I have been fascinated with the academic environment from the moment I set foot on campus as an undergraduate student. There was something about the smell of the crisp fall air, the beauty of autumn leaves billowing about, the hustle and bustle of young minds wandering to their next class, the endless stacks of books in the library, and the history and tradition of a university.
I didn’t realize it yet, but academia had captured my heart. I began my studies in Physical Education and Kinesiology and was fascinated by the upper year courses in research. This fascination led me to an honours thesis. The idea of researching something that genuinely interested me, and then discovering new ideas and new ways of looking at a subject to share it with the world was so exciting. It was this experience that solidified my passion to pursue academia.
After undergrad, I decided to enroll in a master’s program in Applied Health Sciences, to expand on my Physical Education background; focusing on Health Sciences more generally. After completing my Masters, I knew I needed to pursue a PhD in order to fulfill my career goals of becoming a professor. I needed to decide where and on what topic I would pursue my degree. After thorough research and a lot of time spent figuring out where I wanted my career to take me, I decided to attend the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta for my PhD.
I chose the School of Public Health for several reasons: The school was then in the process of becoming accredited through the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and became the first accredited school of public health in Canada. Not only did I think this would look good on my curriculum vitae, I knew I would be receiving a quality education, and leave the program with the training and skills I needed to promote and protect health in a meaningful way. This, of course, meant more strenuous studies, more coursework (a minimum of eight courses, compared to some programs in the university which only required one or two courses for a PhD), and more competition. However, I took every opportunity I could to be involved in the school to help me through the process.
I became a student representative on the CEPH accreditation committee, served as President of the School of Public Health Students’ Association, engaged in interdisciplinary research, and taught courses. If I could provide any career advice, it would be this: take full advantage of every opportunity presented to you, you never know what doors it will open up.
Being a part of the accreditation committee familiarized me with key competencies and introduced me to key personnel within the school and community. Serving as president of the student association led to invitations on various committees and to speak at national forums on public health. Engaging in interdisciplinary research led to publications and opportunities to travel the world and present my research. And, finally, teaching opened up opportunities for self-learning I never thought possible. Best of all, I kept falling in love with academia and knew this was my place.