Extended Education celebrates Spring Convocation in-person, honours scholarship winners
Grads earn credentials and prepare to move forward in their careers
Extended Education celebrated our first in-person (and virtual) convocation since the beginning of the pandemic on June 9. More than 200 of our nearly 500 graduates from 20 different programs joined us at Investors Group Athletic Centre to celebrate their achievements. From certificate programs like Applied Counselling to programming options like Applied Business Analysis, Extended Education graduates earn certificates and other credentials to prepare them to move forward in their lives and careers.
Ronald Kristjanson Memorial Scholarship 2022
As well, we honoured this year’s Ronald Kristjanson Memorial Scholarship winners, Jill Zdunich and Maria Luz Ocampo. The scholarship recognizes academic merit and community service of two adult learners in a certificate program in UM Extended Education.
Jill Zdunich was the kind of kid who never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. “Life is one long opportunity for learning,” says the Applied Counselling student. “If you decide to pivot, cool. I have embraced that I don’t fit into the corporate mold. I want to build a fun CV, a colourful story.”
As a recipient of the Ronald Kristjanson Memorial Scholarship 2022, she says, “I feel great. This is the first scholarship I ever got in my life. I am very honoured.”
Originally from Alberta, Zdunich completed two bachelor of science degrees – one in archeology and one in primate studies, before heading to Vancouver for fashion studies because she always enjoyed making her own clothes. She came to Winnipeg to help a friend open a restaurant, and later opened her own business called Shop Take Care, two clothing consignment stores that are proudly Queer-owned and operated with clothing simply organized by colour rather than by gender and size.
“It’s more than a retail store. It’s a very personal experience. People of all gender expressions and identities feel comfortable and safe here. The part I love the most is helping people, not just into clothing.”
Zdunich grew up in an abusive home and says she became a parent and an adult much too young. By her 30s, she was benefitting from counselling services, appreciating how critical it is to take care of one’s mental health.
At her shops, she creates a safe space in a troubled world, using the skills she has learned in her program.
“Right now, the world is in such a bad way. I really feel that. It’s a really good time to be developing skills to be more empathetic and understanding. What I enjoy most about counselling is that you have someone to talk to. You can talk all day long and people may not listen or hear. But counselling is sacred time. Counsellors help us make sense of what’s going on and address one problem at time when we may simply have too much on our mental plate. I help people feel cozy and comfortable.”
She loved the Applied Counselling program. “I adored this program because the students were all in my age group (30 to 50 or so) and we all had a shared life experience. I appreciated doing it online, without masks during the pandemic. It allowed for personal connection (even when some of the students were not local). It was an absolute joy.”
Maria Luz Ocampo is also honoured to be recognized with the Ronald Kristjanson Memorial Scholarship 2022.
“I feel very excited, very accomplished to even be considered eligible,” says the Applied Counselling program student who had a master’s degree in special education and taught special needs children at home in the Philippines before coming to Canada in 2012. More recently, she was working as a program helper and facilitator at a family service centre in Winnipeg when she realized she was not sure how to best help her clients. A colleague suggested she take the Applied Counselling program with Extended Education.
Ocampo registered for the program in 2020, just as the pandemic hit, and now as it lifts, she is heading into the final stretch of her program. This mother of an 18-year-old daughter now works as a parent coach with Family Dynamics.
“I help parents to be better parents,” she says. “Counselling skills are very helpful. I tried the strategies. They made a difference. It is so nice to get all this knowledge. It lines up with what I did raising my daughter. I feel very privileged. I can apply this information to my current work.”
She recommends the program to anyone working in the health care industry, whether it be with refugees, immigrants, Indigenous people, adults, children or youth. “The steps and skills you learn are very applicable anywhere, even in our own families.”
The program is very helpful in her work, she says, noting she now often works with groups rather than one-on-one and her recent studies covered running a group, types of leadership, choosing topics, and other relevant information. “I love running a group. In my capstone, I developed an eight-week program for newcomers. It involved partnerships with organizations, different topics of discussion… It was very well-received by my instructor.”
Ocampo is passionate about her work. “I like helping people. I grew up watching people bring their problems to my grandfather who was a community councillor. Helping is not new to me. I am flexible and can adjust to different types of people. I have been trying to help people since I was small. This is why this work appeals to me.”