Twenty-five Years of Broadening Minds: The Bachelor of Arts and VIU

January 4, 2017 - 5:00pm

By Glenn Drexhage

Happy Silver Anniversary, VIU BA!

Twenty-five years ago, Malaspina College offered its first Bachelor of Arts program (Liberal Studies) in partnership with the University of Victoria. In 1996, the institution, which had then become Malaspina University-College, began offering homegrown BA degrees in a range of subjects. Today, as Vancouver Island University, we celebrate a quarter century of our arts degrees by profiling four of the University’s graduates. Read on to find out how BAs changed their livelihoods – and their lives.

Sean Broderick BA (with Distinction), 1999, Major – Liberal Studies

Sean Broderick is a VIU vet.

The 46-year-old education professional first attended the school in 1996, when it was called Malaspina University-College. Over the years, he’s earned several credentials from the institution, ranging from a diploma to a Master’s of Educational Leadership with Distinction (the latter was accompanied by a Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal, given for the highest grade point average at VIU’s graduate level).

Broderick, a Nanaimo resident who has been based in Nunavut since 2009 (he’s currently working there as a high school program consultant), credits his wide-ranging BA as having a big impact on his career. “From a professional perspective, it’s a huge benefit as an educator to have a broad understanding across the disciplines,” he says. “It expands your instructional capacity and informs your world view, which benefits your students and yourself.”

For example, he proudly notes that his Liberal Studies teachers included scientists, a philosopher and a psychologist. “It opens your eyes and your mind to multiple perspectives and opinions,” he says.

A true lifelong learner, Broderick is currently enrolled in VIU’s Online Teaching and Learning Graduate Diploma program. “I’m very proud of the education I’ve received, and I’m very proud to be an alumni of the institution,” he says. “I’m just waiting for them to offer a doctorate.”

Paula Amos, BA, 2000, Major – First Nations Studies

Every day, Paula Amos calls on the skills that she learned while earning her Bachelor of Arts degree at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

As Director, Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives for Aboriginal Tourism BC (AtBC), Amos looks to bridge opportunities between the Aboriginal and mainstream tourism industries.

Her bachelor’s degree, which focused on First Nations Studies and Business Management, has been pivotal to her professional success. “It’s proven to be an excellent combination,” says Amos. “My degree has given me the analytic and leadership skills needed to foster strong relationships with communities and government agencies. It also taught me the art of collaboration, capacity building and teamwork.”

The talents she acquired have also helped her lead projects. “At VIU, I learned how to take an idea and create the vision of how that idea can be achieved,” Amos says.  Her degree was instrumental in terms of landing a dream job with ATBC 12 years ago. “The continued development of the Aboriginal cultural tourism industry presents many economic opportunities, and it’s also a key driver of cultural pride,” says Amos, who was born and raised in Vancouver Island’s Nuu-chah-nulth territory. “It’s wonderful to use my education, background, knowledge and experience to give back to First Nations communities in a meaningful way. I’d definitely recommend a VIU degree for anyone seeking a high-quality and relevant BA experience.”

Olivia Mongard Lyle, BA (with Distinction), 2004, Double Major – Liberal Studies, Anthropology

Some motherly intuition led Olivia Mongard Lyle to VIU – and ultimately, to her BA. “My mom encouraged me to attend and take some first-year anthropology and Liberal Studies classes,” she recalls. “She could see right from the get-go that this would be a good fit for me – and she was right!”

A couple of life-changing excursions also encouraged Mongard Lyle, 34, to pursue her subjects of choice as a double major.

In 2002, she spent five glorious weeks in Florence, Italy with about 20 students from Malaspina University-College as part of a Liberal Studies Abroad field school. Their focus, fittingly, was the Renaissance.

Two years later, she embarked on a “valuable, memorable and amazing” field school trip with anthropology classmates to New Zealand and the Cook Islands, where the group studied Polynesian culture.

Mongard Lyle went on to receive her master’s degree from Royal Roads, and now works as a Communications Specialist at Coastal Community Credit Union.

As a VIU Ask an Alum Ambassador, she’s keen to highlight the broad and transferable benefits that a BA provides. “The specialties that you learn are secondary to the core skills that apply across the board,” she says. “Those are skills that every employer is looking for.”

Daniela Zuzunaga, BA (with Distinction), 2015, Major – Sociology

Sometimes, things just work out.

When Daniela Zuzunaga first came to VIU in 2007 as an international student, she studied biology. But the subject wasn’t a good fit – and after taking some time off, Zuzunaga decided to take some sociology courses, inspired in part by her volunteer experience at the non-profit Haven Society and elsewhere.

“My fate was sealed,” says Zuzunaga, whose hometown is Arequipa, Peru. “I like learning how society works. Discrimination, oppression, poverty – sociology gave me the opportunity to explore my interests in a legitimate way.”

Zuzunaga, 26, earned her BA in 2015. She’s now pursuing her Master’s in Sociology at the University of Victoria, and she’s also the recent recipient of a scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Highlights from her time at VIU include a 17-day field school trip to London, England with VIU classmates in Sociology and English. Another noteworthy experience involved conducting research on an after-school project based in the Nanaimo community of Harewood. 

Today, she lauds the value of a BA. “I believe that education is a good choice for anyone,” says Zuzunaga. “And VIU allows you to try things out without being intimidating. You can talk to your prof about something that you’re having a hard time understanding. There are lots of options to explore.”

*This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of VIU Magazine. Check out more stories from the latest issue of VIU Magazine here

*To learn more about the BA programs at VIU, check out our new Bachelor of Arts website

Tags: VIU Magazine