Con.text

Business Analysis Student Embraces Change

Larissa Featherstone, BA and Change Management student
Larissa Featherstone, Business Analysis and Change Management student

In Continuing Education, we’re always inspired by our students’ stories and achievements and decided to share them more widely.

Larissa Featherstone is our Student Spotlight story for July. If you look up at our blog masthead, you’ll see a photo of Larissa and fellow Continuing Education student Jeffrey Jones. They were both highly recommended by their instructors.

Larissa, born and raised in Calgary, graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 2009 with a Bachelor of Management degree.

“In third year, I participated in the Integrated Management Experience Program as well as the KPMG Business Case Competition. It was the second time in the history of the competition that a third year team made it into the finals. We went on to win the KPMG Business Case Competition,” she says.

Larissa soon found herself working on the business analysis team at Devon Energy in the heart of Calgary’s oil patch. Larissa enrolled in MRU’s Business Analysis Extension Certificate, completing it in 2012.

“I found the classes to be a good size and appreciated the networking opportunities,” Larissa says. “And the class schedule was great – Thursdays or Fridays, and Saturdays. My manager allowed me to attend classes during work time and I gave up my weekend time to go to class. So that worked well.”

One aspect of the Business Analysis program that Larissa was surprised to find she really enjoyed was the people side of the business analysis process, particularly relating to organizational change.

Devon Energy’s Canadian conventional oil and gas assets were acquired by Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in February 2014. This was a major change for the organization, so Larissa put her newly acquired knowledge of change management to work.

She enrolled in MRU’s Change Management program to further her skills in this important area, completing it in June.

Larissa enjoys living and working in downtown Calgary, and loves getting outdoors. It was an uncharacteristically rainy day when we caught up with her at Devonian Gardens in the Home Oil Tower. “I couldn’t live in Vancouver,” she noted.

Larissa grew up taking dance classes, and still dances in her free time. She’s a supporter of the San Jose Sharks and a die-hard Calgary Roughnecks fan, even cutting a recent vacation short so she could attend playoff games. Larissa also enjoys visiting with her little niece.

Down the road, Larissa could see herself as an enterprise-wide change management consultant. She’s interested in our Leadership Development certificate and may earn a Masters of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University 10 or more years from now. She would even like to explore teaching change management in the future.

Hear more about Larissa’s experience.

— by Karen McCarthy

MRU Professor to Present at Prestigious Conference

The Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension is proud to sponsor the prestigious Kappa Delta Pi conference at Mount Royal University this October. Kappa Delta Pi is the International Honor Society in Education and the conference is on Learning, Leadership and Practice: Educating Global Citizens

Jodi NickelDr. Jody Nickel, Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Education at Mount Royal University, is one of the featured speakers at the conference. She will be presenting the research she is conducting with Dr. Jim Zimmer, Dean of MRU’s Faculty of Teaching and Learning, on The Emergence of Professional Identity among the first students in MRU’s Bachelor of Education – Elementary degree program.

The longitudinal study is collecting data from the first cohort of 68 teacher candidates over the four years of the degree program. They graduate in June 2015. The research traces the emergence of their professional identities as teachers, moving from the idealism of their first year through their experiences in the realities of the classroom environment.

The attrition rate among new teachers in Alberta is almost 40 percent within the first five years of practice. Nickel and Zimmer were curious whether developing a strong sense of professional identity would strengthen the students’ commitment to the profession as they evolved from student to teacher.

Nickel says, “In the first two years we collected survey data and analyzed their teaching portfolios where they wrote about their teaching philosophies and goals. They used a lot of platitudes; they wanted to ‘make learning fun’ and ‘put children first.’ They didn’t have a lot of legs on their ideals so we were curious about how that would shift through practicum. At the conference I’ll mainly be talking about what they said in interviews following practicum. I have to say the shift was very encouraging. They have a much deeper understanding of their role as teachers and a tremendous amount of confidence.”

Dr. Nickel says, “There are four themes that I will be talking about at the conference.

  • First of all, the idea of relationships. The teacher candidates have moved beyond the simple idea of ‘I need to be a friend to these kids’ to ‘how does knowing them well enhance my ability to teach them effectively?’
  • The next is the idea of flexibility: really learning how to think on their feet. One teacher candidate described an occasion where the children were bored by her fraction lesson: “So finally I looked around and I was like, ‘Okay, everyone stand up,’ and they all stood up and I got them to organize themselves into fractions – I got them moving – and it was so much better than what I had planned for the rest of the lesson!”
  • The third theme describes the sense of the serious responsibility that they’re facing as teachers. One teacher candidate regretfully described a lesson that did not go well: ‘They were just so happy when the bell rang. That was probably the most discouraging day, just realizing I wasted an entire block of time because I wasn’t doing my job and the kids weren’t doing theirs.
  • The last one is empowerment. One teacher candidate said, ‘This is who I am, and if I wasn’t teaching I don’t know what else I would be doing. I loved being with the kids, so I think that just really helped push through any challenges that I had. Another described how when teaching multiplication to grade fours, some children started crying and she herself was close to tears. Her mentor teacher was at the back of the room signaling for her to keep it together. My mentor said, ‘You are all in. You are not going to have someone jumping in for you.’ She reflected, ‘At first I sort of wish she had jumped in for me but I had to learn for myself.’

Dr. Nickel believes that some of the attrition among new teachers can be traced to the dissonance they experience when their actions in the classroom are out of alignment with their core beliefs about themselves as teachers.

“Professional identity focuses on how one sees oneself as a teacher. Nickel says. “When I was a new teacher, I believed it was important to help children to feel confident and empowered. Then when I lost patience with them, I’d get down on myself because I was acting in ways that were contrary to my ideals. I talked myself into a tailspin. That negative self-talk is a real concern for teachers – new teachers in particular.”

She points to the “core reflection model” of F.A.J. Korthagen, who believes that at a teacher’s core is their sense of mission. This informs everything from the teacher’s identity and beliefs to their competencies and behaviour in the classroom.

Korthagen asks teachers to consider, “What inspires you? What gives meaning and significance to your work and your life?” Identity can include negative self-concepts but tapping into mission helps teachers make meaning of negative experiences by returning to those ideals that drew them to the profession in the first place.

Nickel shares a quote from her interviews that shows how one teacher candidate moved beyond frustration with challenging behaviour to a richer understanding of her role in the lives of her students.

“It’s really hard to differentiate for them if you don’t know where they’re coming from. We had a few students who, honestly, you would think it’s their life goal to ruin your life every day! Because just they would do things, like they would throw pipe cleaners around the room, or they would just sit there and they wouldn’t do their work! I mean they were six, so fair enough, but at the same time it was like day in, day out. Then you learn things like their parents are homeless, or they might be coded for ADHD. It makes it less personal and you can really start getting to the heart of the matter and figure out, okay, which teaching do I need to put on for so-and-so to get them through this math lesson? Like, do I need to be that mother or do I need to be that drill sergeant today?”

Watch a video about the teacher professional identity:

Learn more about Dr. Nickel’s research project.

Read a blog post by Dr. Nickel on professional identity in the teaching profession.

– by Karen McCarthy

It Must be Summer, Because MRU Kids are Here

MRU KidsThe MRU campus can be a bit quiet toward the end of June as students and faculty go off on their summer adventures. But it’s full of life once again at the beginning of July when MRU Kids summer day camps for children and youth ages 5 to 17 begin.

The one- to two-week MRU Kids camps run from July 7 through August 29, 2014. There are programs to suit any child’s interest – sports, art, computers, science, theatre, leadership, engineering – MRU Kids has something they will love. They have so much fun they don’t even notice that they are learning at the same time.

“I am pleased to once again to welcome all of our campers to the wonderful facilities on campus at Mount Royal University. I’m very proud of our tradition of combining educational activities with fun and friendship. We are excited to introduce a Physical Literacy Component (PLAY) to all of our camps this year, consisting of a variety of fun physical activities,” says Kevin Gilbert, Program Coordinator of MRU Kids.

The PLAY program replaces daily swim time since the MRU pool will be closed for renovations this summer. Campers will also visit Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

A unique feature of MRU Kids is the free before and after care, so busy parents can easily accommodate dropping their kids off to camp in their work day.

The camps are divided by age group: Elementary Programs (5-9 years of age); Junior Programs (9-14 years of age); and Youth Programs (13-17 years of age).

There are also Sports and Adventure camps, including Cougars Gym Highlights offered in partnership with MRU Cougar Sport Camps.

Popular programs for the elementary set include CATS (Computers, Arts, Theatre & Science).

New this summer for junior campers is Academie Artiste, a combination of art history and drawing, painting and sculpture.

For the older teens, there’s the ConocoPhillips Youth Science Academy. All participants receive a $100 scholarship towards the cost of the program courtesy of the corporate sponsor.

Thanks to our generous donor Co-op Community Foundation, MRU Kids is able to provide bursaries to parents to help them pay for children to attend our programs. The donation also provides free lunches to bursary recipients.

MRU Kids has offered top-quality child and youth programming in a creative, fulfilling environment for 24 years. Last summer nearly 3000 children and youth participated in MRU Kids camps.

MRU Kids employs dozens of post-secondary students as camp instructors and group leaders every summer.

Congratulations to our MRU Kids Win a Camp draw. Winners were chosen on May 15.

Rita Dong with Kevin Gilbert, MRU Kids program coordinator.
Prize winner Rita Dong with Kevin Gilbert, MRU Kids Program Coordinator.
Winner Tara Poncelet with son Evan.
Winner Tara Poncelet with son Evan, who is a returning MRU Kids camper. He enjoyed CATS last summer, especially the Pokemon play his group put on.

If you’ve got recently released schoolchildren underfoot, MRU Kids can be a great way to keep them happy and busy this summer.

by Karen McCarthy