By Minouka Kuipers & Raoul Vande Vyvre Tillieux
Winter Break is coming! And with it comes family reunions and the traditional awkward moment when someone asks you: “so, what jobs will your Quest degree give you access to after you graduate?” This question is really challenging, because frankly, you might not know what our alumna have gone on to do in their professional lives after Quest. While almost all universities in Canada have a well-established association of graduates, Quest did not, until this year. The Mark met with Becca Dickinson, and Easton Smith, respectively communication director and vice-president of the newly formed Quest University Canada Alumni Association (QUCAA),
Raoul Vande Vyvre Tillieux: “First, tell us about yourselves. When did you graduate, what was your keystone project, and what have you been up to since graduating?”
Becca Dickinson: “I graduated in 2013. My keystone was in two parts: a literature review presenting all the evidence supporting the safety and economic viability of home births in Canada, and a documentary on families in the Sea-to-Sky corridor who had home births and their motivations for it. I went to midwifery school at UBC. It’s a four-year program, and I lived all over the province while doing that. Right now, I live in Vancouver, on the East Side, working as a midwife.”
Easton Smith: “I also graduated in 2013. My thesis was on the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of AI, challenging the position of previous authors on whether a computer could have consciousness. I argued that yes, it could. I worked for a year in Squamish as an engineering technologist for Quantum Technology. Then, I went to Columbia University and finished a master of science in Bioethics. After that I had a few random jobs, and now I am applying for PhDs, in political science probably.”
Kuipers: What is the mission of the Alumni Association?
Dickinson: At this stage we are pretty new, so our mission is to establish ourselves [as an association] and all that that entails. We want to create an avenue for networking amongst alumni, that means being able to communicate with each other and have access to job opportunities.
Smith: “One thing we will do is to have a map that shows where everyone is living. You can obviously opt out of the alumni group if you want to, but if you are visiting a city, that will be a fun way to see who lives there. But mostly we want to facilitate networking and nurture start ups in the future.”
Dickinson: I also think a central mission of the association is to help with the advancement of Quest, so we have been going to a lot of recruitment events. Because obviously, one way a new university can really establish themselves is by demonstrating that their alumni have jobs and have gone out in the world successfully.”
Smith: “In addition, if we are organised, and more alumni contribute [financially] to the university, that will look really good for Quest when they approach philanthropists during fundraising.”
Kuipers: What is your role in the Alumni Association, and who else is involved?
Dickinson: “I am the director of Communications, Easton [Smith] is the Vice-President. Brad [Klees] is taking the lead as the president. Barbara [Fernandes] is the Events Coordinator. Lilli [Kuechle] is our Secretary and Colin [Wilt] is our Fundraiser. And if we ever have any money, we will have a treasurer.
Kuipers : Why is the Alumni Association only starting now?
Dickinson: “The beginning of an alumni association is totally alum-driven, and it is hard to start one with a group as small as our alumni population has been in the past, but we are now 450 alumni strong. I think we have just reached a critical mass where there are enough people available with the time and know-how necessary to create an association. In addition, the impetus has come from the university needing an official avenue to approach its graduates for support. I know in the past it has been difficult for people on campus to get in touch with alumni to have a presence at events and to support students. Many of us have been doing it in an ad hoc manner. For example, whenever someone is interested in maternity care, Mai [Yasue] or Negar [Elmieh] sends me an email asking to talk with this person. It would be nice to have a more thorough list, because now there are enough graduates that faculty can’t remember exactly what we are doing and where we are. So, I think these are the big driving forces behind the creation of an association.
I think the struggle with Peter’s [Englert] presidency had a lot of alumni concerned [ in reference to his firing and the lawsuit that ensued]. Because there were no official communication channels, it was difficult for us to support the university in any organised way. Information about what was happening on campus was hard to access for us, and it caused a lot of, what I would consider, non-productive back and forth among alum and with the university. It would be hard to find any graduate who does not recognise that Quest was a hugely beneficial experience to them. And thus, we are all very grateful, and we want to stay involved. The association is a way that allows us to do that.”
Vande Vyvre Tillieux: Is there anything else that you would like to see included in the upcoming article?
Dickinson: “So, because we are a bit late to the ball, we had to email all the alumni to offer them to opt out of the association. We had to do this through Quest, and it presented its own struggles. But from now on, upon completing your keystone block, when you graduate from Quest, you will be given the opportunity to opt out as well, or to provide us with your personal email address, and that’s how you will join the association.”
Smith: “And I will say that we will not sell anyone’s contact information to a third party.”
Dickinson: “Our goal is really to support alumni. I think that a lot of alumni associations generally have a reputation of being a bit of a money-grab. But community has always been an integral part of the Quest experience, and we hope to be an extension of that, by helping people keep in touch, and network.
Kuipers: Do you have any questions for us?
Dickinson : “Why are you interested? Why do you think students care? How can the alumni association benefit students?”
Kuipers : “One of the biggest issues I had when applying to Quest was not knowing what alumni were doing. Having profiles of alum and see what they have been up to since graduating would have been really helpful. Also keeping connections when I graduate is very important to me.”
Vandre Vyvre Tillieux: “For me the reason is half personal, half academic. I am focusing on higher education governance, and alumni usually have a part in that. Plus, since I am graduating in a year, I want to see myself staying connected to the school.”
For more information about how to stay connected, check out the Quest Alumni Website here: http://questalumni.ca/