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Returning to the path: alumni profile of Sarah Campden

Camosun alumna, Sarah Campden, shares her non-linear educational journey and the impact that the college has had on her professional path.

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Sarah Campden at her workplace in Victoria, B.C.

Sarah Campden is a perfect example of a “boomerang student.” Her Camosun College journey started in Continuing Education in the late 1990s, then she embarked on an associate degree program in 2000, leaving after two years for an opportunity in her chosen field, surveying and engineering. When she decided to finish her degree in 2020, a lot had changed at Camosun, in the world and in Sarah’s life

Sarah has brought together her education and work experience for her current role as a director at Wiser Projects, a planning and development firm in Victoria. While her education journey was non-linear, Sarah believes that the courses and program she completed at Camosun directly impacted her professional path and will continue to make an impact in the future. She developed critical thinking, practical technology and business skills that have been useful in her career and volunteer roles.

Sarah’s connection to Camosun runs deeper than her studies. She also has a Camosun family – her husband graduated from the Automotive program and her daughter is currently in the Fine Furniture and Joinery program. Sarah graciously answered a few questions by email about her path and career.

Can you tell us about your academic journey at Camosun?  

I started at Camosun College in the Continuing Education program studying AutoCAD, which I decided to take to supplement my skills obtained from an Architectural Design and Building Technology diploma program. I enjoyed Camosun so much that in 2000 I decided to enroll as a part-time student in the associate degree program to eventually transfer to the University of Victoria to complete a degree in Geography. In 2002, I was presented with a job opportunity that would use the skills I obtained from my past training, so I abandoned the associate program in favour of a full-time job in the surveying and engineering field. I returned to Camosun in 2020 to complete my associate degree.

How did you navigate the transition from being a student at Camosun to your current professional role? 

I was lucky to be working full-time during my studies at Camosun and thrived with the ability to be both an employee and student. The roles are quite different from each other, so I enjoyed the variety. I also really enjoyed being a mature student. I learned so much from my classmates, as they were so experienced in college life.

Were there any challenges you faced in your journey, and how did you overcome them?

Returning to the college in 2020 was a challenge after being away for almost 20 years.  Camosun’s pandemic pivot to online learning allowed me to return after so many years away from the classroom. The instructors and my fellow students were so welcoming. The D2L program made the online learning experience very easy.

How did your education shape your professional development? 

My initial Continuing Education program had a direct effect on my ability to break into the surveying and engineering field. My associate degree has helped me obtain my current role, my past role as associate at an engineering firm and my service role as board chair with the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC). The skills obtained also have helped me to hold many volunteer positions over the years with the ASTTBC, BC Women in Technology, Junior Achievement of BC and the Camosun College Civil Program Advisory Committee.

Have you maintained connections with fellow Camosun alumni, and if so, how has this network benefited you in your career?

I have maintained connections with Camosun alumni through my career. Many of the folks that were my fellow students from 20 years ago work in my industry and our paths do cross. My husband is also a fellow alumnus of the Camosun Automotive program and our daughter is currently enrolled in the Fine Furniture and Joinery program. I keep up with Camosun social media, events, and help out with mentoring and job interview skills with current students, when my schedule allows.

What advice do you have for current students or recent graduates looking to advance in their careers?

Be curious, ask questions, seek out opportunities and meet as many diverse individuals as you can. Volunteer, be a mentor and say yes to events and opportunities that may be outside of your comfort zone. Continue with life-long learning and explore any opportunities for courses that may not be directly related to you but may be interesting. One of my favourite Camosun courses was Communications 112 Popular Culture and Media, which had nothing to do with to my profession, but the critical skills learned absolutely are and the content was extremely enjoyable.

How have you seen your industry evolve since your time at Camosun? Are there any emerging trends or changes that you find particularly noteworthy? 

The design/engineering/development field has changed dramatically over the past 20 years.  The demand for individuals that have technical and business skills has increased with the massive amount of activity in the design and construction industry. People with technical and hands on practical skills are in demand in all areas of design, planning, engineering, and construction. Business skills are a wonderful addition to the technical skills in all areas of the building world.

In what ways has Camosun College played a crucial role in your personal and professional development?

Camosun has taught me to continue learning no matter what I may be doing on a professional level. There are so many options for certificate, diploma and degree programs that almost anyone would be able to find a program that would work for them. The networking opportunities are a great addition to the academic and technical courses offered. One of the best options for me was the flexible learning when I returned to the campus in 2020. The ability to choose from online and in-person classes as well as varied times for courses was critical to me completing my associate degree.

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