Con.text

Don’t Quit Your Daydream

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Dawn O’Byrne is like many young women. Her reality wasn’t quite fitting her dream.

“I actually came here (MRU) a few years ago to do Open Studies,” she attests. But, like many, her grades weren’t what she wanted them to be, her focus waivered and her heart wasn’t in it. It seemed she needed time to find herself before she could find her career.

O’Byrne describes her post high school choices, “I really struggled in the past to find a career direction and I felt like my focus at that time was more on my identity.”

She recently enrolled in MRU Continuing Education’s Education Assistant program. “Now,” she says, “I feel like my focus is on where do I see myself career-wise.“

Her story is a familiar one to many of the full-time programs at MRU Continuing Education where a student might not find their stride in traditional education streams. Like O’Byrne, they have to ask themselves if they’d like an office job, or something different.

“I really like helping people,” O’Byrne suggests, “I want to be in a profession that gives back.” Her current practicum placement at Bishop Carroll High School is offering her the opportunity she needs to do just that. And what’s more? She’s succeeding.

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Dawn O’Byrne

“The difference between then and now is that I take my work very seriously.” She glows. “So, I’m more academic now and my grades are wicked!”

As an educator, O’Byrne longs to pass this experience onto others. “The commitment is huge,” she admits, “But having a sense of belonging makes me feel like a stronger individual. I can just be myself.”

That sense of enthusiasm is an enviable one. It’s the sense of pride of one who is actively fulfilling a life-long passion. “Now, when I wake up,” she relays, “I’m not stressed. I can’t wait to get to school… and my practicum.”

“It’s even more fulfilling because this is a career I know I can still be happy doing in twenty years or more.” She smiles, ”I feel like I’m living my dream. I couldn’t be happier.”

Click for Spring/Summer 2016 Calendar

Click for info on MRU’s Education Assistant Program

-by JLove

 

 

 

Things are looking up

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When you meet Kofi Wiafe in the office or on the basketball court, it’s clear that the success he’s had has all been on his own terms.

A self-driven individual, Kofi was feeling trapped in a decade-long comfort job in manufacturing. He explains, “I didn’t want to get stuck in a position where there was no growth and no opportunity.”

“In manufacturing,” he instructs, “you’re seeing he raw inventory and building it into a finished product.“ Kofi knew the inside of the business inside out, but outside his manufacturing position, there was more to understand about the logistics and procurement of the products being manufactured. “I wanted to be able to learn more,” he admits. So, he went to his manager with five words, “How can I move up?”

His manager suggested the Supply Chain Management program at MRU Continuing Education. He completed his certification, while working full-time, in just two years.  His reason was his drive, “I wanted to keep the information fresh in my mind.”

As for the course content, Wiafe says, “the instructors were great. The information was fantastic.  It was all real-world experience, which I appreciated.”

Always striving for his personal best, Wiafe admits there were some challenges along the way, “Sometimes it’s really easy to quit.” he says about the workload, “but committing yourself to a program while working full-time really shows the type of drive a person has.”

He didn’t walk through the doors of MRU without a second thought, Kofi admits to being scared initially. “Even though I knew that going back to school would be a scary thing to do, the reward that would come after was greater than the fear.” Its times like these where he assessed his motivation and decided, “I’m just going to do it… for the growth, for the career development, personal satisfaction — and it’s rewarding financially.”

Once his certification was complete, he realized that his current company couldn’t offer further growth or opportunity.  He had hit his ceiling.  So, despite friends and colleagues saying, “You’re crazy.  Why would you leave an environment you’ve been in for ten years? You know the system, they treat you well here… why would you want to leave?” Kofi put himself in market for a new position.

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“I figured if I could get into the oil and gas industry at the time where it’s down and be able to ride the wave, then in the upswing,” he planned, ”I’d be there for years and years ahead.”

Kofi was offered a job at TransCanada Pipelines.  He traded in his manufacturing t-shirt and lab coat for a suit and now occupies an office in downtown Calgary.

And the rewards?  “Financial benefit.” He sites first.  “There’s no worrying about if I’m in the right position or if I’m making enough money to take care of my family today, tomorrow and ten years down the road.”  Not one to over-indulge in luxury, he admits to some practical perks, “vacations and activities change a little bit. Instead of one week’s vacation, I can take a two week one in Mexico…or wherever.”  With a smile, he also fulfils a personal victory, “It allowed me to purchase a new vehicle – a 2015.  It’s dependable and reliable.  I don’t have to worry about putting money into it.”

He also mentions some intangible benefits regarding his future, “Growth.  There’s endless room for opportunity. “I came in as a senior Performance Management Specialist,” he states, then strategizes, “my goal is to work towards management, then director, and VP.”  He lays out the game plan, “The goal was to get in the door and work my way up.” If we were to look at the running scoreboard, it’s a sure bet that he’ll achieve all of these goals.

Looking back from his high-rise office, Wiafe reflects on the achievement, “Wow I did this.” He sighs. “I made a commitment to go back to school and look for something better – and achieved that.” To others contemplating taking a big risk to break through their own personal ceiling, he has this simple advice, “You’ve got to let your fears go – and take the next steps.”

As if the time was running down on the basketball court’s shot clock, he stops reminiscing to turn his thoughts again to strategizing what’s next.  With a score like Kofi Wiafe’s, you know he’ll always take the shot.

Click for Spring/Summer 2016 Calendar

Click for info on MRU Supply Chain Management

-by JLove

Fitting In

“We have a lot of educating to do.” Karen Dodge, Manager of MRU Cont. Ed.’s Languages Institute instructs, “it’s not only the people coming in that need to be educated.  The people that live here need to be educated too.”

With new Canadians, including some controversial Syrian refugees, integrating into our culture, work and lives in our hometown, there has to be more attention paid to both sides of the conversation.  “Calgary is a multi-cultural community,” she declares, “ESL is a Canadian reality right now.”group with Canada balloons

The MRU Languages Institute is well aware of the cultural acclimatization needed to succeed in a new region.  Regarding recent reactions on our home turf, she identifies, “The ‘them verses us’ mentality is discrimination. Calgary is going through what England was going through thirty years ago.”

Karen Dodge is an educator and the world is her classroom. She knows cultural differences first-hand.  A self-described internationalist, Dodge has lived and worked in Spain, China, England, Oman, Saudi Arabia and more.  Landing here in 1998, she is an ESL (English as a Second Language) and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teaching specialist.

The program focuses on three main branches, the popular English Language Program, World Languages (and customized training) and Teacher Education.

The first is to teach English to both local and international students, in fact it’s a 50/50 split.  Some are learning for work or studies, as they must qualify for the English language requirements for admittance to programs while others are studying for life in a different culture.

World Languages offers customized training to individuals or groups who are either in business with another culture or are planning to visit. “If you want something specific,” Dodge promises, “we can facilitate it.”  There are countless benefits to an introduction to a foreign language for business people.  “We can teach a businessman fifty key words in Mandarin,” she says, “which goes a long way in building relationships.”  The point isn’t always to become fluent in another language, it’s to demonstrate a vested interest.

The Teacher Education component leverages many of the almost eighty partnerships that MRU has with other academic institutions around the globe. “In South America,” Dodge explains, “professors are required to teach their discipline in English.”  This is the case in many international institutions as English is, “the language that has become dominant.” she admits.  In this program, foreign professors are brought to MRU for training which is delivered face to face. “Our aim,” Dodge says, “is to help international partners develop their own way of training.  It’s a train-the-trainer model.”  Most recently, a team of ten professors from Guanajuato, Mexico benefitted from this experience where they learned teaching strategies as well as specific English for the classroom vocabulary.

MRU’s Languages Institute knows that learning the language is just one component to actually fitting in.

“Fitting in,” she advises, “can be everything from defending yourself, standing up for yourself, putting forward your cultural viewpoint and earning respect.” In the end, it’s about empowering the student not just teaching proper verb usage.

“Cultural norms for us are not norms for everybody.” Dodge declares. To succeed, or fit in in the workplace, she notes, takes an understanding of soft skills from “being understood at the water-cooler” to “following hockey scores.”

-JLove a.k.a. JAmour

Conflict Actually: Conflict Management Tips for the Holidays

To paraphrase a modern Christmas classic film, Love Actually substituting their main theme of ‘love’ with our topic word of ‘conflict’, one can almost hear the prime ministerial tones of Hugh Grant in voiceover, “It’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends… if you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that (during the holidays) Conflict actually is… all around.”

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Let’s face it; along with the festive cheer, the season’s greetings and such, many holidays are filled with conflict. Whether you’re in line at a department store with the season’s latest must-have or the passive-aggressive gravy boat spill at the forced family gathering, tensions run high during the holidays.

We at MRU Cont. Ed. have asked Shannon Geoffrey, Program Administrator for Business and Professional Education, to provide us with a few mindful tips from our Conflict Resolution courses to help you successfully navigate the trials of your holiday.

“First,” she itemizes, “prepare.” Like a high performance athletics coach, she encourages research and visualization. “Knowing that someone is going to be confrontational or that someone is going to implode, that’s the first step.” Then, she recommends, “Visualizing in your mind what could happen and becoming comfortable with it before it happens.”

What if knowing is not enough? How can you calm the aggressor or diffuse a tense situation? Geoffrey uses paraphrasing. “Summarize what the person is saying. If someone says something that’s ‘way out there’, it’s not about agreeing with them, but it’s just saying ‘I hear you; I just see it this way.”

Then, there are the people who carry the dread of the encounter throughout the holiday. Even while visualizing the encounter and preparing coping techniques, everyone has that one particular sister-in-law who tries to manipulate everyone against them each and every family get-together. This anxiety adds to the normal holiday stresses. “Be very clear and upfront with people.” Geoffrey says.

“Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes you have to step away from that moment and put some space between you and that person in order to come back in a better frame of mind.” This needn’t be solved at the holiday table. Instead, Geoffrey suggests, “Set a period of time; a new year’s resolution to sit down with this person so that they’re in the right frame of mind rather than when they’re in high conflict and thinking irrationally.”

As dutiful parents remind children, “it takes two to tango.” In reality, it can be difficult for all of us to realize, through our egocentric lens, that we ourselves might be the problem. This is where MRU’s Conflict Resolution employs its philosophy of looking inward. Geoffrey thinks everyone must first, “understand yourself in conflict before you can manage others.” She continues, “find out what gets you going and what’s eating (you) up inside. Only then,” she explains, “can we learn the problem.”

“A lot of people get sucked into the emotion.” Geoffrey advises, “We need that introspection to figure out what is it that is creating that emotion and how do I learn how to manage that.” Using techniques like self-talk and journaling, you can gain the skills to manage the moment. “The program teaches you to look inward, but learn what to do outward.”

Like the movie, with time, understanding and a panicked trip to an airport, Conflict Actually teaches us, “people only get together right at the very end.”

-JLove (First Lobster)

Holiday Yoga Therapy

Ray Hawkins is well-balanced. Not only does he inspire as a yoga therapist at MRU Cont. Ed.’s Yoga and wellness program, he has a good handle on how to deal with holiday stress. Ironically, while we collectively aspire to rest and relaxation in our days away, Hawkins notes that, “People actually become sick over the holiday period.”

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“Between 75-92% of all diseases and deaths…were directly related to stress.” He cites several U.S. studies that formed the basis of his graduating paper in Holistic Therapy. Most people ramp up their output as they countdown to the holidays, “many believe they have to work long hard hours, spend money they don’t have, watch t.v. to wind down, drink too much alcohol to cope with pressures…” Hawkins states, “this simply places more stress on the body.”

There’s a definite imbalance to this cycle. “Coming into Christmas,” he regales, “many people have pushed themselves with work, school and other projects to the point of being worn down.” If this sounds familiar, Hawkins advises that the seasonal excesses, “Running around shopping centres, trying to balance budgets and stressing out over who wants what,” is not the recipe for a restful holiday.

He’s a practical guru. Not above all of this, he admits, “I get it. I work with these similar habits myself.” But how does one combat the stresses of the holiday season? “Breathe. Breathe slowly, breathe all the time.” he says. “The mind and body will follow a quiet gentle breath and relax.”

Listening to your body is one of the messages he lives in his everyday practices. Rather than overriding the system with more coffee/tea, opt for a rest or a relaxing walk in nature. You’ll find that how you spend your time leading up to your holiday will help ensure you’re able to actually have a holiday.

“You cannot give what you do not have.“ Hawkins “Fill yourself with health, love, respect and value. Then it all becomes too easy to share that with others.”

Ray has shared with us his Top 5 Tips for Balance during the holidays. To read them all, simply follow us on Twitter @MRUContEd

 

-by JLove

I Don’t Want to Sell You a Car

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I don’t want to sell you a car. I want to sell you the opportunity to learn how to sell cars yourself.

William Gourley is MRU Cont. Ed.’s Automotive Sales Course Instructor and he’s got the mileage to prove that his system works. “Automobiles are not so much wants as they are needs,” he opens with. Here is a man who realizes that our hometown, though steering in the right direction, is not known for it’s accessible and accommodating public transit. With urban sprawl and many inaccessible neighbourhoods, the majority of Calgarians are in a 1-2 car household.

The major reasons people buy cars is lifestyle change, “more kids, less kids, job changes, too much traveling, hard on gas, will not tow new trailer, new technologies and safety options,” are among them. That’s not to mention those who have, “had accidents, major component failures,” or those starry-eyed teens who’ve just been awarded their license to take on the open road. “Cars,” Gourley reminds us, “are needs.”

As a program, Automotive Sales at MRU still has that ‘new car smell’. “It’s an investment,” Gourley states, “not a liability. The top producing dealerships always have consistent training for their team.” With Gourley’s personal contact among dealerships within the industry, there’s likely to be a quick return on the investment for those who take the program.

In a time where job security is a worry, Gourley frames the industry, “In times of a flat economy there is an increased focus on purchasing a used car as opposed to a new one.” However he emphasizes, “even in a slumping economy, people will always need a new vehicle.”

Gourley advises that an enrolment in “late winter or early spring will give you the advantage of gaining experience and preparation for the lucrative spring and summer selling season.”

Automotive Sales is a recession-proof idea for the car-enthusiast on your holiday list.

Registration for our next course in February 2016 is open now. You’ve found the ride you need. The keys are in the ignition. Now, just turn the key and go.

Through the Lens of Tracy Elliott

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Mount Royal University Photography Instructor Tracy Elliott frames it nicely, “Anybody can take a picture.”  But, under his keen eye, students develop into professional photographers who not only understand the art of taking a great photo, but who can take a clients vision and bring it to life.

From photographic hobbyists to future professionals, Tracy believes, “It’s about the person you are.” From Portrait to Sports Photography, the photography classes at MRU Continuing Education are for all skill levels.

Where he gets the best feedback from his students is in the workshop classes where they’re out on location and shooting.   This is where, “Giving tips and seeing the shots get better is exciting,” for both Tracy and the budding shooters.

See the world differently though Tracy’s lens.  For more, click here.

Meet Kathleen

Kathleen Longson

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Kathleen is efficient.

“I am a team lead for supply chain services,” she notes. “I manage corporate services, professional services, ISIT, facilities, real estate, field logistics, aviation,” and more.

She likely manages these portfolios like she streamlined her class time at MRU; “I completed it in ten months.”

Having spent some of her career in the financial sector, she knew she needed to add more education to get ahead. “I wanted to move into procurement. So, that’s why I was interested in taking the classes at MRU.”

“The overviews were really good,” she advises. “They gave me a sense as to whether or not it was something I’d like to pursue.”

True to her supply chain management field, Kathleen knew what she wanted and certainly didn’t waste time getting it.

She enjoyed the classroom setting, choosing the face to face learning with her vibrant instructors, “Some were really, really good. Some were very animated,” she says.

Originally from the Phillipines, she notes that, “Networking is important,” and is still in touch with many of her classmates. Although she misses her family, friends and the tropical weather, Calgary’s home. She notices that there’s a, “greater sense of work-life balance here.”

…and she certainly balances a lot.

 

Meet Marko

Marko Cillic – PM Construction Student

2015_11_12_W16_CE_Blog_MarcoMarko is taking MRU’s Project Management Construction to move up in the world.

Originally from Bosnia, he started in the automotive industry, but war prompted him to immigrate to Canada in 1995 where he started working in construction.

He recognized that there was a ceiling on his experience as he has been in the “same position in that industry for the last ten years.” He was ready to upgrade at MRU.

What Marko noticed most about his courses is that, “everything in the field has a different language right now.” He plans to continue, “Picking up all the special terminology,” to combine with his field experience to become a foreman or a manager.

“I like to be in the classroom environment,” Marko admits, even though he had the option to take some of the courses online, “there’s positive feedback.” When asked about his instructors, he attests, “all of them are really good so far.”

A friend in the industry found out about the program and said, “Let’s do this.” Together they began their studies, but the friend received an offer in Edmonton leaving Marko to complete the program himself. “We started together,” he muses, “but didn’t end up together.”

Marko will complete his program at the end of April.

New for You at MRU

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Winter 2016 Registration has begun at MRU Cont. Ed. and we have some brand new courses to enhance your experience.

What’s the path good leaders follow?

The Project Management Professional Development Seminars Certificate of Completion is always looking to train new leaders in any industry.  If you’re a leader, or on your way to becoming one, start by making the strong decision to take the new Best Practices in Project Management or Leadership, Decision Making for Project Managers courses.

Invest in your Community Education

Community Investment Professional Extension Certificate has two new courses, The Meaning and Purpose of Community Investment – a broad look at where this type of work fits into society, and The Community Sector Landscape: Building Effective Partnerships which draws a big-picture look at Canada’s nonprofits and their engagement.

Need to add a new dimension to your design work?

Interior Decorating is now offering an Advanced Digital Design in 3D for Interior Decorators course.  If you already know the basics of Sketch-Up, evolve your process to include some advanced plug-ins, animation and Google Earth context modeling.

Make Automotive Sales Automatic

Looking to improve your sales skills? Automotive Sales Certificate of Completion has a new learning vehicle.  In the Automotive Sales course, you’ll push your sales result into a higher gear.

Find the right course for you in the new MRU Continuing Education Course Calendar.  Pick up a copy on campus or find your new courses online at conted.mtroyal.ca