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The University of Fredericton is an online university offering online certificate, diploma, and degree programs. Programs are designed for working professionals aspiring to advance their career and upgrade their education with minimal disruption to their work and personal life.
Meet our students
Chris Pettman, EMBA
Executive Director of NPO, first First Nations to sit on town council
UFred Alumnus excels as community leader
Chris Pettman, a graduate of the University of Fredericton’s (UFred) Executive MBA (EMBA) program, is the first of his immediate family to attend university. In fact, Chris didn’t have an undergraduate degree, so his familiarity with a university setting was non-existent.
Having worked for the non-profit organization (NPO) Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre (CFEC) for several years in his community of 100 Mile House, B.C., he was encouraged by the Executive Director at the time to take on some formal education. UFred’s EMBA program considers experience in the workforce a major admitting factor, rather than basing admission solely on an applicant’s educational background. This was particularly appealing to Chris, as it made furthering his education possible.
Chris has sat on more than 14 boards in his community since 1993 and is dedicated to giving everyone fair choices and resources needed to meet their goals. After researching UFred and reading about the Social Enterprise specialization, he was immediately convinced.
As a First Nations person, he strongly believes in the representation of visible minorities and the need for more First Nations people in positions of governance, leadership and politics. At 45 years old, Chris enrolled in the Social Enterprise Leadership (SEL) stream of the EMBA program, as it closely aligned with his passion for social injustice advocacy and working for the betterment of his community. Because the program is offered entirely online, it fit his schedule of home, family, work and community obligations. Chris has a wife, who is a child and youth mental health worker, and two children.
He says the ease and the support he felt from Day 1 of the program from professors and classmates alike was paramount, and that everyone’s knowledge, education and experience that was shared was valuable.
“Everyone involved regarded our time together in the virtual classes as sacred, and everyone was treated with – and in turn, treated others with – respect,” he said, adding that he was able to glean a lot of important insights from his classmates.
“Not only did I have enriching course materials and knowledgeable instructors who responded to each and every question that I had regarding every aspect – from paper writing to presentations, theories and beyond – I also had a diverse cohort who had experience in many facets of business, health, leadership, insurance, and politics to learn from and to share my experiences with.”
Chris says the courses that were specific to SEL made the biggest impact on him, and he was able to apply what he was learning to his NPO immediately.
“In our NPO, we had a burgeoning social enterprise in the guise of a child care centre, and the organization really didn’t recognize it as such. As the courses unfolded, I was able to better analyze the ‘business case’ of the daycare, and relay to both the Executive Director and the Board of Directors that the child care centre was indeed a social enterprise,” Chris said.
He adds that through what he learned from his EMBA, the child care centre is now demonstrating a modest profit that helps support the organization as a whole.
Chris was particularly interested in the concept of “social return on investment.” His education gave him the opportunity to provide valuable input to influential policy makers regarding this issue.
Every year, his organization is mandated to demonstrate and complete various reporting outcomes. Chris says that through the SEL specialty track, he learned that applying the traditional business return on investment to NPOs delivering social services is “wildly inaccurate.”
Chris used the financial value of supporting at-risk youth as an example, given his continued advocacy for serious issues facing today’s youth.
“Although there is no concrete way to measure this deliverable, we know the societal costs of at-risk youth when they are disenfranchised, drop out of school, become involved in gangs, the justice department, and experience adverse emotional attachment and/or physical harm. One youth left without positive role models or safe primary attachment can cost society hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to the relatively low cost of providing at-risk youth with social and emotional supports.”
While the SEL stream provided insights that helped him navigate better options for his NPO, Chris says the most important thing he learned throughout UFred’s EMBA process was his ability to push past his own limitations. He learned that he was more than capable of completing his degree. Chris says he was successful with his projects and deliverables, and his grades reflected that.
“Sort of like the learning in the Wizard of Oz; I had the ability to accomplish my dream of obtaining a master’s degree my entire life, I just had to take the proverbial ‘leap of faith’ and do it,” he said.
Chris has no doubt that without UFred and his EMBA, he would not have been able to assume the position of Executive Director of his organization in 2017.
“There are so many nuances to leadership, finances, organizational structure, boards of governance, etc; in order to properly understand these aspects of leadership, you need to study them and apply the learning to your everyday life,” he said.
Chris adds that the trickle down effects are still palpable. As recently as October of 2018, he was voted in as 100 Mile House’s first First Nations Town Councillor. He says he now has the confidence to sit on the town council and feels empowered to bring entirely different perspectives to the table.
“Through my heritage as a member of the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, I bring indigenous ideals to the town council. With my NPO experience, I bring the voice of vulnerable families, youth, and children to the table. Both groups often do not have a voice nor are adequately represented in leadership and policy making,” he said.
Chris proudly hangs his EMBA on his office wall to demonstrate to his children and others that First Nations people are more than capable of completing post-secondary education and becoming leaders and role models for other indigenous people not only in Canada, but throughout the world.
“It is important to have diversity in places of leadership, to ensure that all perspectives are represented, that all voices are heard and understood. In this way, we will have greater involvement and engagement with policy makers, and the end result is more inclusive communities, creating a better sense of belonging for all.”
Breaking the MBA mould
When most people think of a Master’s of Business Administration degree, they think of corporate managers, supervisors, executives, and the like. But Vanessa Yurchesyn is somewhat of an unconventional MBA student.
Vanessa has been a Registered Dietitian (RD) for six years. She’s held several jobs throughout her career, including at long-term care facilities and as a retail dietitian at Loblaw Companies Ltd. She also launched her own nutrition and wellness consulting business, and eventually moved on to her current role as Account Manager and Director of Business Development with Complete Purchasing Services.
The diversity of the dietetics profession was something Vanessa was attracted to and has celebrated. She shares her non-traditional career path with students and interns, as well as seasoned dietitians.
“I enjoy experimenting with and learning about how a dietitian’s skill set can put them in positions that were never imagined,” she said. “Dietitians have the opportunity (and challenge) to educate consumers about how all foods can fit, and that mindfulness and balance will always be more important than counting calories. Dietitians are truly everywhere, and our work in a variety of areas has the power to positively influence.”
Vanessa was interested in aspects of sales and marketing, as well as operations and human resources management. Given that she never wanted to practice dietetics in a traditional sense, she thought being knowledgeable in those areas would provide her with an advantage, which led to her decision to pursue an MBA.
UFred’s programs stood out to her because she could continue working full time and be engaged in her career.
“UFred’s MBA specialty streams also caught my attention. The calibre of professors, affordability, as well as being 100% online attracted me to UFred. The online learning environment allowed me the flexibility to move to another province for a career opportunity while completing this degree,” Vanessa said.
She believes the courses within UFred’s Innovation Leadership stream of the MBA program help her both personally and professionally.
“It allows you to think differently about concepts and subjects, and it is a perfect complement to almost any background. It has made me a more effective dietitian with more to offer in my current job and profession as a whole,” she added.
Vanessa felt she was more engaged in the virtual classes than she would have been attending class in person.
“The professors do a wonderful job of involving everyone and making it enjoyable to participate. At the end of each course, I always feel like I’d actually met my professor and classmates because we have learned so much from one another,” she said.
While she was worried that online studies would lead to procrastination, Vanessa said that with the way the courses are set up and with weekly virtual classes, she couldn’t put off her assignments and projects. She adds that the UFred website is extremely user-friendly, and she likes the convenience of not having to drive to a university after a long day at work.
“I can engage in classes from the comfort of my home, in a hotel room if travelling for business, or vacation in another country, or even at airport lounges. And yes, I’ve done it all,” she said.
Vanessa believes the learning objectives within each course were extremely valuable, adding that she was able to apply the course content to her career immediately, which helped her get a good grasp on the course concepts.
“My employer is always curious to hear about what I am learning along the way, and I often share my knowledge with my team. My employer and the leadership team is also very supportive when it comes to sharing organizational information that wouldn’t otherwise be at my fingertips in order for me to complete projects and assignments.”
She found the MBA program to be very affordable and designed to allow students to continue to work full time, while still maintaining social commitments with family and friends.
“Most people worry that they have to sacrifice something to complete an MBA program while working full time but UFred makes this worry go away. It allows you to have balance,” she said.
Vanessa believes achieving her MBA will put her in a good position to continue to grow in her career.
“I came into this MBA program with no previous business courses from my undergrad. I highly encourage anyone who is also in this situation to push themselves and jump right in – you won’t regret it.”
Workplace accident motivates UFred OHS student
Shawn Landry says he got into power line work by sheer happenstance in the early 2000s after moving to Fort McMurray, Alta., from British Columbia to find employment. He bounced around between power line work and the telecom industry until Shawn suffered an accident on the job while working as a lineman.
“I really wanted to take safety and what happened to me to heart,” he said, adding that he wanted to take that motivation and drive himself forward.
Shawn decided he wanted to pursue a career in Occupational Health and Safety to see his goals to fruition. He started research on which universities offered programs that would be more recognized and appreciated. The University of Fredericton’s Certificate in Health and Environmental Safety Processes (CHSEP) program kept popping up in his results, so he enrolled.
“The CHSEP program I found was the perfect way to get back into academics and was very non-threatening, especially for somebody who’s worked front line for so long. It was, ‘I can do this,’ and ‘I have the tools to do it,’” he said. “It’s given me a whole different outlook and a whole different attitude and approach to health and safety and what needs to be done out in the field.”
Shawn says it’s one thing to be an OHS officer and bark out commands, but that’s missing the big picture. He wants to make a change to how health and safety are communicated to the front line workers and talk to supervisors about finding common ground.
“Almost like a peacekeeper in a lot of ways. You want the supervisors to understand that they have a role with responsibility because some guys get forced into supervisory roles who don’t understand that they can be held accountable,” Shawn said.
While power and authority have a large role to play in ensuring supervisors are aware of what the legalities are, often they don’t have the knowledge or the resources to back up what the expectations are. Shawn wants to bridge that authority gap between management and the front line workers and let them know that he can relate.
“This is what I’m going for in health and safety: it’s ok to say no; it’s ok to have the right to refuse work; it’s ok the say these things. But you need to be professional and educated as to what you’re saying no to,” he said, then cautioning, “I was one of you, and I can’t run with my kids anymore.”
Shawn notes that a combination of his UFred education and his background working on the front line adds credibility to be able to speak to both management and the front line.
“We speak up the line and down the line, and that credibility is what gives us the ability to be taken seriously. Being able to speak the same language as these guys and keeping them safe, and keeping them within the letter of the law [has been well received by both groups].”
He added that sharing the information with other people and doing coursework on his schedule worked out perfectly for him. As a result of his CHSEP education, Shawn is an OHS consultant in Smithers, B.C. He has since moved on to the Diploma in Safety, Health and Environmental Management (SHEM) program, which he feels is more all-inclusive.
Shawn says he never thought he would get a diploma, so the program has been empowering to him. It’s also been motivating, as so much of what he was learning he was in complete agreement with and wanting to put into action.
“I found myself wanting to get to my computer and wanting to learn more,” he said.
Shawn has an active role on the Animal Planet TV show Wild Bear Rescue, a documentary-style series based on his family’s Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, B.C., where he is also the shelter’s OHS consultant.
“I put our program together actually using the CHSEP program. That was my Guided Practicum, putting that together. When issues do come up that are questionable, I put my two cents in.”
Shawn believes health and safety departments shouldn’t exist, that it should be everyone’s responsibility to know how to operate safely in a work environment.
“Guys should want to go to work with the desire to work safely and take care of themselves. You know, the same thing with these animals. We [the shelter] don’t want to exist, but because we are in the situation that we’re in, where people are not being held accountable, or they’re not educating themselves, or they think that it’s somebody else’s problem, we’re the ones left at the end of the day picking up the pieces.”
He believes each person should be held accountable for their own actions or inactions.
“I think that going forward, the smarter we are and the more accountable we are, the more resourceful we are,” he said. “Like I say, it’s very easy to have a symbiotic relationship with the animals as long as we educate ourselves.”
Shawn hopes that in the future he can work in an OHS position that helps organizations minimize their impact on the environment while continuing his work at the wildlife shelter.
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