowledge base and my research and professional skills.”

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