Few resources for graduating students

Karla Karcioglu, Contributor Ω

Graduation is a big life transition for students -PHOTO COURTESY JMAZ PHOTO/FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Graduation is a big life transition for students -PHOTO COURTESY JMAZ PHOTO/FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

This spring TRU will see another group of students graduate and become alumni. Many will be leaving behind the title student, which they have carried with them from kindergarten to post-secondary graduation.

“Life transitions can be stressful,” said Cliff Robinson, chair of the TRU counselling department.

Despite the magnitude of this transition from student to career persons, there aren’t many resources available to support them at TRU.

Robinson said counselling services, which support students emotionally, are pretty narrowly focused.

“We’re busy helping current students,” he said.

“It makes sense that that service be provided,” he said, however, the logistics of putting that program together, including who would pay for it, are tricky.

“For people who really thrived in [school], for that level of support to no longer be there can be stressful,” Robinson said.

Hopefully the structure provided by school will be replaced after you leave, he said. “You become a community member and are left with the supports that are in that community.”

Gordon Down, manager of financial aids and awards, said the large majority of his work and contact is with current students.

He said former students don’t always realize the numerous repayment programs provided by the government and “[financial aid and awards] could do more to educate students on that.”

There is no need for former students to go into default with student loans, Down said.

“There is always more to be done,” Down said, adding TRU Aid and Awards has started to work with Alumni Services to get those messages out there.

Susan Forseille, TRU career education department chair, has focused a lot of research on students’ transition from university to career.

“Students want and need this support,” said Forseille. “It’s new support that hasn’t been offered traditionally and TRU could be a leading modern university in Canada by offering it more intentionally.”

Alumni can access all of TRU career education’s resources at anytime, Forseille said, unlike other schools, which set time limits for accessing services.

Laura Plouffe graduated from TRU with a bachelors of science in 2010. She is currently training for work unrelated to her degree.

She said when she graduated, she felt like she was just done and didn’t have any further support.

“I wish I knew more of my options,” Plouffe said, “I didn’t know I would need to continue my education or I would have limited job options.”

Plouffe said she had felt that because TRU was a smaller university it would provide more support and resources for students.

“You think that you go to school and then you get a job,” she said, “but its not always that way.”

Alumni officer, Arlene Olynyk, said that alumni services at TRU has only been working to expand its services for the last five years, as there has been more emphasis on staying in touch and welcoming back alumni.

TRU Alumni Services works with alumni in three ways. They invite them back for networking events to share their experiences with current students, they have staff that help organize all aspects of reunions and they offer an alumni card that provides discounts at businesses and allows access to the TRU Library.

TRU Alumni Services and TRU Career Education have been working together for the last four years to support grads by allowing them access to career education resources, Olynyk said.

“We saw a void and we tried to build that,” she said.

“We don’t kick them out the door and say, ‘okay, see ya’”, Olynyk said, “because a lot of people feel like this is home.”

She said the idea of providing financial and emotional support resources for TRU grads has not been discussed as far as she’s aware.

“People do react to need,” Olynyk said.

If we don’t hear about it we don’t know, she said.

“Need probably hasn’t been as aggressive as it has been in the last three years,” she said.

Sometimes people don’t say that they need help, Olynyk said, “and if [there] is a need the alumni would love to respond to it.”