From co-op to a trip abroad, DC Tourism – Destination Marketing student soaks up experiential learning experiences

Graduate Spotlight: Amanda Morrison

Launching a career in travel and tourism is a childhood dream come true for Durham College (DC) Tourism – Destination Marketing graduate Amanda Morrison.

As she perused programs before applying to college, Morrison knew it was the right fit for her.

“Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by attractions, travel, history, culture and all the incredible things tourism offers people, but never thought I could turn these fascinations and passions into a career,” she said. “I also chose this program with one thing in mind – can I really see myself being in this industry in five, 10 or 15 years?”

Now that she’s graduating, Morrison says the answer is a resounding yes.

“I can confidently say that I can see myself working in this industry and amongst the like-minded people I have met along the way for years to come.”

Morrison explained that DC was an excellent school to learn under industry veterans and gain the skills needed to succeed in the field.

“All of my professors were either currently in the industry or had previously worked within my industry,” she said. “Not only were they able to teach us the course content professionally, but they also provided us with more personal industry knowledge and experience that we wouldn’t have learned without having them as a professor.”

She spent last summer doing a co-op placement at Oshawa’s Canadian Automotive Museum and served as the visitor services assistant.

“I was able to learn how to give tours here and just the overall operations of museums, which is what I like the most – I like working in the attraction aspect of tourism.”

The co-op placement turned into a part-time job for Morrison who continues to work at the museum on weekends.

She was active with the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) student chapter at DC serving as secretary last year and president this year.

That led to a major highlight for her: travelling to San Diego through the Faculty-led Classroom Abroad program. In San Diego, she not only attended the PCMA conference which welcomed more than 3,000 international delegates, she also volunteered at the conference and with the San Diego Tourism Authority, gaining important hands-on experience.

“This was, by far, my favourite experience and I have made lifelong connections and learned new aspects of my industry that I would not have had.”

Looking towards the future, Morrison is hoping to travel through work.

“My biggest future goal is to be a person who can make memories for others through tourism. I would like to be able to work at different attractions and meet new people in the industry who have different ideas from me, as there is much to learn from them.”

DC Automotive Technician grads shine in skills competitions picking up real-world skills

Graduate Spotlight: Alexander Hartley and Destry Young

Competing in skills competitions has proved to be a confidence boost for Durham College (DC) Automotive Technician – Service and Management (Motive Power Technician) students preparing to enter the real world of work.

Alexander Hartley was thrilled to win a gold medal at Skills Ontario this spring, and enjoyed the opportunity to compete nationally where he placed fourth at Skills Canada in May.

“This has been huge for me and my success in the trade and it will continue to be as I move up in the automotive industry,” he said.

In addition to competing, Hartley describes participating in a special project team and helping to build kit cars as a DC highlight.

“This gave me more experience in the aftermarket side of the auto world. I can’t thank my professors and the school enough for the time and experience they’ve given me,” he said. “I absolutely love the atmosphere of Durham College with so many other like-minded people around me who are also into the trades and many that love the automotive sector as much as I do.”

Looking towards the future, Hartley said he wants to eventually open a custom car shop.

His classmate, Destry Young, is also looking at owning his own business after graduating this spring. He wants to run a business focusing on restoration while doing various other jobs like selling parts, general repair and towing in between large projects.

Young said he began his college journey with some hands-on experience so his focus was on becoming a licensed mechanic.

“Having now completed the program and meeting many great professors through both my classes and the skills competition, I can say going to Durham College became significantly more than a step towards getting licensed,” he said. “The theoretical and hands-on knowledge I gained, primarily in second year, complemented what I had already learned from working in the trade and I believe it has put me leaps and bounds ahead of where I was two years ago.”

Young also competed in the Skills Ontario competition earning a bronze medal.

“As part of the skills competition, the professors and mentors at DC were able to provide me with priceless knowledge to help my understanding of everything that goes into making cars work,” said Young. “And that knowledge combined with my real-world experience has drastically boosted my confidence towards being a successful technician and eventually licensed mechanic.”

As he graduates, he said the thing that stood out the most about his DC experience was the openness of the classroom environment where faculty were open to both questions and suggestions on improving the learning experience.

“The best thing about DC was absolutely the people I got to meet along the way – good friends, mentors, and professors that helped to push me further than I ever could have gone alone.”

Video Production grad overcomes adversity to launch life-changing business

Graduate Spotlight: Paula Sojo

At the age of 18, Paula Sojo was diagnosed with a severe case of Crohn’s disease, resulting in a permanent ostomy. She struggled with feelings of shame until a friend gave her a birthday gift of hand-sewn ostomy covers. That’s when she realized she had nothing to be ashamed of and that she had become a member of a larger community.

Determined to help others, she teamed up with her brother to found Ostome Fashion, a thriving business that provides fashionable and empowering options to all ostomy users.

A soon-to-be graduate of Durham College’s (DC) Video Production program, she has applied her college lessons in a variety of subjects to the promotion of her business. She has also taken advantage of the extensive entrepreneurial supports available at DC.

With help from family, friends and mentors, she has not only changed her life, but promoted representation and acceptance and empowered an entire community.

As she prepares to graduate, Paula spoke to us about her wellness journey, the supportive DC community and more.

Why did you decide to study Video Production?

I always had a passion for video making. As a six-year-old, I would take my parents’ cameras and document everyday life at home. It wasn’t until high school that I became aware of this program as a possibility through my computer and technology class. I instantly fell in love with the Adobe suite and knew that I should pursue this passion further.

What did you find valuable about your program?

My experience in the Video Production program at DC has been everything I ever dreamt of and more. I began the program in 2020 as a first-year student and although all of my classes were online, I still really enjoyed connecting with my professors and collaborating with my peers. Unfortunately, shortly after my start in Video Production, I fell ill and had to defer the program for three years until I was able to come back. I was hesitant to return at first since my abilities now were different and limited. Regardless of that, I took the leap and made an effort to finish the program and could not be happier with the experience I had. The school was extremely accommodating of my disabilities and my professors were incredibly understanding of my needs. I learned so much in this program about video production but also how to be in a creative field as a disabled person.

Have you found a mentor at DC?

The one mentor who comes to mind the most is Amanda Watson. I first met her in my Grade 10 year as she was my teacher in the dual credit photography program and was later surprised to have her as my professor in the second year of the Video Production program. She taught me so much about the video production industry as an entrepreneur but more importantly, how to stand out in any market as a business. Her teachings were incredibly valuable and really left a mark in my journey. It was also with her help that my business was recognized throughout the college.

When did you decide to start your business?

I was turning 19 in the hospital and I got a package of ostomy covers that a family friend had hand sewn for me. In that moment, everything changed. A light bulb went off in my mind and I thought, this doesn’t have to be just a medical device. This can be a fashion accessory. I began to teach myself how to make these covers and I started matching them to my outfits as well. I started posting about it on Tik Tok, and the response that I got was amazing. Slowly but surely, people started asking me where they could get these covers themselves. So, we found some people that knew what they were doing and we started making some covers. We launched in September of 2023.

How has your DC education helped your business?

I’ve been able to apply all of my DC learning to my business. From my first-year classes in photography to my second-year classes in entrepreneurship, I have used all of this valuable teaching in developing and promoting my business.

How did the DC community help you?

The community at DC is unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced. Every person that I’ve come across has been so kind, welcoming and ready to present new opportunities to me. One particular person who comes to mind is Sundar Manku, Manager of Entrepreneurship Services. As the word about my small business began to spread throughout the college, Sundar contacted me to express his interest in how he could support my business. It was with his help and dedication that I was able to take part in and win the Fast Start Pitch competition.

Describe your experience in the Fast Start competition.

It was such an incredible experience. Having never partaken in a pitch competition before, it was the perfect opportunity to do so in a welcoming and educational environment. The experience was extremely valuable and I made some incredible connections with peers and professors. After my business won first place, some investors and Sundar himself took the time to give us feedback and resources to help us in our future endeavours. I am so grateful for my experience at DC and the Fast Start competition.

What do you want people to know about ostomies?

It’s really hard when you first get one and you’re learning to cope with a body that you didn’t necessarily ask for, but ostomies aren’t gross. They’re an opportunity to live again and they should be treated as such. I created a brand that stands for radical acceptance and representation and a light that ostomies have never been shown in before.

Durham College Photography graduate Brooke Warner builds her portfolio and the foundations of a career

For Photography graduate Brooke Warner, her time at Durham College (DC) has been all about opportunity to not only showcase her talent but to launch her photography career.

She decided to pursue photography at Durham College in 2021 and will graduate at Spring Convocation in 2024.

“I have loved every minute of my photography program and the valuable lessons I have learned here as a student,” said Warner.

“I have had so many opportunities because of my faculty and professors and was lucky enough to complete a Work Integrated Learning Project with the City of Oshawa and the Fire Department,” she added. “I also competed at the 2024 Skills Ontario Competition, representing the college in photography and served as a member on my Program Advisory Committee.”

Warner found success at the recent Skills Ontario Competition, earning a silver medal provincially and then a bronze medal at the Skills Canada National Competition.

Being a DC student made it possible for Warner to display her work on a larger scale and led her to real-world work opportunities in her field.

She exhibited her work at both the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) and Station Gallery. At the RMG, Warner showcased a striking portrait of Oshawa firefighter Jessica Crombie. The photo was part of a collection of photographs she called Heroes of our Community focusing on Whitby and Oshawa firefighters.

“Additionally, I had the opportunity – for the past two years – to photograph the 2023 and 2024 versions of the Field to Fork Cookbook in conjunction with the culinary students at the Whitby Campus which is an amazing addition to my portfolio.”

Warner said her favourite thing about Durham College is the caring faculty.

“I love the feeling that you matter at Durham College, your professors know your names, and you’re not just a number,” she said. “That made me feel that I matter and that bettering my education is important to my professors just as much as it is to me.”

As well, she credits DC faculty for helping her prepare for the future.

“DC has helped me prepare for my career because my professors have encouraged all of us as students to self promote ourselves throughout our semesters so that way when we graduate, we already have promotional pieces and materials to put forth and a website to showcase our talents to get potential jobs.”

Moving forward, Warner aspires to work with the police, paramedics, and firefighters to photograph their stations, personnel, and training through documentary portraiture to showcase community heroes.

Her advice to current students?

“Don’t compare yourself and your work to others, compare your latest works to your first attempt to see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve improved and grown in your field.”

Fitness and Health Promotion student says field placement taught her skills that can’t be learned in the classroom

As she graduates this spring, Melissa Lenis is ready to launch her career in wellness with a confidence boost from a successful field placement where she built connections and applied what she learned in the classroom.

Lenis spent time exploring her options before choosing a career path. She began her journey at DC in Police Foundations in 2014 before switching to 911 Emergency and Call Centre Communications in 2018 where she earned a diploma. Ultimately, she decided she wanted to work in wellness and is now graduating with a diploma in Fitness and Health Promotion.

“I’ve always loved coming to DC,” she said. “I live in Whitby so it’s close to home, you get a bus pass, campus is easy to navigate, the programs and Gen Eds are interesting and the health benefits are great. As a mature student having dental, therapy or chiropractic services mostly covered is a big deal as it’s expensive without any assistance.”

She said she attended a DC Open House in 2022 to meet faculty in the Fitness and Health Promotion program and impactful conversations led to her applying right away.

“I could tell they were passionate about what they do at DC, and knew this was a perfect program for me.”

Lenis said her program has prepared her for a career in many ways. A highlight was her job placement at a long-term care home.

“I had no experience working with seniors let alone with a variety of physical and cognitive limitations, but I wanted a challenge. I have a lot of experience in gyms and with fitness for the general population, but this was a great opportunity to try something I’ve never done before.”

Through her placement she gained experience with group exercise classes, one-on-one exercise based on care plans, physical assessments for residents and documenting.

“I’ve loved placement and made many connections with the residents, their families, my supervisor and my peers, and I’m continuing to volunteer as I don’t want to leave the residents,” she said, adding that she felt pride in seeing the long-term care residents making progress.

“Having placement in a program, you get to learn many skills that can’t be learned in a classroom. In class we were taught about exercise prescription for the elderly population, but getting to apply the information learned as well as adapting to new situations with each resident — everyone is a unique individual with a plan tailored to them — made me feel incredibly prepared for a future career in fitness and wellness.”

Looking towards the future, Lenis said she wants to launch a wellness business coaching women to eat intuitively and to nourish their body and mind.

“The fitness industry is heavily influenced by diet culture which leads to body image shame, food restrictions, labelling food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, over exercising to burn off calories after eating what is deemed as a big meal and a million other disconnecting behaviours,” she explains. “I want women to not feel shame in what they eat or how they look, and to move their body every day in a way that is enjoyable to them.”

Her advice for anyone considering her program is to pursue it.

From part-time studies to a three-year diploma, DC Accounting student inspired to explore new career options

Accounting student Riley Coleman began his journey as a part-time student and with support from his Durham College (DC) peers and faculty, he’s now graduating with a three-year diploma.

“The classmates and professors I met along the way have helped shape not only my career but me as a person,” said Coleman, who is graduating with an Accounting – Business Administration diploma this spring. “My three years at Durham have been the most rewarding schooling I have done.”

He began his journey as a part-time continuing education student. At the time, he was helping the bookkeeper in his father’s office and decided to enroll in classes at DC.

Coleman found he really enjoyed accounting courses at DC and after taking a short break from his studies, he decided to enroll as a full-time student in his three-year program.

He said DC’s dedicated faculty helped him prepare for his next steps.

“I thought I knew what path I was taking when I went into the program. My experiences with my professors and seeing their passion for specific subjects helped me realize I had the same passion for those subjects,” he said.

Coleman’s program included co-op, which he did with the Government of Canada. He said the experience “was amazing for preparing me for the workforce and interviews”. He was fortunate to be hired on full-time after his co-op ended.

Eventually, he said, he may want to start his own firm.

Coleman’s advice to students at the beginning of their journey is to jump in and enroll in a DC accounting program.

“Take that next step,” he said. “The program itself is amazing and the professors are just as amazing. It will help and guide you on the path you want to be on and maybe even open up some doors for you.”

Personal Support Worker program rewarding for people who want to help others

A career as a personal support worker is a commitment to helping people, which is what drew Amber Wills of Orono to the one-year Personal Support Worker program at Durham College (DC).

“It was generally the aspect of helping people, that’s what I wanted to do my whole life,” she explains.

She was working as a manager at a restaurant when she decided to explore college programs and applied to DC because of the large placement component, where students complete more than 300 hours of placement before graduating giving them confidence to provide essential care in the community.

Wills said that before embarking on their first placement, students learn important skills in the lab, practicing on mannequins.

“They teach you all the skills in the lab before you even go out into the field, which is amazing,” she said.

In the labs students learn things like feeding people, how to roll people in bed and how to safely transfer a person from a bed to a wheelchair while supporting them.

Wills said her placements have included a long-term care setting and an adult day program and said her classmates enjoy their placement opportunities.

“They really like being out in the field and I think it’s really great that we can take our skills that we learned and practice them while we’re still in school and we can ask questions and make sure that we’re doing everything correctly.”

Wills said she also appreciated improving her communication skills at DC.

“As somebody who wasn’t great with communicating in high school—I had a lot of anxiety growing up—they taught me to break out of my shell and start conversations with people and continue conversations and I’ve been able to bring that into my every-day life as well.”

Overall, Wills said DC’s PSW program is a great entry into health care.

“You learn about diseases and illnesses, you learn about mental health, general anatomy and how the body works, and just in general you get a good foundation in the medical field.”

But the most important reason to pursue a career as a personal support worker is wanting to help others, said Wills.

“If that’s what somebody wants to do, if they want to help people, they will really enjoy it no matter what.”

Find out more about DC’s Personal Support Worker program and apply for May 2024!

Exploring accounting programs at Durham College means exploring career pathways

Accounting is the universal language of business and Durham College’s programs prepare students for diverse, career-ready pathways.

After accounting students graduate, they can pursue work in almost any industry, the non-profit sector, in government or they can start their own business.

“Really, the world is at your doorstep because every place needs an accountant,” said Cheryl Wilson, DC’s accounting program coordinator.

Here are three great reasons to pursue a business program at DC:

Accounting is a solid foundation for all business programs at DC

Options for students start from their first semester in DC’s accounting programs. Students who are unsure of which business discipline to pursue, can opt for accounting as a safe choice.

“The benefit of Durham College over other colleges is that we have this common first semester where they can come into accounting then, if at the end of the first semester they want to go to another discipline, it's easy,” said Wilson. “They can go to any other business discipline.”

In addition to accounting, first semester courses include financial planning, human resource management, marketing, supply chain management and business computer applications.

You can pursue a Certified Professional Bookkeeper designation

Students who opt to take two-year Accounting – Business program or the three-year advanced diploma Accounting – Business Administration programs at DC can pursue their Certified Professional Bookkeeper (CPB) designation. Students in the two-year program can challenge the first level of CPB exams and students in the three-year program can challenge the second level.

Wilson explains most college programs offer the option of challenging only the first level, but challenging the second level is a new option at DC offered since January 2023, creating new pathways for students.

Maximize your time and resources to earn a diploma from DC and a degree from Ontario Tech

Students looking to become a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) must have a university degree and DC’s Accounting – Business – Transfer to Ontario Tech University Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) program supports students in earning both a diploma and a degree in four years.

There are several benefits to opting for a college pathway to a CPA including savings on the first two years of tuition.

“It's way cheaper to start at the college and then move over to the university because college tuition is less expensive than university tuition,” said Wilson.

Generally, college programs are more technical in nature compared to university programs which are more theoretical and by earning both a diploma and a degree students get the best of both.

“The students who start at the college get a much better fundamental understanding in accounting of debits and credits and journaling and how that works,” Wilson explains. “Our college students that go to the university are much stronger in their technical basis, which helps them in the third and fourth year of the university program.”

Explore DC’s accounting programs and start your studies in May 2024.

I chose accounting because I really enjoy working with numbers and thinking about a problem logically. Coming out of this program there are many options for a career path. This program does a great job of giving you a very well-rounded education. There are many courses that contribute to you finishing the program with a thorough understanding of business as a whole.

Sarah Burgess Student, Accounting - Business Administration

Kristen Gainforth answers the call for those in need

Graduate Spotlight: Kristen Gainforth

Kristen Gainforth was ready for her career long before she crossed the stage at Durham College’s (DC) Spring Convocation.

In fact, she had to bow out of DC’s 9-1-1 Emergency and Call Centre Communications program a little early, but she had a good reason for doing so. She was busy working!

Last fall, while completing her second year of studies, she applied for a job as a 9-1-1 dispatcher with the Kawartha Lakes Police Service. The native of Pontypool knew it was a long shot, but the job was close to home and she had nothing to lose.

“It was a shot in the dark, and I took it,” she said.

That began a long process of interviews, tests, background checks and psychological evaluations, all while keeping on top of her school work. Her tireless efforts paid off in March when she got the job, becoming the youngest person ever employed by the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Her DC professors played a key role in her success by providing references for her during the hiring process and then accommodating her new schedule once she was hired. She was allowed to complete her exams early, which enabled her to take on her new role while earning her diploma.

Her remarkable achievement came as no surprise to Melissa Taaffe, a professor in the Faculty of Social and Community Services (SCS).

“Kristen has been a wonderful student and has a great skill set for 9-1-1 communications. She has astute attention to detail and excellent memory recall, and she is a methodical and logical problem-solver. These characteristics will serve her well in a dispatch career,” said Taaffe. “I’m sure that Kawartha Police will find her to be a true asset.”

She made a similar impression on Amanda Cannon, program coordinator and professor in the Faculty of SCS.

“A huge strength of Kristen’s is her ability to take on a challenge, which is definitely the kind of person who excels in this career,” she said. “I admire the way she approaches each situation and uses her problem-solving skills.”

The support of her professors was invaluable to Kristen, as was their prior experience in 9-1-1 dispatch. They gave the students a real understanding of what a career in emergency services is like.

“Without my professors and their real-life experience, I don’t think I’d understand the job as much,” said Gainforth.

It’s not a job for the faint of heart. Nobody ever calls 9-1-1 because everything is fine, and dispatchers go through a mental and emotional wringer each day as they speak to people who are experiencing traumatic events. The program prepared Kristen and her classmates for that by playing recordings of real emergency calls and enacting some for practice, but it’s no comparison to dealing with real people who are in real danger.

“When it’s a real person, you can’t just hang up and start over. You’re going to get people who are freaking out and not listening to you,” she said. When that happens, she recalls the advice of her professors: slow them down and remember who is in control of the conversation.

When she hangs up the phone, she takes a deep breath and moves on, ready for the next call. It’s the same at the end of the day when she has to remind herself not to bring work home with her. Luckily, DC’s 9-1-1 program includes courses on lifestyle management, resilience and self-care, and mental health. Those lessons help her deal with each emotionally charged call as it comes.

Having graduated on the President’s Honour Roll, she is gaining experience every day in a career she loves.

“It’s a good feeling because you know you’re helping somebody. It’s nice to know I’m a part of that.”

Yash Sawant is part of the AI revolution

Graduate Spotlight – Yash Sawant

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world every day, and students like Yash Sawant are embracing it and the multitude of career opportunities it offers.

In 2019, Durham College (DC) launched the Artificial Intelligence Analysis, Design and Implementation graduate certificate program, and added the Artificial Intelligence – Honours Bachelor degree program in 2022. Both are designed to prepare graduates to be the next generation of leaders who will not only participate in the AI discussion but push it forward.

It was the graduate certificate program that enticed Sawant, an international student from India, to come to DC. He immersed himself in his studies, and will cross the stage at convocation this month.

Having already worked as a software engineer in his native country, he came to class with a solid base of knowledge that the program quickly built on.

“I got to experiment and try new things, and that was a good experience. It really sharpened my skills,” he said. “This program gave me a lot of new skills, filled in gaps in my knowledge and made me realize I didn’t know certain things that I thought I knew.”

His passion for problem-solving is what pushed him to study AI, and as he delved deeper into the course material, he knew he had made the right choice.

“I realized as I worked on more projects that there were solutions that required a human way of thinking to solve problems,” he said. “If you want to automate something a human does, you need algorithms that can actually tackle that in a certain way and to understand many different outcomes and produce a solution. I found that AI-based solutions were leading in that. AI is the way to solve most of the problems.”

Sawant worked on a wide range of projects during his time at DC, both in and out of class. For the program’s first capstone project, he built a tool designed to detect fake news. For his next capstone, he designed an AI model to predict the stock market, which he demonstrated at DC’s Student IT Expo.

Students like Sawant aren’t alone in pushing the boundaries of AI solutions. The faculty is also charting new frontiers, according to Tony Doyle, executive dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering & Information Technology (SEIT).

“Durham College is widely regarded for its responsiveness to emerging societal needs and demands. Our faculty participate in a range of activities designed to keep them at the forefront of information,” he said. “DC not only responds to emergent issues but works to stay current and indeed ahead of where the industry or society may be.”

One example of this is a project that Sawant is also involved in: the development and use of generative AI discussion tools like ChatGPT, and the creation of a DC chatbot. Work on the initiative continues, with the goal of producing a program that can answer any questions about DC.  

In addition to his time in class, Sawant also put his skills and knowledge to good use in the AI Hub, where students work under lead data scientists to provide solutions for small businesses, entrepreneurs and other clients.

“I think it’s very important in this field that you actually practice what you’ve learned,” he said. “You have to keep applying yourself and doing projects and experimenting, and that’s how you learn best. You can’t just study the theory and expect to be employed. You have to be hands-on.”

There’s no denying the impact AI has already had on the world. Like any developing technology, it has the potential to create drastic change, for good and bad, and Sawant can see both sides of the argument. He believes it will have a huge impact on productivity, with AI assistants helping everyone work faster and more efficiently. But that very utility will inevitably take jobs away from people who need them.

What’s clear is that AI is here to stay, and the newly minted DC graduate is eager to see what the future holds as he builds his life and career in Canada.

“There are a lot of tasks that are very simple that don’t require any knowledge. Menial, repetitive tasks are going to be automated and that’s going to change the world. I want to be part of that revolution.”