For Catalina Belalcazar, it was CBU’s Bachelor of Arts in community Studies (BACS) program that made the university the clear choice and inspired her move from London, Ontario to Cape Breton. She says, “The program’s community engagement and hands-on learning provides the opportunity to grow and experience the career field as part of my undergrad. Getting career related experience while still in school helps to confirm you’re on the right track and gives you the experience employers look for from graduates.”
By completing three area majors, Catalina is able to shape her career to include what she considers the three pillars of international development: political science, environment and communication. These majors along with community based work have fostered within Catalina the knowledge, abilities and community involvement needed to apply developmental strategies from within the community, outwards.
Through the BACS program, Catalina took the opportunity to complete a co-operative work placement with the Tayrona National Park in her home country of Colombia. During her time spent working with the Park, she was actively involved in environmental restoration, which allowed her to gain experience in developing trail mitigation strategies, as well as scuba diving for coral reef restoration and maintenance. In her most recent work placement, Catalina worked as an apprentice with outdoor educators in the Coxheath Natural Playground Project and assisted Dr. Patrick Maher in organizing the 7th International Outdoor Education Research Conference held at CBU July 4-8, 2016.
Maher, along with Dr. Emily Root, have served as mentors to Catalina during her time at CBU, which she says has played a major role in her success as a student. Catalina also acknowledges her mother’s unconditional support in her studies, saying, “I love what I do and having the support from home, the support provided by two outstanding academics as well as the opportunities I have had to work in different scenarios that highlight the paths I can become part of once I graduate helped my academic dedication and success.”
Catalina says the things she’ll miss most about CBU are the wonderful people who are so passionate about what they do, and the unique and unforgettable experiences she’s had in her time here. She adds, “The mentorship, support and unity that exists in the student-teacher interactions is something I am grateful for experiencing and will miss very much. This university and the outstanding individuals that compose it foster growth and success in all its students, creating an environment that provides opportunities to become involved in finding yourself and your passions, thus setting students up for success.”
Upon graduation, Catalina hopes to complete a Master’s degree in outdoor education and eventually, enter the development industry with a wide range of applicable experience and knowledge. She also hopes to, one day, return to South America using outdoor education as a community development strategy.