Thompson Rivers University

When opportunity knocks—be sure to answer

  Posted on: November 21, 2016

When Alex Wilson was in her third year of university, she began branching out beyond her course load, taking on volunteer projects and extracurricular assignments.

Starting with work study in the Psychology Lab under Selina Knorr, Alex was also part of the leadership team for the TRU Psychology Club, helping host a psychology lab for students from Bunkyo Gakuin University, Japan. Alex also acted as a TRU student ambassador for Open Houses, and volunteered at other Open Houses and Education and Career Fairs.

Alex encourages fellow students to hop to it: “Don’t wait—don’t hesitate, get started right away. In retrospect, I could have easily started in my first year. I had a lot of spare time but didn’t always spend it wisely.”

Although, Alex advises others to proceed with self-awareness, “university is a great time to explore options and test limits, but you don’t want to burn yourself out with an excessive work load.”

She recommends taking one or two projects at a time, to ensure that you aren’t courting disappointment.

Although Alex does admit, with a self-deprecating chuckle, that she has a problem with saying “no” to opportunities, she can’t deny how she has benefitted from each and every one of those opportunities. “You have to set goals, chase leads- and take advantage of those office hours. Reach out to your professors, express your interest and that will make an impression.”

She came into many of these positions by “word of mouth mostly—the more involved you are, the more opportunities come up.”

The following year Alex volunteered for the TRU Wellness Centre as a Student Wellness Leadership Team Ambassador (S.W.A.T.).  Her insights were included in the planning process for Wellness events, such as Stress Busters and Healthy Living Week.

Meaghan Hagerty, Wellness Centre Coordinator, describes Alex as a “very driven and genuinely thoughtful leader. She brings this influential energy to all of the events and team here at the Wellness Centre and is always willing to support others. She is true to herself and a lot of fun to work with.”

Alex’s involvement in Supplemental Learning (SL) began in a leadership role—supporting students during student-led study sessions.  Her area of expertise is focused on PSYC 2100 (Psychological Statistics).

She’s currently training as an SL Mentor to help support new leaders.

Elizabeth Templeman, SL Coordinator, says, “other leaders admire Alex for that laid back approach to things. She’s thoughtful, and seems so open to ideas and experiences.”

Following her Honours Thesis with Dr. Jenni Karl, she elaborated on that thesis with a UREAP project, also with Dr. Karl. Alex presented her research at the TRU Undergraduate Research Conference.  She references faculty connections as being the cornerstone of her experience: “it is so great to have a teacher invest in you.”

Alex volunteered at the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre with Dr. Reid Webster as a Program Facilitator for a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Program.  Though she found it fascinating, after attending the group theory sessions, she discovered that clinical psych was not her life’s work. That’s the beauty of volunteering and work study—testing the waters, taking whatever lessons come along with the experience as you develop your skill set. “These experiences have 100% shaped my academic focus”.

Now in her fifth year, she can still be found at the Wellness Centre— and is still very much involved with SL as a leader and mentor.  She was one of the Orientation Day volunteers, gave a presentation at the 2016 TRU Research Day, was named Research Ambassador for the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, and is also the Research Assistant for Dr. Catherine Ortner.

Despite her busy schedule, Alex makes time for self-care whenever possible. Alex adheres to a vegan lifestyle and credits hula hooping, hot yoga, sleep and Netflix to mental wellness. Alex laughs, “I could probably exercise more…but I have a really heavy backpack. Does that count?”

At the end of the day, it’s important to take stock and a deep breath. Alex says, “if ever I feel overwhelmed, I remember that I’m proud of what I do and what I’ve accomplished”.

For more information in the aforementioned programs, refer to these resources.