Earning an education outside of the classroom

University of Alberta Augustana student Katelynn Cook got to turn her passion for outdoor play into a successful University degree, followed by bright career prospects.

Tia Lalani - 06 June 2018

Katelynn (left) being presented with her OTIS award, by Battle River Watershed Alliance Policy and Research Coordinator Susanna Bruneau.

Katelynn Cook chose Augustana because she knew she could learn a lot while doing the things she loved.

"I was just looking online and happened across the outdoor education courses," Katelynn recalls. "I thought to myself 'Wow, you can go to school and do this kind of stuff?'".

After five years at Augustana and almost every outdoor education course the campus has to offer, Katelynn graduated with a bachelor of science in environmental science and a minor in physical education on June 3.

Although Katelynn always knew what she was passionate about-having grown up camping and spending most of her time outdoors-she was never very sure where that would lead her.

"When I began university I was always worried, always wondering what kind of job I could get when I finished," Katelynn remembers. It was her professors who offered insight and encouragement. "I asked my professors what they did and basically they said they followed their interests. I realized that over time my experiences shaped me and I was able to find what I'm really passionate about."

Katelynn is now on her way to Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park to work as a park interpreter for the summer. She'll be putting her environmental science degree to good use by leading guided walks, creating family programming, participating in amphitheatre shows and espousing environmental education.

It wasn't simply the degree that earned her the position, but rather, the experiences that she was offered because of it. Alongside taking part in canoeing, backpacking, dogsledding, snowshoeing and an arctic tour course, Katelynn volunteered with a number of organizations over the years through Augustana's Community Service Learning programming.

Katelynn graduated with a bachelor of science in environmental education on June 3.

Her volunteer work included running environmental education programs for kids with the Camrose Women's Shelter and Camrose Boys and Girls Club, developing and implementing an ice fishing program for Augustana's International Students, working with the Battle River Watershed Alliance to take groups of homeschooled children voyager canoeing and participating in a beaver monitoring project with Augustana professor Gynnis Hood.

"It's surreal to think that a lot of the things I've learned in my degree and so much of the volunteer work I've done is going to be usable and directly applicable in a career setting," Katelynn says.

Katelynn has been well recognized for her work. In 2018, she earned the Battle River Watershed Alliance's Outstanding in Stewardship (OTIS) Award for her volunteer work and overall commitment to stewardship through connecting various groups with nature, as well as the Canadian Association of Geographers undergraduate award.

But really, it's Katelynn who is thankful, especially to her professors-like Glynnis Hood, Glen Hvenegaard and Morten Asfeldt-who have kept her informed and inspired. And to her classes at Augustana that provided her with the ability to follow her passion while gaining skills that employers are seeking, making for an easy transition into a career she's excited about.

"At Augustana, I've been able to take what I'm doing in school and use it in real life situations-no amount of learning in the classroom can compare with that direct, personal experience. Augustana has also allowed me to develop a passion for