In Grade 9, Shay Barker met an Augustana recruiter at a university fair in her hometown of Jasper. She decided then and there to attend Augustana, and she was so certain about the decision that in Grade 12, she didn’t apply to any other universities. “I was sold,” she remembers. “When you come from a small town and graduate with the same 30 people you went to kindergarten with, it’s important to go to a community-focused university where you can be more than a number.” As it turns out, community has become the focus of Shay’s career.
Shay’s professors challenged her to think in new ways. “Classes were never just about content,” she remembers. “I learned to engage with my community, which set the course for my career. At Augustana, you don’t simply graduate with letters after your name. You graduate with a solid foundation to become the person and professional you want to be.”
An internship coordinated by Learning & Beyond and Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities introduced Shay to working with rural communities, economic development, and municipal processes.
Today, Shay is an Economic Development Officer for the City of Airdrie. As part of a team of five, her goal is to attract new businesses to Airdrie, support the retention and expansion of local companies, and promote Airdrie. She helps clients find suitable spaces for their businesses and advises them on the City’s policies and processes.
Shay says, “The best part of my job is working with people who are passionate about their ideas, and then seeing their doors open in our community, fulfilling their dreams of owning their own business.”
Shay is proud to be a part of a well-respected team that wins awards for its projects and strategies. “Our municipality is forward thinking, growing, and establishing itself as a major hub for industry in Alberta,” she says. In fact, Airdrie has been named one of Canada’s top places to start and grow businesses.
Shay’s team is implementing a 10-year strategy for economic development that integrates the concept of placemaking. Placemaking connects a person’s place to economic vibrancy, community resiliency, and community identity. It encourages the creation of public spaces that promote pride of place and a sense of community. “When people love their place,” Shay explains, “they are more likely to spend time and money there, support local businesses, and participate in local recreation. This encourages even more entrepreneurs to invest in the area. The fabric of the community is continually strengthened as more people fall in love with their place, resulting in a strong and diverse community.”
Shay’s passion for community was born in Jasper and fostered at Augustana, and it continues to guide her career in economic development. “I value community,” she says, “and I want my career choice to make a positive impact.”