Education is Close to Home for Northwest Grads

May 30, 2018
Jennifer Coosemans
Class speaker Jennifer Coosemans of Terrace earned her Bachelor of Science (Integrated) degree and will being working as an environment waste services intern with the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine.

Jennifer Coosemans, Marleigh Owen and Jennifer Lewis are all passionate about their chosen and future careers.

And while their university degrees they received recently may be different, they all cherished the community connections they built and the hands-on learning opportunities they experienced as University of Northern British Columbia students. Coosemans, Owen and Lewis were selected as their class speakers at the UNBC’s Northwest Regional Celebration and Presentation of Graduates on Tuesday in Terrace.

Coosemans earned a Bachelor of Science – Integrated degree in Biology, Biochemistry, and Environmental and Earth Sciences. Owen graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree while Lewis received her Master of Business Administration degree.

They were among 20 graduates who participated in the celebration at the R.E.M. Lee Theatre.

Prior to the formal celebration, each of them spoke about their journey at UNBC and their future plans.

For Coosemans, attending UNBC gave her opportunities for hands-on learning in her community and the region.

“I was very fortunate to participate in field schools around the area. I was able to do hands-on work and I really liked that experiential learning portion of it, including going out to Prince Rupert, Terrace and hiking around the area,” she said.

Next up for Coosemans is an environment waste services internship with the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, a position funded by Environment Canada.

“It’s very tailored to my degree because integrated science has really given me a broad platform to work with,” she said.

Owen, who grew up in Terrace, chose to enrol in the Northern Collaborative Baccalaureate Nursing Program in the Northwest region since she could do all four years of her degree in her hometown. Small class sizes allowed for better interpersonal connections attracted her as well.

“I liked the idea of being in a smaller classroom and being able to connect with my cohort and connect with all of my professors and clinical instructors,” she said. “You build more of a relationship and I feel you get more out of it because you know them personally and they know who you are and your work ethic. It’s a very supportive environment.”

Marleigh Owen of Terrace received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She also served as her class speaker.

Since she plans on working in the area, Owen felt it was best to complete all of her practicum placements in Terrace. It helped her build connections with the staff at Mills Memorial Hospital.

After taking some time off to do some travelling, Owen begins her new job in acute care nursing at the Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace in August.

Owen credits her passion for caring for others and the nursing profession itself that carried her through her four-year journey. She said that is key for those who are considering a career in nursing.

“It’s a hard degree, but if it’s something you’re passionate about, it makes it so much easier,” she said. “I think your passion for nursing is what gets you through. That’s definitely what has helped me.”

UNBC’s location in Northern B.C. was the selling point for Master of Business Administration graduate Jennifer Lewis and her reasons behind choosing to study at the University.

“When I made my final decision, it was because it was the Northern university and I’m from the North and we’re here to support the North,” she said.

Even though she lives in Terrace, Lewis made the trek, a six-hour drive each way, to Prince George every month to attend three-day classes for 21 months. She wasn’t the only one from the northwest region in her cohort. She car pooled with two other students from Terrace and another from Gitlaxt'aamiks in the Nass Valley to join her cohort of 17 students.

“It was definitely worth the long drives every month from Terrace to Prince George,” she said. “It’s the camaraderie you get from car pooling, the closeness of the people. Our motto for our MBA group was, nobody left behind and we coached each other. We mentored each other and we did it through those trips.”

MBA graduate Jennifer Lewis travelled from Terrace to Prince George and back every month for two years. She is proud to have earned her master's degree from UNBC.

Lewis’ background is marketing and business and she owned her own company at one point.

“I was worried that I was going to go to an MBA program and not learn something,” she said. “I was very pleasantly surprised about how much I didn’t know. And now I think I’m a life-long learner.”

Now armed with her MBA, Lewis isn’t sure what her future holds, but she is confident that it will be in Northern B.C. which is what drew her to UNBC in the first place.

“My future will be supporting the North and Northwest B.C.,” she said. “Whatever I do will be supporting and benefitting the North.”