For 12 months of the year Carol Sansburn and Marie Josée Piché work hard providing a wide range of services to both enrolled and prospective students at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Powell River campus.
Through the Student Services department, Sansburn and Piché provide educational, career and personal counselling, program assessments, exam invigilation and financial aid services.
With a combined 50 years’ experience, they have built strong ties with the local community—such as the Brooks Secondary School counselling department, Career Link, ministry of social development, Triumph vocational services and Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nation—and can therefore fast-track students.
“We open the door for students,” Sansburn explained. “For those who are concerned about tuition, we can discuss options.”
“It’s easy to come here and talk to someone,” Piché added. “Sometimes the decisions can seem overwhelming.” Piché also provides counselling services to students in crisis or for other issues. Many students are under stress from juggling school, work, and family; many are single parents or mature students.
Sansburn has observed a change in students’ views of education. “Students these days are more discerning about the direction they are going, the courses they will take, and the programs that will be useful for their future goals, especially in terms of employment.”
The advisors enjoy helping students plan their first year of university in Powell River. “The advisors helped me narrow down what I needed to focus on” said Dawn Almond, student. “Both Carol and Marie always have a smile and a nice greeting. They are interchangeable, which is convenient because one of them is always available.”
Students can combine campus classes with online courses from other schools. “Watching the students succeed and move on is very rewarding. Often students start something with us and then branch off from here,” said Piché.
In the last few years, the number of invigilations for distance education courses from other colleges, universities, and private organizations has doubled. Students can complete courses not offered at the local campus online and write the exams in Powell River without the extra travelling costs.
Students interested in continuing at VIU’s main campus in Nanaimo, or current university students home for the summer, are encouraged to see Piché and Sansburn for help with course selection, registration and timetabling. Information about Nanaimo’s programs and services is also available.
The VIU advisors are approachable, helpful, encouraging and friendly. They joke about treating the Health Care Assistant program students with kid gloves because “we know they will be looking after us down the road.” Now helping second-generation students, Sansburn chuckles, “If one of us knows your first name, the other will know your last name.”