by Sarah Androsoff, Marketing Services
Sports enthusiast Sarah MacNeil found herself working in the field of recreation from 2012 to 2017. It seemed to make the most sense for her at the time after getting an undergraduate degree in recreation management and with her diverse background in sports.
After transitioning to a job in high-performance sport that was part communications, part athlete services, the possibility of public relations crossed her mind. Having communications as part of her role made her want to build her confidence and communication skills further. "You can Google some of that stuff for sure, but I wanted to learn from experts in the field," she says.
Sarah began the Diploma in Public Relations with Continuing Studies at UVic in April 2020 and graduated in June of that year. The program was offered completely online, which turned out to be the best learning style for her. "I was worried that my learning was going to be impacted because I wasn't used to online learning," Sarah explains. "I was pleased with how organized the course content was."
Maintaining her lifestyle while studying was made possible because of the program's flexibility. "I was still able to work full time, volunteer, do other activities and have a life," Sarah points out. "I could take as few, or as many, courses as I wanted. I could move at my own pace to complete the program." The creditability of the program was also something that appealed to her—it's recognized by the Canadian Public Relations Society, which reassured Sarah she would be receiving high quality education.
"I was still able to work full time, volunteer, do other activities and have a life."
The positive learning environment at Continuing Studies motivated Sarah to complete her course work with excitement and confidence. "Continuing Studies is very welcoming, and the professors were excellent. The communication was clear and frequent. It was easy to engage with my professors for questions and feedback," Sarah confirms.
The course work was diverse and challenged Sarah to think in different ways. Her writing abilities improved immensely, and the assignments gave her the opportunity to get creative. She wrote news releases and executive summaries, and she designed her own blog. Sarah also created a stakeholder engagement presentation and a communications plan. "I find in this field, there's an expectation to have a wide variety of experience. I think the exposure to a little bit of everything in my assignments was valuable," she adds.
Sarah describes herself as a natural doer, she tends to execute right away. However, the program taught her the valuable skill of patience. "I've learned to take a step back and use strategic thinking when approaching projects," explains Sarah. "I now see the higher reward that comes with that process."
Not only has this program helped her progress professionally, but it has impacted her personal life. "The patience piece I got from this program was very valuable in my life. I've been able to take some of these skills and support my friends and other organizations," says Sarah.
While Sarah's resume of skills increased from taking the program, she also gained a new realization: "It's all about perspective. I've learned how important it is to involve people you're engaging with. We need to engage all kinds of individuals in conversations," suggests Sarah. "You don't know what someone else needs if you've never had that experience or lived through what they did.”
"It's all about perspective. I've learned how important it is to involve people you're engaging with."
After completing the program, Sarah's confidence level rose and new doors of opportunity began to open. "I was successful in getting into a federal government pool for future positions," she says. "There were several tests involved and an intense interview process. I wouldn't have been able to get through that without going through this program."
Currently, Sarah is working with the Canadian Sport Institute Atlantic as a communications and project lead. She has loved having a position where she can take on full communication responsibilities and she's been able to apply what she's learned in the Diploma in Public Relations. Sarah says she couldn't be happier.